Richard Jordon wrote in The Stage of the difference between good and great acting in The Stage, citing Imelda Staunton’s performance as Mama Rose as an example.
“When you see great actors at work, you realise it is in the little touches they instinctively find in their own technique which grounds their performances, thus propelling them forward to another level, becoming both visceral and memorable. In any such instance you also understand what is meant by the expression ‘living the performance’.”
Staunton has made clear that the road to this calibre of work, however, is one that littered with years of practice and, most importantly, failings; failings that continued well after drama school – the acknowledged place where actors are encouraged to be imperfect and experiment without any career-damaging consequences.
Unlike for today’s drama school graduates, Staunton’s route into repertory theatre is one that is no longer possible: “I did all leading parts and I’d much rather be doing that than standing at the back at the RSC watching other people do it. I’d rather do it, make a mistake and do it again.
I know it sounds obvious but [rep meant] you [were] allowed to learn from your mistakes. You [were] allowed to hone your craft. I didn’t come out of RADA fully formed, I don’t know even if I am now…I think that people should be allowed to fail, change and form as actors.”
Audition Doctor has proved indispensable for drama school candidates, recent graduates and professional actors precisely for this reason. The constant urge for change, exploration and betterment is a sentiment shared by all actors regardless of experience.
Mark Lawson asked in an interview with Staunton: “People say that at drama school, the way you look, the kind of physique you have leads to quite early stereotyping – whether you’re a leading actor or a character actor. Did you feel like you were being pushed into a certain direction?”
Staunton responded: “No because at drama school, you get to do everything. It’s when you leave drama school that the real world kicks in. So at drama school you can play someone who’s 70, someone who’s 17, but when you come out and you’re in your twenties, you can only play those sort of rolls.”
This is why recent graduates find Audition Doctor an important stepping stone in their careers; the variety of roles available in the industry itself is far narrower than at drama school. Consequently, students find that Audition Doctor is where they can differentiate themselves and improve their craft by giving them the chance that Staunton said repertory theatre gave her – doing instead of watching and failing without disastrous consequences.
Fiona Shaw recently spoke of directing Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia in The Telegraph. In rehearsal, she said encouraged her cast “to dig into their own sub-conscious minds and make their own decisions about what is happening, without explaining it to anyone else. Secrets can be so powerful in the theatre.”
As at Audition Doctor, sessions are about exploration and decisions. Students have found that the results of the sessions drive them nearer to “living” their roles and give them an real understanding of the difference between when they are merely good and when they are bordering being great.