Wednesday, 22 February 2012

60 SECONDS INTERVIEW: Jonny Hoskins


JONNY Hoskins is an entertainer who specialises in clowning, stilts, and living statue performances.  

He trained at Manchester University and École Jaques Lecoq in Paris before working at the National Theatre. 

Jonny has played London’s West End, toured the UK and Europe, and appeared in feature films and on TV. 

He currently teaches as part of Bridport Art Centre’s Junior BACstage and has lived in Bridport for three years.

DO you have a particular style of acting?
I’ve done a lot of stylised and physical pieces, and a lot of comedy, but I have also done straight stuff. Nearly all of my work has been on stage, but my ugly mug has also graced the big screen at Cannes and in your living room. My particular niche is physical, and when I teach I encourage people to find a power of expression and stage presence through opening and engaging their body, with a commitment to a precise thought and emotion. I also really like clowning.

WHAT is physical theatre?
That’s a great question. It’s been said that until actors can enter the stage without their bodies, theatre will always be physical. Having said that, there are approaches to theatre which use a less cerebral approach, are less intellectual and more physically dynamic. I watched a Romanian Richard III once. It was great. And although I couldn’t understand a word, I knew exactly what was going on because of the acting. I’d say those actors were very physical, and their voices were spectacular. Any voice teacher will tell you that the voice is all about the body. Eastern European and Russian actors are traditionally more physical than British actors. In Grotowski’s school in Poland, the training included hanging upside down for ages and other extreme techniques for accessing a powerful expression of emotion and psychology, including sleep deprivation. Through history there have been some very physical styles, for example the medieval Italian Commedia dell’Arte. A family would pull up on a cart in the market place wearing half-masks and entertain the crowd with music, acrobatics and bawdy stories. Really, physical theatre is a catch-all phrase which covers almost anything except the traditional stand-and-deliver style of stage acting which prevailed in 19th century Britain and America.

WHAT made you get into physical theatre?
When I was at university I wanted to be an actor so I applied to drama school. I got a place in London, but it was really expensive and someone suggested Lecoq in Paris, which is part-time, so you can work to earn money while you are studying. Maybe it was my destiny, but I really liked movement and physical theatre, so going there suited me very well. Jaques Lecoq’s international school researched the world of movement and how it could be applied to theatrical language. It was not all straight mime.  We had to be trees and pasta and toothpaste and stuff like that.

WAS Jacques Lecoq himself inspirational?
Yes, he was amazing to watch in his seventies, and if you can find any footage of him it is well worth it. His training also included mask, clown and some acrobatics.

DO you ever get stage fright?
Almost always. If you are not nervous beforehand, your performance becomes less alive. As long as you don't let it grip you, it's great. It gives you a buzz. 

WHAT are good qualities to have in a performer?
I was telling the youngsters at Junior BACstage the other night that if they wanted to become successful actors, rich and famous, and enjoying a glamorous lifestyle, the first skill they need is to shut up and listen. What a good teacher I must be.

THE clown you play, what is he like?
He is fun, naive, optimistic, playful, forgiving, curious, inventive, loving, and very prone to getting in a mess.

HAVE you ever slipped on a banana peel for real?
Yes! But the worst time was in the streets of Paris carrying a box of groceries and I slipped on something a careless dog-owner had left behind. The groceries and I went up in the air and came down all over the place. 

HAVE you ever forgotten your lines while acting?
Yes, it is horrible. Unless you are a clown, in which case it is a wonderful discovery.

WHO are your favourite performers past or present?
Buster Keaton, Catherine Tate, and the Sloth in Ice Age.

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