How to learn lines
Different people learn lines in differing ways.
Some people are lucky enough to be born with an amazingly accurate “photographic memory” and only have to read through a script once to be able to re-call it in its entirety days or even weeks later. If you’re one of those (like RADAgrad Emily White, and reputedly, another distinguished graduate, Dame Diana Rigg) then you don’t need to read on!
Other less fortunate mortals, which means most of us, have to find a way to train our brains to hang on to the lines we have, as actors, to retain for later delivery to an audience. I’d like to offer you my own method which stood in me in good stead during many years acting in the theatre and for the camera.
During the rehearsal period, go to bed early and take the script to bed with you:
As you read the lines, really THINK about them.
Not just their meaning, but their shape, spelling and sound.
Really LOOK at them, look how the words and the thoughts behind them connect.
IF there’s a bit you think will be hard to memorise, look for links between words, which can either be letter-based, sound-based or image-based.
e.g. If the word “surrender” is a key word in a line, and the word “remember” is a key word in the following line, you can link them simply by noting mentally that both words have a flat “e” in the middle, and both end with “er”.
An example of an “image” link might be the phrase Lady Anne uses in “Richard 111” “bloodless remnant”. Unusual word, “remnant”, which often refers to a dress-maker’s left-over piece of fabric. So you might imagine a picture of a piece of white cloth beside a pool of blood.
Don’t try to force the lines in – stay relaxed, read carefully and quietly and enjoy the journey through the text, letting the shapes and links gently sink in.
Then let yourself drift off to sleep…..