It was Jaques Lecoq in Paris who, inspired by the carnival masks from Basel in Switzerland, started using the Larval mask in his training for actors. They are usually white with small eyes, a nose, a face form and no mouth, very simple and exaggerated, as a caricature. The idea is to approach a character mask making it very exaggerated and naive at the same time. I use it as the second mask in my actors training. I start with the neutral mask that makes the actor aware of his/her tensions and helps clean the movement at the same time searching for the neutrality in expression born from the naivety and curiosity in exploring the world as for the first time. There is no character in neutral mask, just purity of movement and expression. Then we go over to larval which keeps the naivety and curiosity but makes a much exaggerated, coarse character, boarding in cartoons types. The movement and body posture is cartoonish. We use it on small etudes but also to mingle outside. Its great fun to meet people in the streets with these masks. You see grown up men behaving like children and playing peek a boo with the mask characters. We have some rules in those occasions and the first one is never to approach or touch people if they don’t approach you first. The second is that, as you cannot speak in those masks, you pretend not to understand what people approaching say. I usually instruct the actors to pretend that they hear birds singing: they sing very nice but you don’t understand what they say. The third rule is to keep near the group. You are a family arriving to a strange place, full with very interesting things and entities, and you are very curious to learn what everything is and what it is good for. As seeing everything for the first time. You can see some of my larval masks in the photo section or in the attachment at the end of this article.
In training actors I go to the character whole mask after the larval looking for more subtle acting with them, still with the stylised body posture and movement but with more complex character features. After that I go to the half mask where you find also the voice, as in the Commedia masks.
Any other experiences in working with masks?