One often hears American acting teachers proclaiming the Objective as the ground principle of acting technique. And it has to be said that it can be an effective way to take an actor's attention away from themself, and as a way to drive a narrative along. But does it tell the whole story? What about multiple, simultaneous, conflicting objectives? Or those delicious, desperate moments when a character is just hanging there, off balance, in suspension, with nothing that could resemble an agenda? Or those heroic acts without reason or reward?

One has to be reminded again that theatre is culturally determined.

It is not surprising that a result oriented society such as the USA should fasten onto such a one-dimensional, mechanistic approach as the Objective. And of course there is a type of modern play and film writing for which it is entirely applicable, where the characters are Very Clever People who know exactly what they want and how to go after it. I could suspect that writers have joined directors in a vast conspiracy to create a fictional universe built on the Law of the Objective. The result is a kind of stylistic filter, an over-simplified distortion of reality.

But even if human behaviour were so logical, why shouldn't one be able to postulate and place on the stage characters and modes of existence that have yet to be found in our everyday lives? Only to present characters that are driven by objectives, and are thus explainable, is to impose absurd restrictions upon an audience's experience.

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Jonathan Paul Cook © 2010