More about British Drama League
Mrs. Catherine Lambert was in charge of Speech Training at the British
Drama League. Yes, on second thoughts I think she was the one who looked
like Ingrid Bergmann, one of my favourite actresses. Mrs. Lambert taught
us about Elizabethan Drama too. Here are some of my notes from a lesson
dated 10/05/65 from Mrs. Lambert.
Column 1 - Breath/Power/Coordination of lungs, diaphragm, ribs and
Column 2 - Note/PITCH VIBRATION/ Vocal chords closed.
Column3- Tone/Resonance/Through pharynx, mouth and nose balance.
Column 4 - Words/ARTICULATION/tongue, teeth, lips. hard & soft
Column 5 - Phrases/ Communication, Imagination, understanding
naturally/Flexibility and control of breath, Forward tone, clear
articulation, adaptability to size of room.
Do forgive me if this is boring. I have copied exactly as it is in my
notebook - including usage of capitals. Frankly right now I can't make
much sense of all these caged instructions. It might be of use to at
least a few who teach Speech and that precious, highly priced social
asset called 'Elocution'. Of course we were a class of budding actors
and it is to them that Mrs. Lambert conferred all this information.
To be very frank, I can't remember being aware of any of the said
'tongues and teeth and jaws' or 'articulation, resonance,
pitch-vibration and power' etc. while on Stage or before a camera as an
actor, whether I spoke in Sinhala or English! I believe these assets
come naturally to a good actor and the total effect gets conveyed to the
spectator or the audience.
They - meaning the spectator and the audience - on the other hand
would not praise an actor for his 'tongue, teeth and jaw' or his
Pharynx, Diaphragm, Ribs or Abdomen. They would simply say "I saw that
chap is b....y good!' or 'That woman was charming. She mesmerized the
Imagine an actor or actress trying to remember and keep in mind all
these intricate instructions while being on stage or before a camera!
The result, I am sure will be disastrous. But they certainly will be
useful for any student facing an examination in 'speech' or 'Elocution'.
There is a footnote in my notebook. It says, Important - 'RELAXATION
of unnecessary muscles. DEPORTMENT'. I am sure there is a lesson here
for most of our politicians and pubic speakers, yes?
'The two-two to Tooting
Were too soon to too
Would the two get to Tooting
As soon as the hooting....!'
'The gloom of the sea
The gloom of the sky
Hung over all....'
Who were terribly tired
Were trotting along the road
Said toad number one to toad number two
'It's hot and I carry a load!'
Said toad number two to toad number one 'Why don't we return to the
Said toad number one - 'That's a very good idea,
Of walking I've never been fond.'
So they turned in their tracks and they hurried away
Wasting never a moment of time
And now in the pond for the rest of the day
They wallow in ooze and in slime....
You will agree that these exercises given to us by Mrs. Lambert are
not bad workouts for the tongue - at least to those of us who insist on
good pronunciation, articulation and projection. God Bless teachers like
I will quote just one more note - this time about 'Miming' - an art
that only a very few here are adept at.
Miming - Imagination/ Concentration/ Clarity/ Economy (selective)/
MOOD - emotional colour.
'Mood is not static. It changes all the time' e.g. Personal moods.
Actor gets the mood, plays with the mood and shifts the mood (variety).
1. Classical mime - built on assumption of dialogue.
2. Actors' mime - based on emotional feeling. No dialogue is
And now let me get back to the ABD (Associate of the British Drama
League) examination for which I too was a candidate. As I mentioned a
couple of weeks back, I had chose a scene from the last Act of Tennessee
Williams' The Glass Managerie for my examination.
We were given actors and actresses from RADA (Royal Academy of
(Dramatic Art) in London to be used in our minuscule productions. We
were highly excited about 'directing' well trained students from the
RADA. There were at least 14 of us taking up the exam. We had to use the
tiny stage at the BDL for our exercise.
When my turn came up I got the four actors - Laura, Amanda, Tom and
Jim - onto the stage and explained to them my approach to the scene. I
told them that the preliminary scene between Laura and Jim (after Laura
excuses herself from the dining table) should be played softly as a sort
of catalyst for the next final explosive scene between Mother and Son. I
tried to be as brief and as incisive as possible.
The two actors (Tom and Jim) and the two actresses (Amanda and Laura)
seemed to like my approach and told me so. I was very happy. So happy
that half way through the exercise I threw the script away - actually,
literally threw the script on to a chair and continued my direction
without a script in hand.
I thought I knew the play so well. I did. But that was my undoing. In
Britain, or at least in the English tradition, nobody, not even the best
of Directors would work without a script in hand - or at least close by.
Nobody insults a script by throwing it away!
The Adjudicators failed me in that subject - Direction - because of
my rashness. Thinking back, I think they were quite right. I could have
kept the script quietly in a corner of the stage, or on a chair or some
such thing, but I should never have thrown it away! The Adjudicators
would have overlooked all my preparations, my style, my confidence and
the whole lot, because they would not tolerate that kind of arrogance -
especially from a student.
It served me right. That was a good lessons for me. I have been much
more humble in my approach to the Stage and the Theatre and to Direction
ever since. Thank you, dear Adjudicators of the British Drama League.
Let me quote from their report:-
Adjudication: (Tutor - Mr. Walter Lucas) This was a highly
interesting and personal adjudication delivered with much force and
consistently interesting. It covered most comprehensively all the
various points of production, acting etc., and disclosed good theatre
One would only ask that the content should be marshalled in a more
logical form. (My note - Adjudication itself is one of the subjects for
the exam. This is the report on how I fared in that subject)
Production: (Tutor: Mr. Douglas B. Andrews) Good work and an extreme
amount of promise but don't let down your very good ideas by a rather
loose approach; be much more definite and then you'll have it.
Production: (Tutor - Mr. Richard Carey) Needs greater speed and
vitality in his production exercises. Has an 'ear' for words and a good
understanding of the productions he showed during the course.
Voice Production: (Tutor - Mrs. Catherine Lambert) An exciting
performer and potentially a fine voice. He needs the support of a
stronger technique, especially breath control and a relaxing of the jaw
muscles. (! - mark of exclamation is mine)
The General Comment on me goes as follows:- "It is a pity Mr.
Jayasena had to miss the first two weeks of the course because it is
always more difficult to get into the swing of things when arriving
late. But Mr. Jayasena is obviously a very experienced producer, with a
wide knowledge of the theatre.
He made very sound contributions to discussions, and was altogether a
very pleasant, if reserved, member of the course. We have no doubt on
his showing on the course that he has a very useful contribution to make
to dramatic work in Ceylon."
Finally I received a Certificate of Participation of the 'Full-time
course for Producers and Instructors in Community Drama from April 20 to
June 25, 1965,' from the BDL, but not the certificate of Associate of
the British Drama League. Nevertheless, I hope I have made that 'useful
contribution' to the Stage and the Drama in my country.....
Thought of the week
We, normal human beings will never be able to understand the ethics,
the principles or even the thinking of those at war. I am writing this
on Saturday, August 5. We are all aware that there are bloody battles
going on in several parts of the country at the moment - especially in
Muttur and Mavil Aru.
I was greatly relieved when I saw the headlines in most of the
newspapers this morning. They said 'Ceasefire in Muttur today - Ray of
hope after many days of bloody battles.' Etc.
However, on closer scrutiny I find that the Ceasefire is only because
of the visit of a top Peace Maker to one of the areas of battle - Muttur.
Apparently both sides have agreed to facilitate the visit by this
Ceasefire. Perhaps I am a very foolish man. I ask a very simple
Are not the lives of the poor civilians in these areas as precious as
the life or lives of a Peace Maker or more of them? Are not the lives of
the poor men, women and children of this land precious enough to be
saved? Must they be killed and maimed all the time so that the Peace
Makers could come in and be protected by both sides? Among the dead and
the maimed in those God forsaken areas, there would have been many men
and women of peace even more intent on peace than the peace makers who
fly in, travel long distances, have discussions, warn both sides and go
away. Peace stops there and the killings resume. What kind of reasoning
is this? What kind of ethics? I fail to understand.