The neutral mask is a training tool for actors that was developed by the acting
teacher Jacques Lecoq at his school in Paris France. The
aims of the mask are many. It is to for the actors or students discover more
about themselves, to loose inhibitions and in doing so extend themselves
physically emotionally and creatively, by playing the mask.
The Neutral Mask has no expression. It is a full mask with no open mouth, thus it
does not speak. An actor wears the mask they stand on stage in a state of relaxed readiness. The mask demands a sense of stage presence.
This is termed as playing the mask In other-words one cannot walk about stage with the mask on as if they are wondering around their living
room. The mask demands focus for an actor. Every gesture an actor makes on stage becomes significant
Early exercises are how to present you on stage. Actors with the mask on look ahead. That is their action. We ask them to do nothing else. We observe
them, that is, how they stand. Do they stand with their weight forward or back? We look for signs of how they may be feeling. Do they feel nervous or happy? Do
they look scary or sad?
They start on a journey of discovery. It is a journey about their feelings, their emotions and how they present themselves to an audience.
Through their stillness in wearing the mask students are feeling exposed, and their feelings are revealed. Their uniqueness is opened up.
Other early exercises in self- discovery include
Waking up and seeing the sea for first time. How do you feel when you see something, i.e. the sea for the very first time? In playing the mask actors cannot act out
feelings simply play the moment?
Meeting another person for the first time. The main philosophy in these exercises is less is more. That is the less you and try and explain through gesture as you
have a mask on the more you tell. It is a joyous experience watching participants discover the mask.
We than use the mask to explore, through movement, the elements. In other words
they move as water fire earth and air. The students do not try and show us the elements. We are much more interested in the imaginative, physical and emotional
reactions of the students when moving as the elements colours, materials, objects and finally animals.
This is the key for an actor to create characters and imaginative situations. The mask is a strong starting point in the creative life of the actor.