Ken Rea is the senior acting tutor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He began as a professional actor and director in New Zealand working with television and some of the country’s leading theatres.
In addition to his work at the Guildhall, he has taught at the national drama academies of China, Indonesia, India, Italy, New Zealand and Canada. He has also worked as a movement coach with many theatre companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has been a regular writer for The Times and for 15 years was a theatre critic for The Guardian.
So why, my dear readers am I telling you all about this fine man? Well he has a new book coming out and I was invited to go and hear him talk about it and watch a demonstration from some of the Guildhalls fine students.
Now obviously the book isn’t going to be a gripping read to everybody but if you are an actor or hoping to become one then this book is designed to give you a strategy to become the actor that you aspire to be. Explaining how to be bolder, fresher and more charismatic and giving actors the tools to take control of their life and their career.
It sounds like the dream book, doesn’t it? Well in his 30 years at Guildhall he has helped train over 1000 actors. Most have gone on to have good careers but quite a few of them have gone on to be internationally famous. This is the point where the name dropping will occur. Ken Rea was there at the metaphorical birth of such acting luminaries as Ewan McGregor, Joseph Fiennes, Damian Lewis, Orlando Bloom, Michelle Dockery and (this is where I get giddy) I shook the hand of a man that knows Dame Judi Dench. I believe now that by 1 degree of separation that makes Dame Judi and I friends but that’s probably a discussion for another platform!
Now the easiest way to describe the information that this book offers an actor is to use some of Ken’s own words from the introduction so please don’t accuse me of plagiarism or lazy reviewing but surely it is always better to get the information straight from the source, isn’t it? “What I’m examining in this book are not the core skills- such as strong vocal technique, a released body and a coherent acting process- but the qualities on top of those that make someone truly outstanding. What I’ll also show is that these qualities don’t just rely on your innate talent: you can consciously develop them in your work to step up to the next level of success. And the point of the book is to show you exactly how. In most cases it’s a matter of adopting new habits and values.”
As well as hearing Ken talk about his teachings we were also witness to some of his current students partaking in some exercises. To a non-actor it may have seemed as if they were just people doing silly things but to those of us in the know, it was a trip down memory lane. Watching Ken then give them some direction the students were physically transforming before our eyes and becoming stronger, more coherent characters. Also, during a duologue two students took a fairly flat piece of work, went to the extreme points with their characters then reigned it back and gave a totally different performance by the end.
Whatever it is, Ken has it. Through his years of experience and the mere fact that he has taken the time to explore the craft he truly understands what it means to be an actor. His teachings appear to bring out the qualities that the actors themselves may not even realise they have. This new book is not a complete guide to acting, nor is it meant to be but I believe that it should be an essential addition to any actor’s arsenal, for anyone who is just starting or has been acting for some time. Obviously not everyone is lucky enough to have Guildhall training but here is an opportunity for all to get a little training from Ken Rea.
Review by Dickie Neil
Tuesday 10th March 2015