This week, Mark Rylance spoke about the trap that many actors, including himself, fall into when acting Shakespeare.
“[The acting ] is too slow. It’s too reverent. It is like taking a rap song in 400 years from now that we think is really wonderful and deciding it should be said slowly so all the lovers of rap can hear every word. To take a song like Honky Tonk Woman and study it for its literature is fair enough, but if you are going to revere it as literature, you are doing a disservice to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who would like it to be revered as a great rock’n’roll song. That is what I have always felt about Shakespeare. By all means revere him and love him, but revere him in the way he would want to be revered – as a playwright.”
However, saying the lines quicker is not an excuse for under preparing and not understanding the text. If anything, as Audition Doctor students can attest, it requires a commitment to an even deeper comprehension of the play as well as heightened verbal dexterity. Students have found that regular preparation at Audition Doctor gives them structure and they are able to see results quicker under Tilly’s guidance.
Even experienced actors such as Geoffrey Rush, who is rehearsing for King Lear, acknowledges that with Shakespeare: “I had to do my homework. I knew from when I did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum that it took me a long time to cram in Stephen Sondheim’s very fast patter lyrics at a comfort-zone level. So I started working on Lear early, absorbing it, talking around it, finding out about the history.”
Audition Doctor sessions take a lot of the pain out of the homework through targeting specific aspects of the speech students find difficult and practically solving them in the doing of it. Through this kind of experimentation, students find that they end up discovering their own version of the character.
Rush said: “If you look at Hamlet – not that I’ve played him myself – each actor has to find their own Hamlet. Certainly with Lear, you have to credibly enter an acceptable zone of seeming like an octogenarian. And you can reference behaviours and family members to get there but, ultimately, it’s got to be your own.”
Making a Shakespeare part your own is what Audition Doctor pushes each student to do. Tilly also makes certain that they enter every audition with confidence – both from knowing that they have an original take on a role and also from being ready to make bold choices and not being too precious. The readiness to abandon their performance altogether in favour of trying something new if the panel asks is a quality that Audition Doctor students possess.
Fisayo Akinade, who recently appeared in Russell T. Davies’ Cucumber, commented: “In a weird way, you don’t act the same way in an audition as you do when you get to set. It’s a slightly alien environment. A lot of the technique to an audition is understanding that it’s a very different thing to a performance.”
Audition Doctor gives students this understanding and Akinade also stated that in auditions, “you’ve got to be the better you”, which is absolutely what Audition Doctor enables each one of her students to be.