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Chris Grady: What makes a fantastic performance? Taboo & second circle

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Last week I went back to see the new company in Taboo at the Brixton Clubhouse, my third visit. The first two were on behalf of the show’s worldwide representatives on earth, Stage Entertainment Licensed Productions, and this time with colleagues from Mountview Academy of Theatre where I work to support emerging talent find their feet as they move into the profession.

In this case we were there to cheer Paul Treacy who has taken over the role of Boy George even before he’d graduated from Mountview. And he is wonderful and a joy to watch.  He has just found an agent, and I suspect we will be seeing a lot more of Paul in years to come.  If you get the chance before March, do try and see this cast (or this amazing outrageous show for the first time if you haven’t already seen it).

Its quite edgy, and the master of ceremonies enters into some pretty risky territory as he talks to the audience.  I hadn’t expected the rest of the audience (or indeed my Mountview colleagues) to learn quite so much about Kath and my life together…but the MC asked, and she told him.

What made Paul Baker as Philip Sallon (and the MC) so appealing was his total connection with the audience.  He saw us, he challenged us, he connected with us, he listened to the energy of the room, and then delivered an award-winning performance.   When he gives us is massive ballad “Petrified” in the 2nd half the pain and humanity shone through to us. I couldn’t believe he had ever sung those words before, let alone that he has been delivering this phenomenal performance since preview one of this production.

Patsy Rodenburg has explored this phenomenon extensively in her book Presence – she talks of 1st, 2nd and 3rd circles – introvert/wishing you weren’t there/non-connecting in 1st circle, extrovert/self-absorbed/not listening/ not connecting in 3rd circle, and finally balancing power, vulnerability,passion, listening, and presence in 2nd circle.  So thank you Paul Baker (and indeed the young Paul Treacy) for being in 2nd circle for us.

I had reason to expand on Ms Rodenberg’s basics with the 2nd Year Mountview acting students when we were exploring choosing their headshots for Spotlight, and also how they would get over the insecurity of meeting agents and doing the networking which they all know they will have to do. I recommended they all read Presence, and think how being in 2nd circle can be associated even with a photo. They have to find a photo for their cv which is going to show their inner soul, and somehow speak to the agent, casting director, director or producer about the real person behind the 10x8.

With Chorus Line about to return to our stages with its references to “resumé well honed”, it is important that actors understand that a performance like Paul Baker’s is possible night after night after night if they understand what it means to be in 2nd circle.  And remember this as a business leader, or job applicant, or staff member, or volunteer, or even someone trying to get served at a bar – being in 2nd circle gets you noticed.

Enjoy Taboo (but maybe stay in 1st circle if you don’t want your presence in the audience to be noticed!)

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