The 411: Meyerhold’s Biomechanics

With the ‘Introduction to Meyerhold’s Biomechanics’ Workshop coming up on 21-23 April, let’s find out a little bit more about this form of physical theatre and how it helps the actor develop truth in their performances.

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Biomechanics is a system of actor training developed by Vsevolod Meyerhold, which diverged away from the common theatre form of realism and naturalism of his time.

As Stanislavsky’s system sought to create a character from psychology (internal), Meyerhold’s biomechanics is a stark contrast by employing the physical body (external) to derive the inner life of the character. Meyerhold saw that the material of the actor’s art is the human body, which is the head, the torso, the limbs and the voice. The actor must rely on the possibilities of his body as a material for stage performance.

An actor under Biomechanics training will have to be highly physical, focusing on strength, agility, coordination, balance, flexibility and endurance. The physical demands of Biomechanics all of develop the actor’s awareness of themselves to the ensemble, to external stimulus (light, sound), to the space and to their inner movement.

One such example of Biomechanics training would be performing movement scores or ‘etudes’ that tell a story such as ‘Throwing a Stone’ or ‘The Slap in the Face’. An etude is a precise muscular movement that would evoke an emotional response, and this movement would be comprised of four stages as seen below:

  1. Otkas: Refusal. [Movement in the opposite direction. Used in preparation of an action.]
  2. Posyl: The Sending. [The execution of intended action.]
  3. Stoika: Stance. [Completion of movement, coming to a stop.]
  4. Tormos: The Brake. [Fluid, controlled motion throughout all the stages without which the movement would be sloppy.]

The etude is a process that achieves an emotional or psychological response. The more actors begin to explore and understand their own physiology, they will be able to think with their bodies, developing the ability to execute tasks in a scene instantaneously. Once the fullest extent of the body (the actor’s tool) has been realised, it will especially lead to more truthful performances by the actor.  

Biomechanics challenges the actor to think outside the boundaries of the mind. To not say, “My character wouldn’t do that”. Instead, the actor’s job is to find emotional stimuli from physical movement.

 

Interested in learning more about Biomechanics? HCAC will be having an ‘Introduction to Biomechanics Workshop, conducted by Ralf Rauker. Sign up online now as registration closes on 14 April!