The same thing applies to us: gestic u lat ing actors – gestic u la tions are the same as the blem ishes. They blur the shape of a role. Its contours are lost in a welter of unwanted gestures. So elim in ate excess and only give us the movements and gestures the char ac ter needs. Then the audi ence will see and appreci ate them. That’s very import ant for you, Vanya.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because you are a char ac ter actor,’ Tortsov explained. ‘How many of your

gestures were typical of the servant you’ve just played?’ Tortsov asked him. ‘I don’t know. I didn’t count.’ ‘You should have,’ Tortsov reproached him. ‘I noted three or four, no

more.’ ‘What do you mean, three or four? And the rest?’ said the exuber ant

young man in aston ish ment. ‘They were either your own human, or “actor’s” gestures, tech nical tricks,

trite clichés, tics, etc. You gave them their head and they controlled you, not you them. The result was a chaotic jumble of unne ces sary gestures. The three or four typical were drowned in them, like a few drops of good wine in a glass full of water, and passed unnoticed. ‘Get rid of excess gestures and the really char ac ter istic move ments will

stand out with much greater meaning and strength, like good wine that hasn’t been watered down. Experienced actors know how to select movements and actions which are right for the char ac ter, and get rid of harmful ones. But with inex per i enced actors, like Vanya and Igor, a flood of personal gestures drowns what the char ac ter needs. When that happens, the actors who have their own theat rical personae, step out from behind the mask, stand up tall and block out the real char ac ter. If that happens with every role, they inev it ably become boring, one-char ac ter players. What a shame! Vanya has the capa city to char ac ter ize, and thought and variety. When, for whatever

reason, his usual gestic u la tion disap pears and his inner life comes to the fore, it expresses the real Vanya in accur ate move ments and in vivid, bold, not to say auda cious adapt a tions. ‘The trouble is this only happens by acci dent. He must take steps to ensure

that it happens all the time, consciously and uncon sciously. He, like you, like all actors without excep tion, must not only elim in ate gestic u la tion but gesture itself.’ ‘Even when they’re essen tial?’ said Grisha, regret fully. ‘There’s no such thing as essen tial gestures onstage,’ Tortsov correc ted him. ‘Oh, but excuse me,’ Grisha objec ted, ‘suppose I’m playing Narcissus and

I’m posing in front of the mirror or parad ing in front of my part ners in the play, how am I supposed to do that without gestures?’ ‘You don’t, because in the example you’ve just given gestures and poses

have become actions and cease to be gestures,’ Tortsov explained. ‘If that’s the case, then gestic u la tion can be useful,’ said Grisha, trying to

take him liter ally. ‘It is oppor tune to the extent that it is char ac ter istic of the role,’ Tortsov

agreed. ‘I think . . . gesture is also neces sary if it helps . . . exper i en cing and phys-

ical embod i ment . . . if it doesn’t come easily,’ said Igor shyly. ‘What?!’ Tortsov came down on him. ‘Your balletic gestures help you feel

prop erly?! Not at all. They kill all creat ive effort. They’re an open invit a tion to play act ing, repres ent a tion and exhib i tion ism. We can’t believe in them and where there is no belief there is no exper i en cing. I main tain that kind of gesture is not only super flu ous, it is posit ively danger ous onstage. While really typical movements and actions bind actors more closely to a role, gestures and gestic u la tion distance them from it. ‘So, either trans form gesture and gestic u la tion into genuine, creat ive

actions or get rid of them alto gether!’ ‘How are we to do that?’ I asked, anxiously. ‘The best thing is to find the root, the origin, the cause that produced the

gesture, and elim in ate them. They are mani fold.’ ‘Name them,’ I exhor ted him. ‘Nerves, embar rass ment, stage fright, a lack of belief in what you are

doing, a feeling of help less ness in trying to fulfil an impossible creat ive task, lost self-control, panic, exhib i tion ism, showing off to the audi ence, posing for them, trying to compre hend the incom pre hens ible, i.e. trying to play the entire role in one go, wanting to give more than you have, etc.,’ Tortsov enumer ated. ‘These are the root causes of gesture and gestic u la tion.’