In his new book, Year of the Fat Knight, Anthony Sher recounts his experience playing Falstaff in the RSC’s production of Henry IV. In an extract printed in the Guardian, Sher wrote:
“To an actor, dialogue is like food. You hold it in your mouth, you taste it. If it’s good dialogue the taste will be distinctive. If it’s Shakespeare dialogue, the taste will be Michelin-starred. If you’re learning lines before rehearsals, you have to learn in neutral, in a way that won’t cut off the creative choices that will happen when the director and other actors are involved. So I’m speaking Falstaff in my own voice, I’m not attempting any characterisation.”
For both professional actors and drama school applicants, the frequency and intensity of the sessions mean that lines are generally learnt through a kind of organic osmosis. However, professional actors have found that the intense characterisation that is undertaken at Audition Doctor – work that has often landed them the job – is the characterisation that is pushed even further in the professional rehearsal room.
Perversely, the depth of research and work on a character that is explored at Audition Doctor, however, never leads students to become rigidly fixated on one interpretation. The extensive knowledge of their character means they are aware of the myriad of artistic choices that they have chosen not to take. Consequently, in an audition room, students are always flexible and open to bold experimentation.
The process by which a student reaches an understanding of a character is highly individual and Audition Doctor has no prescribed and one-size-fits-all method.
Robert Duvall’s advice to young actors was: “It all begins with listening. I talk you listen, you talk I listen and it goes from there…that’s the journey in an individual scene. Rather than going for the result, let the process take you to the result.” Similarly, the nature of the Audition Doctor process is that the result is often the unexpected. Consequently, audition panels are confronted with an original and exciting interpretation.
In a recent interview, Kevin Spacey spoke about acting as “Putting yourself into someone else’s shoes and trying to plant seeds about what a writer’s ideas are and what they’re trying to say, what they’re trying to express…The only thing that interests me is what scares me. The only thing I’m interested in is what I think I can’t do.”
Audition Doctor sessions are sought after because students invariably enter their auditions with a fearlessness, originality and humanity that marks them out.
In their auditions, the work and commitment that they’ve undertaken with Tilly echoes Maria Freedman’s comment that “The best thing about theatre is that it’s a beautiful hand-out to remind us of each other’s fallibility and frailty and humanity. It’s a ‘Hallo, you know me and I know you’ and it’s done with words…”