There is no ‘best way’ to achieve a convincing acting performance. The only reliable indicator is whether those watching it accept you as the character you are playing and believe what you’re saying. It is all about that willing suspension of disbelief.
However fanciful the writer’s ideas, the actor’s job is to convince the audience that they are that person, at least for the time that they are being watched. As a rule, the less the performer appears to be doing, the more we are convinced; but perversely the more a performer does the more some people are impressed. But more does not always equate with good or believable, unless the character they are playing is intended to be larger than life.
Over my years in the profession I have worked with actors who appear to achieve excellent performances without any discernible effort in rehearsal, the ‘learn the lines and don’t bump into the furniture’ brigade. I have also worked with actors who agonise constantly in rehearsal, who go out and live like a tramp for a week in order to play one, who wear painfully tight shoes in order to walk in a particular way, who allow the character to dominate their lives offstage/screen as well as on.
In both cases, if the audience empathise equally with each type of actor, then that is the way that works for them. Stories abound about great actors like Paul Schofield (my particular favourite) and Laurence Olivier who could silence an audience with a look, move them to tears, then turn upstage and wink at a fellow actor.
That does not diminish their talent in any way and moreover means that they are really in control of what they are doing. Having once been on stage with the other type of actor playing Macbeth, who when my sword broke failed to either acknowledge or help remedy that fact but continued to try to kill me, despite the fact I had to win, I feel safer, shall we say, with the inspired technician than the actor totally subsumed by his character.
I was made aware of the difference in styles this week when I was lucky enough to attend Bryn Terfel’s 50th birthday concert at the Albert Hall. He strolled onto the stage and effortlessly delivered magic and musical perfection, where others around him seemed, while excellent also, to achieve that excellence with some effort. A wonderful night.