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Who Actually Behaves Like That?

Contemporary Directions


On Monday 18th May, as part of our series of events exploring the role of the drector in 21st century theatre, The Stanislavski Centre welcomed Professor Vladimir Mirodan, Research Leader ,Drama and Performance at Drama Centre, London, and Chair of the Directors Guild of Great Britain Trust, who gave a presentation under the title, Who Actually Behaves Like That? – A Reply to an Actor’s Question.

“Current acting orthodoxy values immediacy and spontaneity above most other histrionic virtues. To this is allied the popular cult of the mesmerising effect of personality, considered in recent books such as Joseph Roach’s It and Jane Goodall’s Stage Presence. The corollary is a flight from character as an entity distinct from the actor – character is defined exclusively as ‘passion-in-action’. This approach, the talk will argue, (mis)directs the concept of character away from social and psychological categories and in so doing is blind to the interpretative value of considering characters not only as individuals but also as representing a group. The talk will argue that a fully embodied character transcends questions of individual behaviour and motivation and acknowledges the ‘typical’ dimensions of character (Lakoff’s and Johnson’s ‘prototypes’). The paper therefore argues for an alternative (and older) understanding of character creation which is essentially mimetic and for an approach to acting that foregrounds a psychophysical transformative process.

At the same time, recent discourse has brought back into view long-abandoned (in drama criticism if not in the practice of theatre) Bradleyan approaches to character analysis based on inference and essentialism (e.g. Yu and Shurgot, eds., 2012); while applications to acting of principles derived from cognitive science have sought most helpfully to unify the two approaches of ‘character’ and ‘personality’ acting (Kemp, 2012).

The presentation therefore asks why this ageless debate refuses to go away and seeks answers beyond transient aesthetic fashion. At least one such answer, the paper argues, might be found in looking at the function of acting through an ethological perspective, within the context of recently-delineated frameworks derived from Deception Theory and Machiavellian Intelligence. Observed through this prism, a transformative process moves the act of theatre away from the naturalistic presentation of ‘behaviour’ and (back) towards an explicit, ‘designed’ theatricality in which acting is overtly ‘deceptive’, an aspect of the exercise and growth of social intelligence.”


Professor Vladimir Mirodan trained on the Directors’ Course at Drama Centre London, and has directed over 50 productions in this country as well as internationally. He holds an MA and a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London. His PhD thesis was concerned with The Laban-Malmgren System of Character Analysis, the core subject around which all courses at the Drama Centre evolved. He has taught and directed in most leading drama schools in the UK and was, in turn, Director of the School of Performance at Rose Bruford College, Vice-Principal and Director of Drama at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and Principal of Drama Centre London from 2001-2011. He served for many years as Vice Chair of the Directors Guild of Great Britain; on the Drama Committee of the Scottish Arts Council and on the Board of the Citizens’ Theatre. From 2000 to October 2006, he was Chairman of the Conference of Drama Schools and a Deputy Chair of the National Council for Drama Training.

Director's Guild

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