A couple of years ago, the Guardian published an article entitled “How to act: stage stars share their acting tips“. Along with “preparation, preparation, preparation”, the most common piece of advice was “listen”.
Actors often cite this ability as an absolute prerequisite when playing a scene. Dominic West recently mentioned: “People who I’ve most enjoyed working with are people who are open, who listen and who are flexible…if you go into a scene knowing how things are going to end up, chances are it’s not going to be a very interesting scene”.
People applying to drama school may understandably feel like this piece of advice is less applicable when performing their monologues in front of an audition panel. Sometimes drama schools provide an existing pupil to stand in place of the other character in your scene, but they will never react to your performance and are there more to help with eye line than anything else.
Furthermore, inevitably you will know how “things are going to end up” in your performance at an audition. Decisions based on the text will have been made and the panel will expect you to intelligently justify why you chose to present that particular interpretation.
Although there may be no other actor to listen or react to, the spirit of being open to suggestion is key to getting a recall. In a drama school audition, the listening applies to responding to the panel’s direction; hearing their notes and immediately adapting your performance to show that it isn’t set in stone and that you are able to play conflicting interpretations truthfully.
The panel aren’t looking for a polished performance, they are looking for students who are willing to fail in the pursuit of a better and more honest portrayal. The reason why drama schools graduates often have higher employment rates than those who haven’t been is because they have been allowed to experiment and fail intelligently.
James McAvoy said: “Drama schools are a great idea, I really do believe that. It’s three years where you’re in an environment where you are safe, your vulnerability is protected. No where in the professional world will you manage to get twenty gigs in three years playing all these different characters. You’re there to fail.”
This is why students return time and time again to Audition Doctor. The focus is not on creating a shiny, unchangeable performance, but the joy of unravelling a human being through trial and error.
When interviewed by BAFTA, Benedict Cumberbatch said: “You can never perfect what we do, I’ve never met anyone who goes “that’s perfection”….this goes for all art forms, the point is that perfection is unachievable. It’s that constant pursuit of the unobtainable which is kind of magic really and it’s that Beckett thing, fail again and fail better” which is essentially the unwritten ethos of Audition Doctor.