The Guardian have introduced a new series called ‘The Secret Actor’ in which a well-known actor reveals the varied experiences of the process of auditioning. The first column was a sobering reminder of how “there is no other profession in which, to nail the offered employment, you are called upon to replicate the talent qualifying you as an applicant in microcosm, and in a positively hostile atmosphere: the antithesis of the environment in which you will be working, should you get the part. Science and meritocracy have no place in this world.” It’s what prospective actors have heard countless times before – the fact that luck plays a far larger part in the lottery that is the actor’s life than talent and the fact that auditioning is often at best dispiriting, and at worse demeaning.
Listening to Ruby Wax describe her drama school auditioning experience was significantly more cheering. She is a testament to how you can succeed in the Industry despite auditioning badly. “I didn’t get into any drama school. I was appalling, I had never seen a play. I thought I’d be an actress because it would keep me out of America and my parents understood that English drama schools were better…I never saw Shakespeare…I knew it was the death scene [in Romeo and Juliet], I had a wimple on…and I stood on stage and I went “my dog is dead, my dog is dead” and that would make me cry but I said it out loud and then I went (Wax’s twangy American switches suddenly to a breathy theatrical plumminess) “Alack alack, is it not like that I, what with loathsome smells, And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth…” and then at the end when she beats herself over the head with Tybalt’s bone, I thought better to bring something visual so I brought a turkey leg. Didn’t get into RADA strangely.”
The first thing to say is that Audition Doctor would never advocate relying on either cold cuts or Elizabethan headwear in a drama school audition. Books on the process of auditioning so often advise applicants to distinguish themselves from other candidates by wearing something “outrageous”. If you have any acting ability at all, you should be able to be able to get into character and take direction in leggings and a t-shirt. Sporting a fanciful ruff and elaborately designed codpiece will not guarantee you a recall and the panel will more than likely find you tiresome. Audition Doctor ensures that you are remembered not for your choice of clothing but for your acting.
Audition Doctor sessions are chances to explore the character’s emotional journey and to “get there” without having to robotically intone “my dog is dead” aloud. As soon as the panel says “in your own time”, you only have the length of your speech (never more than 3 minutes) to show them that you are capable of delivering what they are looking for – the truthful portrayal of another person. A mixture of discussion and experimentation means that Audition Doctor gives you the luxury of being specific in your performance instead of playing the piece on one general note. For people who have never auditioned before, lessons at Audition Doctor mean that you are given the opportunity to audition your own audition, so to speak, so you can critique how you come across and have the benefit of Tilly’s direction to ensure that you don’t repeat Wax’s mistakes. Presumably you are auditioning because you want to bolster your talent as an artist with professional training and not because you want to “keep [yourself] out of America”, so there is too much at stake to waste your three minutes.