The Guardian’s ‘Secret Actor’ column – while entertaining – is sometimes a dispiriting read for someone who wants to enter the profession.
This week featured a self-important “Bardmeister” who vaingloriously lectures younger actors in a rehearsal for a Shakespeare production on the definitive way to perform a speech: “Some of you younger actors may not be familiar with the rhythm required to perform Shakespeare as it should be performed, so this is how it should sound …” At this point, he extends his arm masterfully and clicks his thumb and fingers rhythmically, all the while saying (and I’m trying to get this right): “Ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka-
Although the Secret Actor is clearly ridiculing his buffoonery, it does momentarily strike fear into the drama school candidate that this style of Shakespearean delivery is the rule – with Hitlerian adherence to iambic pentameter and said in the clipped and constipated style of a 1950s newsreader.
However, this is clearly not what an audition panel at drama school are looking for; they don’t want to see a recitation but a living, breathing and believable human being. If Rory Kinnear followed said Bardmeister’s advice, I sincerely doubt Othello would have got the rave reviews it did. The first thing that people say about the production is how accessible the actors made the language and how “it didn’t feel like [they] were listening to Shakespeare at all.”
Audition Doctor sessions do not focus on which beats are stressed or unstressed and Tilly would never instruct you on how any speech should sound – they focus instead on truly understanding the meaning of the speech. The words that end up stressed are those that you have picked organically that best serve your character’s intentions. There is no categorical law on how to say Shakespeare at Audition Doctor; Tilly focuses on finding the emotion and thinking behind the words and working out the technical beats only happens if a line isn’t sitting well with you. But there is no rule.
Last week Rebecca Front commented: “When I look at other people acting I don’t like to see the cogs whirring. That annoys me. I want to see a real person in a real situation.” Although in Audition Doctor lessons , Tilly will sometimes point out technical aspects of your acting (such as voice or breathing problems that you may be having), they aren’t about examining the techniques that Shakespeare uses in the manner of a detached intellectual. Audition Doctor sessions are about being real in a real situation, which is the only thing that drama schools are looking for.