In the Guardian last month, Sylvestra Le Touzel spoke of how many actresses felt shortchanged by Shakespeare. She spoke in light of her experience playing Lady Percy in Henry IV: “Inhabiting Shakespeare’s women can be frustrating, not because he lacked insight into the female condition but because he didn’t give us enough space in which to play. “Have you ever felt that one of your scenes is missing?” Elizabeth Bell once asked me as she adjusted Gertrude’s lipstick, rose from her chair and exited with resignation to meet Hamlet in her closet.”
The advice most frequently dispensed by Audition Doctor to drama school applicants is the imperative of finding the best speech for you. The speech is the medium through which you will be judged first and foremost. For women, the range of speeches to choose from is narrower, however, the way a speech is interpreted has no limitation.
Le Touzel went onto comment on how “Many years later, while working on one of [Lady Percy’s] speeches with a drama student, we came to a section where the pentameter has an unexpected rhythm. I’d skipped over it 20 years before, but working on it again we found the underlying beat of a drum woven into the sentence structure. You can work on a speech for years and still find new insights.”
This week, Carrie Cracknell gave an insight into the National Theatre’s rehearsal process of Medea which incorporates dance into the production. Choreographer Lucy Guerin mentioned: “Actors need a lot of background on what they’re expressing and why. Carrie does these sessions called intentions, where everyone sits down and goes through the play line by line to figure out each character’s place.”
Audition Doctor sessions are not at all dissimilar; sessions are spent discussing motive and unpicking the text line by line. Such commitment to detail roots the performance in truth. Consequently, when questioned by panels as to why a particular decision was made, Audition Doctor students are always clear about the psychology behind every choice.
However, the thing that marks Audition Doctor’s students out is their awareness of how many different ways a character can be played. Redirection during recalls is common and due to the experimental nature of Audition Doctor sessions, students find that they are able to play many, and often opposite, intentions truthfully.
Cracknell said: “I do think we live in a culture of liking to know where we’re being led,” she says. “I would much rather be drawn into a work, and asked lots of difficult questions, than be taken on a well-worn story where I know what the outcome will be.”
Audition Doctor sessions are characterised by the refusal to go down the well-trodden path of the easiest option. Drama schools are looking for those who are prepared to be bold and ask difficult questions. It’s what Audition Doctor prepares each of her students to be.