I’m lucky. I grew up in the wilds of Canada. Literally, as a kid I had a huge forest out in my back yard where I played all sorts of imaginary games for hours, days on end with my friends.
“So what?” You may say, well, its that imaginative world that has helped me to become and enjoy the world of performing. The endless hours of learning to make things up, is an incredible skill, one, as adults we can forget.
So, what does this have to do with riding my bike? Two things, keeps me in good physical shape and allows me that kid like feeling of imagining things and enjoying the ride as I did when I was a kid. I now live in the very urban world of Hove (actually! Can’t resist, can ya!)
Physical exercise is so key to what I have learned as a performer. I started out as a dancer, but realised, due to teenage injuries, this was not going to be a good long-term career choice and to be honest, I, really preferred, acting, so I became a singer. I know that part doesn’t make sense (I’ll tell ya about that another day), but I came back to the ‘straight acting’ and I’m loving my work. Why do I love it? Because I’m able to learn that being physically active is so helpful to what I do. As an actor and, even as a singer, being fit is vital. I need to be able to move the way the character needs to move and this requires a body willing to respond like that of an athlete. This doesn’t mean I need to be running marathons, but it needs to be flexible and strong to adapt to what the character demands. So how do I do it with the crazy ever shifting lifestyle of a performer? I make it a part of my life, my day. I don’t own a car, haven’t needed it in Brighton and Hove, as the transport is brilliant, so I walk, bike, bus, train and plane. All are within a short distance. The bike and walking come out first.
If you are like me and doing something on your own is hard to stick to, then, do what I did. I created a walking group. This walking group now meets 3 times a week and is in its third year and I no longer run it. I’m now known as the founder, which sits fine with me, but it works. Not just for me, but for all the lovely people who have joined it. Forgot to say, it’s speed walking, so not the little dawdle along, we are working our heart rates, as well as having some good conversations at 7:15 am on Hove Seafront – Monday, Wednesday and Friday. All are welcome, click here for more details and it’s free! That’s a huge factor for us performers who are not able to afford the expensive gyms. So, I’m not saying start a walking group, but start something, plus you’ll have the added benefit of meeting ‘normal’ people, as I call them.
Now the bike, it was a way to get me out and about. I’ve got the rain gear, the mud guards and the bell – so many people forget you are there?! It’s one of the best ways to get around this city, plus it’s fun! My favourite bit is going down the hill from Churchill Square – it’s an awesome run down and leaving the buses behind for a change, as they have to go a bit slower through there – Te he! There’s that kid in me, just loving the ride! Also, on my bike I’ve been able to really think things through or go back to that little girl who played in that enchanting forest in the back yard! You’ll recognise me, I’ve got the bike with the flowers all over the basket, can’t stop being me! I remember once, after a rehearsal for a show in Brighton, I was in floods of tears, as I use my bike to memorise lines, so needless to say, my part wasn’t a very happy part, but it did get me past some of the emotional stuff I needed to get past, as this was holding me up on saying the lines. Riding my bike showed me that, because there was so much weight, maybe too much at the beginning, that needed to be let out, so that by the time the performance came, I was able to give it the clarity that the director was looking for. Just glad it was late at night when I was doing this, as no one could see me.
Now, this leads nicely to my final point. The kenetic (physical) memory is the strongest memory we have. So I have found physically doing something, anything while learning lines, is the strongest ways to get it into me. So I’m not just memorising with my mind, I’m memorising with my whole body. Plus there’s an energy to it. Why do you see that old cliche of an actor walking back and forth while learning lines? Well, that’s why, there is just something about that physical movement that adds another layer to learning those pesky lines. My favourite teacher on this is Niki Flacks, she was the first person who showed me that learning lines is not a can or can’t do thing. It’s like any other muscle in the body, you can strengthen it the more you do it! So she suggests folding a towel while learning lines, if you need to, so you always have the physical action along with the line learning. Especially, when walking or riding a bike isn’t possible. It’s not how big the action is, it’s just do something other than just learning the lines – use your body as well and you may find that the lines come from a more strong, secure and supported place in your mind and body!
So I say, go out, find ways to re-imagine, move your body with new friends and learn your lines in ways that are physically and mentally supportive of your work. Oh yeah, get physical, let’s get into physical, let me hear your body talk….OK, for those of you who don’t know that tune, it’s an 80’s tune, with Olivia Newton John – Physical. Up for a good laugh, watch the video!
Love to hear your thoughts, what do you do to keep fit? Learn lines? or keep the imagination & fun in your work?
Hurrah for walking!!