4 Elements of a Great Group Warm up

nigel-et-alYes, I know I’ve written on this topic before, and I promise you I certainly will again, because there is always more to be discovered about the benefits of a warmup up.

Specifically, today I want to discuss the reasons why a performance group should always warm up together. The Group Warmup.

Anyone who has ever experienced a bad group warmup will want to escape now. Please don’t. Please stick around. Warm ups are like meals. A tough, over-cooked (or soggy under-cooked) one can put you off forever, because it leaves you with nothing but a bad taste and spoils your appetite for the rest of the day. A delicious, tasty, nutritious one leaves you satisfied and enthusiastic to face whatever the day may bring.

Bad warm ups can be boring, repetitive or disorganised with no sense of WHY. Running a sequence of stretches and vocal exercises just for the sake of doing them is NOT a group warmup. It’s a sequence of stretches and vocal exercises. It might get you, the individual, warmed up, but it does nothing for group cohesion, for establishing a collaborative framework that sets up the group for a successful collaborative, creative project – rehearsal or performance.

Effective group warm ups include exercises that are specific for the task about to be undertaken, and it is imperative that everyone in the group knows exactly what each exercise is for and why it has been included in the sequence. Everyone in the group must take responsibility for their own, and for the group’s engagement. No leaders, and no followers. The warmup is something you do together, simultaneously, so you can’t hang back and always rely on someone else to remind you what comes next.

Treat the warmup as an acting exercise, because that is what it is. You and your colleagues are practising making something together, something you value, something you want to share with each other, and with an audience. Every instant within the warmup is to be lived, inhabited, to the full, and then allowed to pass because the next instant is upon you, and it has to be experienced to the full. This is marvellous training for being on stage, or in front of the camera. ‘Being in the moment’ is not something you just switch on as you walk on stage. It requires skill, and you only get to be skilled at something by practising it regularly. If you are performing on stage with other performers, supported by a stage management and technical team, you have to practise being in the moment together, all of you (YES, that includes the SM and tech people too! Any theatre company that aspires to work as an ensemble should be warming up ensemble – i.e. together.)

Here is my list of all the elements that you are warming up:

  1. your whole body – including muscles, joints, organs, blood vessels, breath flow and vocal apparatus
  2. your intellect – powers of concentration, specificity of thought processes
  3. your imagination – creating powerful reasons for each action and interaction, integrating the work you are doing on your character/s and relationships with other actors/characters
  4. your community – which includes your colleagues, the characters in the play you are rehearsing, and your audience (real and imagined}

When all of these elements  are developed together playfully and skilfully, you will complete the group warmup in a state of readiness, of active and creative anticipation for the work you are about to embark upon. When you go onstage after a really well-designed, integrated, thoroughly engaged warmup, your audience receives the gift of your actual total presence – they sense it before they see or hear you. What A Joy!

Next time, I’ll set out some of my favourite warm ups for group work. You will also find exercises and sequences that work for personal and for group work in the Being in Voice app, available in the iTunes App Store.


Endless Possibilities

20141018_123249Yesterday I spent the day playing with a new (to me) group of acting students: What A Blast! We began by discovering the FACT that voice is sound, sound is vibration, vibration can be felt in the body and in the air outside of the body. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not actually there!  And of course, once you feel it and experience it as a physical occurrence, you can own it, grow it, play with it.

We travelled to the land of Omnia, learnt the local language (Omnish, of course, which includes all the sounds of all the languages of the world that are known), held elections and honoured the poet laureate of Omnia.

With our newfound linguistic skills and appreciation of the complexity and the endless possibilities of speech sounds, we then addressed our English texts and blew ourselves away. In the best possible way.

My thanks to the 2014 Film & Television Studio International Foundation Class for a stupendous day of growth and fun.



Intro to Voice and Speech Workshop

Please wear comfortable, loose or stretch pants and t-shirts. Be prepared for floor and physical work. Bring a notebook and pencil. Memorise your chosen text, either from those below, or something you already know.


Total Voice: what it is, how to look after it – and why.

Warming up the whole body, toning up the voice, building on your voice as the means of expressing yourself – and your text.


Total Speech: what it is, what it involves, how to use language effectively

Discovering the points of articulation, different categories of speech sounds, how these affect your text


Total Text: what it is, how to make it your own – Every Time

Acting with text, integrating your knowledge, your skills and somebody else’s words to create a character that is rich and alive.

From Clear Speech to General American

Sounds easy, but of course there is skill involved, and that takes practice.  Join us for 2 half day workshops on 9th November, and learn the most direct, holistic (in terms of the anatomy of articulation, pronunciation, rhythm and melody) process for speaking skilfully, in any accent. But this time, we’ll be focussing on so-called General American, the accent you will need if you aim to work in  Hollywood movies.IMG_5727

Limited places, and these are filling up fast. Contact me to reserve your place with a small deposit.

How to Acquire an Accent

Accents – believe it or not – are not easy.  Let’s face it, if you’ve spent 20, 30, 40 years using your head and facial muscles and your tongue to speak words in a particular way, and tuning your voice to go up and down in pitch the way your friends and family do, it is going to take some degree of effort to retrain your ears and those muscles to do it differently on demand.

Dudley Knight and Phil Thompson have been working for many years to study the challenges of “Speaking With Skill” (Dudley’s book is a Goldmine). They devised a training methodology that integrates beautifully and effortlessly with any voice training system you care to name.

Last year I attended the KTS workshops in LA, “Experiencing Speech” and “Experiencing Accents”.  I loved the rigour, the thorough practicality of the approach, the way it incorporates anatomical facts with imaginative play. So this year I went to New York and undertook the three-week teacher certification program.  It was – as I’ve said before – intensely challenging, and utterly stimulating.

Below are the Class of 2014 photos. In the first one, a bunch of charming voice and accent coaches, in the second – we may look as if we are mucking about, but that is a Serious Exercise!


The KTS Gurn

The KTS Gurn

I am running the first, introductory workshop in Brisbane on 9th November (click for details). You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the principles and philosophy that underpin this approach to speech and accent training, as well as some of the exercises designed to allow you to learn ANY accent.  Once you understand what’s actually involved in learning someone, or somewhere else’s way of using the language, you’ll be in a much stronger position to undertake the specific work you need to do.

Click here to contact me for more details, and to register your interest. And please do spread the word. This workshop is open to everyone who cares about their voice, communication and presentation skills and creative self expression.


and the news is…

I am delighted to announce that I am now a Certified Knight Thompson Speechwork Teacher. The three-week course in New York last month was intense, challenging, stimulating and deeply satisfying, and I cannot wait to share this beautiful work with you.

random Shakespeare being rehearsed in a New York Upper West Side Community Garden

random Shakespeare being rehearsed in a New York Upper West Side Community Garden

What I love about this particular approach to teaching clear speech and accents, is that

a) it empowers the student: you don’t just learn a certain accent, you learn HOW to learn any accent (and you can learn specific accents too!)

b) it is grounded in the body: you are the voice, your whole body takes part in the process of self-expression through language; how you speak is part of this process

c) it takes an intelligent, informed approach to culture, society and community: there is no such thing as a good, or a bad accent; there are different accents, and they can all be spoken with clarity

d) it enables me to build upon the holistic approach to voice and acting work I have been engaged in all my life; did I mention that I love it?  Let me also mention that I live it.IMG_5726 IMG_5727

If you would like to know more about Knight-Thompson speech and accent training, contact me here