The conception and application of these two seemingly opposing words is one of the biggest conundrums face when staging a disciplined and effective staged fight scene. For without a full understanding and distinction of these two words an actor can never hope to really grasp or perform the art form.
Inevitably however a lot of actors are obsessed with ‘reality’. Did that look real? I want it to be the truthful! Where do I start!? After all what is real and what is the truth? Is truth a perspective from where one remembered an event? Is it something that is about to happen? When was something real? When we remember a truth (with a view to play that truth) have we dulled its truthfulness? Is that real?
When we as actors are asked to give the ‘truth’, what are we giving really? Are we doing anything real or truthful? I mean really, we are on stage or in front of a camera after all. When our character must kill another surely, we can’t be doing that for real? If we did that would only be a one-off performance. Even if we are asked to draw from life experience how many actors have killed anyone? Based on that thought, we are really giving an interpretation of reality and truth. Though, we are for the most part learning truthful and real combative techniques in a lot of cases. That’s real.
When an actor has created a world of truths for themselves based on the given circumstances of the story it is easy to watch them as they are in the now – in their reality! When an audience is not observing technique, it must be easy for them to follow the story that is being told because the audience is now in their reality. But it was an illusion that got both the actor and the audience to that reality.
My point is that the two concepts go hand in hand; Illusion and Reality. A balance needs to be struck, in the comprehension of them while building a fight scene without it an actor will be lost. The same balance is faced by the fight director. If one is obsessed with only one of these attributes the other will suffer. Not many actors ask: Did the illusion work?