Thursday, 23 January 2014

18. The Africano Brit and the Method Acting Dilemma ("MAD")

Earlier this week I asked one of my friends what he would be if he could have any profession in the world other than his own. One response was that he would be a famous actor. To end the related conversation which followed, I made the conclusion that if I were an actor and needed to use the method acting technique, I would most definitely encounter some sort of ontological crisis and eventually go mad.

This got me thinking about how the Africano Brit (young Brits of African origin) will sometimes put on performances in their day-to-day lives amongst friends, colleagues, or strangers (with many going so far as to continue their performance off-stage or off-camera) and how, in some cases, he or she will thrive in the recognition of being able to present an accurate portrayal of their adopted character:

- knowing about modern art or obscure cinema because you're supposed to know about modern art or obscure cinema;
- speaking in a pseudo-Aristo accent because you're supposed to speak that way and you feel that you're not taken as seriously with your existing tongue;
- feigning a love for cricket and quintessentially British public houses; or
- earning the coveted title of "cultured" amongst the real-life inspirations behind your borrowed character

but then:

- finding that the intonation of your received pronunciation shifts from Western to West African around relatives and close friends; or
- Tucking into banku and pepper stew at home despite previously attacking its smelliness and starchiness and heaviness, because an appreciation of African cuisine is incongruent with your otherwise streamlined daily performance.

You will note that the "method actors" of Hollywood are considered the most talented, or give the best, award-worthy performances (Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Christian Bale in The Machinist, Daniel Day-Lewis in just about everything)  So it would follow that the Africano Brit with the best "method acting" technique eventually has its desired character down to a T. In this case, this scenario with the Africano Brit and the electric slide into Edward Saïd's notion of the centre or central, the destination is not madness. The destination is "normal".

I'm not saying that it is wrong for the Africano Brit to know about modern art, or to speak articulately with a southern English RP accent, or to enjoy going to the pub or any of the examples that I have mentioned, largely because to denounce many of those things would be incredibly hypocritical of me. What I am asking, however, is:

a) why a number of the "Africano British" population would deliberately and actively feign a particular set of interests to the point that they eventually become interests; and
b) whether there is an obligation to do a) in order to succeed within our modern society.

Where is the distinction between method acting and reality? Where is the point at which the actor finally sheds his character for the day and becomes himself again? In many instances, does that distinction disintegrate? Do both characters - real and borrowed - become part of one, both inseparable and interchangeable at a whim in a Jekyll/Hyde fashion? Does an acute knowledge of fine wines, epic poets and popular ski season destinations place the Africano Brit in better stead than their peer who names Nando's as their favourite cuisine and Notorious B.I.G. as their favourite thinker?

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