“Many prefer to see the wheels going round…”
As with death, so with a thousand other commonplaces of life and of the theatre: an embrace; a hasty entrance; the light shock to which we react quickly; the deep shock which our feelings, in order to protect us, at first reject; the manner of starting a quarrel; the manner of saying a long farewell. When these things are well and truly acted they seem simplicity itself. “But,” says the reader, like the student in Stanislavsky’s book, “all this is obvious!” To which his master retorts: “Did I ever say it was anything else?’ Yet how often do we see these simple truths really convincingly performed? Do not a great many audiences prefer, or at least feel more comfortable when witnessing, the artifices and the clichés to which they are accustomed? Many prefer to see the wheels going round. They would often rather see an actor “acting” acting, which I suppose makes them feel they know where they are, than acting the part without concession to convention…But just as for an actor to give himself up to conventional acting will in time dry up whatever imaginative powers he may possess, so it is with audiences; they become lazy, bored and only the most violent stimuli will satisfy them. Hence, amongst other things, the appetite for “pace” for its own sake, to which must be sacrificed one of the essentials of any artistic performance, rhythm.