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Simon Callow on Method Acting
Last Edit: singleticket 02:09 pm EDT 08/15/22
Posted by: singleticket 02:00 pm EDT 08/15/22

And on Isaac Butler's book "The Method" in particular. I liked the opening of Callow's review below, the rest of it is behind a pay-wall at NYRB.

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One of the challenges of writing about acting is that it constantly reinvents itself, always believing that its latest recension at last tells the truth about the human condition. After all, as the writer-director Hamlet tells his actors, “The purpose of playing, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature, to show…the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” The notion that there is some sort of immutable gold standard for truthful acting is deeply unreliable: cometh the hour, cometh the actor. When David Garrick, nimble and quick-witted, first leaped onto the scene with his dazzling realism and lightning changes of mood, the portly and impressively slow-moving James Quin, hitherto the darling of the pit, was heard to remark, “If the young fellow was right, he, and the rest of the players, had all been wrong.

Garrick’s quicksilver transformations, so expressive of the Age of Enlightenment, were in turn supplanted by Edmund Kean’s dark and dangerous Romantic intensity. Each was initially admired for being more real than his predecessors; actors are never admired for being unnatural. In 1935 Laurence Olivier’s performances in Romeo and Juliet (he alternated the parts of Romeo and Mercutio) were regarded as ultrarealist; ten years later, in his Shakespeare films, it is clear that he was a somewhat stylized actor; on stage twenty years after that he was dismissed by many as monstrously mannered. His acting had not changed; the temper and taste of the times had. The shock of the new has a built-in decay, and it is in the nature of pioneers to believe that they have finally reached the promised land, the end of the rainbow.
Link Shape-Shifters - New York Review of Books
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