This article originally published in the very first edition of The Rehearsal Room website has since been lost in more recent renovations. It speaks a simple truth and is worth re-instating.
An actor friend recently explained to me that he had once thought he was not very good at learning lines – i.e. this was a task at which he had to work. I was surprised. This was not an area with which he ever appeared to have any difficulty.
However, it would seem this self-doubt disappeared when he discovered that it is not necessarily how well you have learnt the lines which is the major factor but it is rather how confident you are that you have learnt them. Well-learnt lines without the ‘confidence’ to support them can soon evaporate. Hastily learnt lines can sometimes produce great performances if the actor is clear about the essential ingredients of story and confident that they are in control of their process.
This doesn’t mean that actors should not learn their lines. Knowing the script is well learnt can produce a confidence in itself.
However it is interesting to reflect upon the fact that if circumstances mean lines have to be learnt in a hurry then the major factor influencing success is not “if” they can be learnt but "how confident" the actor is that the story can be told.