Here’s a character exercise for moving like an old person.
I’ve heard this nugget of character development repeated countless times from Dennis Cahill of the Loose Moose theatre. He learned it from Keith Johnstone and it’s easy to understand why it sticks in the memory.
Many people play elderly characters with unrealistic or cliched behaviours. As most of us have yet to experience the real-life truth of ageing into our 80’s and 90’s, it’s hard to create the realistic subtleties.
You’re going to walk like an elderly person. imagine you have two glass Christmas balls – the delicate, old fashioned kind of ornament that hung from the branches of a Christmas tree. Imagine them hanging between your legs.
For the 50 per cent of you with testicles, imagine those delicate appendages replaced by these fragile, breakable ornaments. For the 50% of you without your own testicles, just imagine walking with these thin glass decorations between your legs and be careful not to break them as you walk.
The thing that I like about this tip is that it is a little silly but it works. The audience doesn’t have to know about your glass balls – just you do. It’s a strong visual image affecting how you will walk.
You aren’t trying to walk like an older person but the action of protecting the ornaments creates the approximation of one type of older person and the image is so strong that it anchors itself in your behaviour. It’s hard to forget the image or lose the movement.