Bel Knight speaks to Audition Doctor founder Tilly Blackwood
What would a typical lesson at Audition Doctor be like?
Happily for me, I don’t have a set lesson plan that’s set in stone for every student. I see drama school applicants, professional actors and also people in other professions who want to improve their presentational and public speaking skills so there is no standard lesson. Every lesson is fashioned to suit the unique needs of each individual.
When does your coaching start for people applying to drama schools?
With drama school applicants, I see students at every stage at the audition process; some come to me months in advance and others the day before. Ideally, a student would come to me earlier rather than later because it’s important to have time to experiment with various speeches and to ensure that at your audition, you are presenting yourself at your very best.
How do you come to choose drama school speeches?
A lot of the time students initially come to me with English A- Level speeches that drama schools see time and time again. With people wanting to get into drama school, I suggest they go to the biggest bookshop they can find with a cup of tea and spend some time looking through as many plays as possible. They tend to bring me a selection of speeches and then we try them out in the lesson. Students often very quickly know which speech feels right for them but the most important thing is to give yourself the luxury of doing lots of ‘acid tests’ when it comes to drama school speeches because you will be doing them often and over an extended period of time.
So what would you say is the ideal period to start lessons if you want to get into drama school?
I would say about 5 months before your drama school auditions start. I’m always very wary of giving specific periods of time because obviously it depends on the student. What I am certain of is that I need to ensure that I have sufficient time to get to know the student and steer them to see specific plays that I think might spark an idea. It’s surprising how little drama school hopefuls go to the theatre. Often great performances by professional actors might influence a way of doing a speech or simply change a student’s perceptions of what is possible. Recently, I encouraged students to see Jerusalem and Much Ado About Nothing. It’s interesting, I notice a marked difference in my students after having watched actors such as Mark Rylance and Eve Best give such phenomenal performances. I often find they are more daring in their choices and more open to taking risks in their speeches for drama school.
Theatre tickets can be incredibly expensive; how would you encourage your students to go more often?
The vast majority of my students applying to drama schools are in their teens and twenties and there are so many schemes that give cheap theatre tickets to young people. I think if you want to be an actor and go to drama school, you must be aware of the goings-on of the profession and constantly expose yourself to experienced actors who have already been through the journey that you want to embark on. Also, at drama school auditions, they frequently ask what plays you’ve been to see recently. Drama school places are in such short supply that inevitably they want to accept aspirant actors who are knowledgeable and passionate about the theatre.