It’s almost a guaranteed thing, whenever you bump into a fellow Alumni from Guildhall, should you mention tutors of yore, their face always lights up when you say Ken Rea. Ken still teaches Physical Theatre there. We spent the first year moving round the room in unison as the sea, donning a mask and owning the stage, speaking in tongues.
All of his teachings were infused with warmth. All he kept demanding was warmth, generosity and a sense of play from his students. And over the years, a great many household names have passed through his class. From Ben Chaplin, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic West, Orlando Bloom, Michelle Dockery and Lily James.
I always felt a little sorry for all the actors who had never had the chance to work with him, inspirational and supportive as he was. There’s certainly a whole generation of actors who remain thankful for his teachings.
Well, the good news is, having taught for as long as he has (three decades), he recently wrote and released a book about acting published through Bloomsbury Methuen, it’s called “The Outstanding Actor – Seven Keys To Success”.
Not long after leaving Guildhall, Ken invited me to see a production by Sankai Juku, at the Sadler’s Wells, if memory serves. Other than the fact that Ken was recommending it, I knew nothing of what I was about to see, so whilst we awaited the curtain, Ken offered me the programme, that I might read the blurb. Hugely instructive about the Japanese Butoh Dance company formed in 1975, I reached the bottom to find it had been written by Ken. It turns out he has also contributed as theatre critic for the Guardian for 15 years, as well as writing for The Times.
I was privileged to read an early draft of The Outstanding Actor and was really impressed by what I read. It took me back right to the fluorescent lit days in the drama corridor at Guildhall, now all gone: They’ve moved over the road to a spanking new purpose-built training premises on the site of the old Fire Station in Silk Street.
It’s an outstanding insight into the workings of an actor. And not just any actor, but good actors, with input from the likes of Dame Judy Dench, Al Pacino and Nicholas Hytner. The seven chapter headings read: Warmth, Generosity, Enthusiasm, Danger, Presence, Grit and Charisma.
I mean, forget about acting, who doesn’t want to get a handle on all that!?
However the landscape of acting changes, be it theatre, radio, film or television, the means of telling any given story well remains paramount. It’s the storyteller we invest in, with whom we are asked to relate to. I think it quite telling that whenever anyone talks about the greatest, the most famous lines in movie history, no one remembers the poor writer, only the actor.
‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat’.
‘Say hello to my little friend’.
‘I’ll be back’.
I recommend The Outstanding Actor to anyone really, it’s an incredibly interesting read, whether you have aspirations to act or not, but especially if you are an actor.
Ken also periodically runs seminars open to anyone not training under him at The Guildhall. You can find out about these by going to his website www.kenrea.co.uk. He has one coming up in early May…