Performing in different stage spaces

Suit the action to the word, the word to the actionHamlet, Act III, scene II by William Shakespeare

Whatever stage shape you choose, you must use the space effectively. Stillness can be very powerful, but if your work is too static you could lose your audience’s interest. When staging work you must consider what the audience see and the sight lines. Make sure that wherever the audience are sitting they can see what’s going on.

If you decide to stage work in the round or in traverse, movement through the scene is particularly important. At any one time some actors will have their backs to the audience and if the action remains still for too long, the audience will be deprived of important facial expressions and gestures. There needs to be plenty of movement throughout so that the audience all get a fair share of what is happening onstage.

Decisions about where actors enter, exit and stand on the stage is called blocking. Blocking needs to be carefully considered so that the space is used well and everybody can see. For example, if you had a large playing space but had chosen to perform upstage, cramped in a corner then this might not create the most interesting visual picture for the audience.

Blocking is also important because if an actor has to turn upstage (away from the audience) to address another actor, their performance might be lost or its power diminished. To decide when and where characters move, you must analyse the script or scene you’ve devised in detail.

Look for any clear changes of thought or motivation, which are often accompanied by movement. A sudden realisation might make a character rise excitedly from their chair and start pacing about.

Character relationships will also influence movement onstage. If one character is in agreement with another they may move closer but if they were feeling uncomfortable they might choose to move away. The space between performers and the message it conveys to the audience is called proxemics. Proxemics or ‘use of space’ can make a big difference to how the audience interpret the scene.