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Drama: how to make the most of your monologue

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Drama: how to make the most of your monologue

The whole stage is there for you – what should you do with it?

Performing a monologue is every self-obsessed performer’s dream. Every eye in the audience is on you, and you have to give everything you’ve got to keep their attention. Obviously there’s more to a solo performance than memorising lines and belting them out so the back of the room can hear. Make sure you’re incorporating these elements into every on-stage scene.

Pick the right scene for you

Every actor has a dream role they’d love to play – but that doesn’t mean every actor is suitable for every role. When you’re looking at scripts, think about how you’d play the character. Will you be able to do that 90-year-old Jewish man from Eastern Europe justice? This doesn’t mean you can only play someone who’s exactly like you – but try to find someone you have a connection with. This means you should be reading lots and lot of plays.

Find your character’s voice

Now you’ve picked something, it’s time to learn those lines. Learn them so well that they’ll stay with you for years, locked in your brain. Now you’ve done that, break them down. What’s this person saying? Why are they saying it? How do they feel about life – and how are they different to you? Play the scene jokey, angry, sad…and whatever other emotions spring to mind. See if you can find something new every time you perform it.

Use the space you’re given

Some stand-up comedians stay in the same spot throughout their set. Others pace back and forth across the stage while they spray jokes. When you’re rehearsing, try different ways of using the space. You don’t want to be bouncing around for no reason, but if there’s a reason to do something other than stand still, take it.

Movement is as important as words

Even if you decide to stay in roughly the same spot on the stage, you should be giving a lot of attention to what you’re doing with your body as you recite your monologue. Practise your gestures – are you pointing? Pretending to kick something? Putting your hands on your head like a footballer who’s just lost the grand final? Make these movements a conscious part of your performance.

Consider your use of props

You don’t want to go over the top here and end up looking like a one-man band, but having a signature item and/or one piece of furniture can add something to your performance. Think about what you’re using – gesturing with a pen sends a different message to gesturing with a knife, for example. And a stool in the middle of an empty stage feels different to that same stool behind a desk.

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