Niveau de jeu

Jacques Lecoq’s expression "niveau de jeu" (literally “level of play”) is key to his promotion of the actor as the source of theatrical style. It is through play that the actor transforms reality. Style is not to be an imposed strategy, but rather something to be found in the playfulness of the actor's body. There is then a correspondence between the quality of the actor's play and the resultant style. A particular mask of a particular style will demand a particular level of play.

The expression "niveau de jeu" can be misleading though because it seems to imply a hierarchy of styles, as if they could be stacked according to their distance from reality, with naturalism at the bottom, and some kind of Artaudian hyper-dance-opera at the top! But one style is not “more “ than another, anymore than one could say that the sound of a saxophone is “more" than the sound of a trumpet.

One might better use the word “expansion.” The expansion of reality through various forms of play produces style.

Still, the good thing about “niveau” is that it implies a need for stylistic coherency. One visualizes a given style operating on a level plane that maintains a constant distance from the quotidian, and so is faithful to its initial contract with the audience.

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Jonathan Paul Cook 2010