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Lights, Camera, The Suspension of Disbelief

ted Learning Theatre of Learning drama based training
Lights, Camera, The Suspension of Disbelief Doesn’t exactly role of the tongue, does it?
The Suspension of Disbelief is a curious thing. Most of us have experienced it at some point in our lives, and yet with its rather clunky phrasing, it is slippery and hard to define. The term was first coined by all-round genius Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817. He suggested that if a writer could infuse “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Put another way, if the writing is good, the acting decent, an audience will believe what is in front on them, even if they know it’s not actually real.

How this happens, as suggested, is partly down to the output; the script, the acting, the director, and the production as a whole. However, we as the audience have to let those elements affect us. We have to Suspend Disbelief. In order for this to happen, we have to see, hear and crucially we have to feel. Feeling is the key. We have all watched a bad film; we saw, we heard, but it didn’t tick that feeling box and we are left wanting. But what about when we do feel it? Remember Tony Montana in Scarface? “Say hello to my little friend”! Or Gandolf in Lord of the Rings “Thou shall not pass”! We are suddenly in the world; we see, we hear and we feel.

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It is for this very reason that we use actors at ted Learning. True, we are not defending The Realm of Men like Gandolf (we don’t have a workshop for that yet) but like him, we are trying to get the audience/ our learners to feel. We know that it is the greatest conduit to drive change in behaviour, self-awareness and the perception of others.

I recently ran some Resolving Conflict workshops for a very well-respected retail brand. After the first scene in which one of our actors played a team member, one of the learners said “he is one of us”. Comments like this, I’m pleased to say are very common amongst those we work with and it is indicative of getting learners both believing and feeling what is in front of them. Occasionally I speak to potential clients who are suspicious of actors. More often than not this is down to a bad experience in the past where they or others were made to feel uncomfortable. My response is usually to ask them who their favourite actor is and why (it is something people are quite passionate about)! The word, “believable” almost always comes up and it’s at that moment I begin to talk about our outstanding group of Associate actors. Between them, they have an incredibly broad skill set, but their bread and butter is being believable,  being truthful from bus driver to full stack developer.

Time to wrap this up now, as I have a workshop starting shortly…
Lights, camera, The Suspension of Disbelief!
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Ed Clark

Ed is our Client & Learning Partner working alongside Patrick our Brand Director, he is responsible for client engagement, business development and supporting with design and delivery of several of our theatre-based learning courses.

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