Following the General Election, much has been written about the fears of playing it safe with regards to programming in an age of belt-tightening and budget cuts. There seems to be a retaliation by many theatres to the idea that another five years of diminishing subsidies means performing safe and unchallenging work.
Elizabeth Newman, incoming artistic director of the Octagon said: “[theatres must be] risk-aware, not risk-averse. The greatest risk we can take is not to take any risks.”
In Sheffield, Daniel Evans staged a Sarah Kane season. Fearing walkouts and actors playing to empty houses, Evans was surprised: “The reaction from our audiences was beyond anything we could have imagined. While there was the odd walkout, the content of the plays prompted not one complaint. In fact, the opposite occurred. People were writing to us, tweeting, blogging, thanking us for the opportunity to see Sarah’s work. Audiences want to see challenging work. They are not afraid. They want to interact as deeply as possible.”
At Audition Doctor, risk is paramount to the working process; it’s a space where you are encouraged to pick a character or a speech that pushes you to the fringes of your artistic ability. Leo Bill, currently appearing in A Light Shining in Buckinghamshire at the National, spoke of the importance of “[exploring] every single corner of that character. That’s all you can do: go everywhere, go to their extremities.”
He also mentioned how he has in the past, taken a job for the sake of working: “I’ve done it and regretted it every time”. While Olivia Poulet also talked in The Stage about the downsides of settling with and the importance of waiting for the parts that challenge her:
“Yes, the money’s not great, and sometimes you’re a bit hand to mouth for a bit, but the challenge of doing a part that is really exciting and fulfilling is just so worth it,” she says of her work in theatre. “Of course you’ve got to make money, but I think as I’ve got older I’m definitely very much about the part and I feel less desperation to just be working for the sake of it.”
In the same vein, particularly with drama school applicants, Audition Doctor encourages students to be patient in their search for the right speech and not to compromise with a speech that doesn’t ignite them. Al Pacino said recently: “I look for that thing that moves you, I don’t know what it is.”
Once the speech is found, Audition Doctor provides a space in which to experiment, discuss and pick apart the script in a way that resembles a collaborative rehearsal process.
At Audition Doctor, like any other rehearsal process, requires an amount of repetition. However, in no way is this monotonous or unimaginative. Pacino went onto say:
“I like repetition. I like the saying “repetition keeps me green”… because there’s this idea that we do performances over and over again and doesn’t that get boring or stale? No, because it’s in the repetition that the creation comes or the expression comes. I was doing Richard once…and there was a court scene and I didn’t understand why I was in it…On the 85th performance of Richard, on my 85th entrance, I understood it.”
At Audition Doctor, the marriage of practice and risk-taking means that students always enter the audition room with a profound understanding of their character’s motives and desires. Consequently, they often land professional jobs and drama school places.