It’s surprising how often drama school applicants commiserate with each other when they find out that other people are doing the same Shakespeare speeches as them at an audition. The chances of any new material from a man who has been dead for nearly 400 years is slim, so the likelihood of someone doing the same speech as you is statistically quite high. Securing a place isn’t based on the originality of your choice of speeches but your originality of thought and approach.
When interviewed in Fourth Wall magazine, Oliver Ford Davis talked of how there was no fixed way of performing Shakespeare and gave advice that would stand any drama school applicant in excellent stead: “One of the difficult things is we approach it with preconceptions and labels…I think with the big Shakespeare parts, don’t try and fit into a mould, don’t say, ‘This is how Cleopatra should be, how Rosalind should be.’ The audience don’t come to see Shakespeare’s Rosalind, they come to see your Rosalind. You might as well go for broke and say ‘I’ve got to find as much of Rosalind as I can in me and then I will do my Rosalind, and it will be like nobody else’s. Don’t be frightened of it. It’s a magnificent, magnificent thing to drive, to gain control of but you must bring yourself to it. I think Shakespeare, because he was an actor and because he knew his acting company so well, he actually leaves quite a lot of it to you, sort of saying, ‘I haven’t proscribed how this character should be played.’”
Another common plaintive cry is “I just wish I knew what they were looking for.” In recalls, the audition panel don’t just want to see how you take direction but also how receptive you are to your fellow actors. The improvisation exercises and other games that are played aren’t just what one panel flippantly called “a bit of fun for you all”, but an opportunity for them to scrutinise whether you are capable of doing what Alison Steadman advised all actors this week – “ To look and listen. As an actor, all we are doing is pretending to be other people. Look and listen: always listen. Listen, listen, listen all the time.”
At Audition Doctor, there is thankfully never any opportunity to play someone else’s interpretation of a Shakespeare character as Tilly is meticulous in questioning every single choice you make in your speech. Sessions at Audition Doctor will often entail making sure that your intentions behind every thought is clear by “listening” to the text, which ensures that your performance is truthful. The focus that Audition Doctor places on how your character is trying to affect the person he/she is talking to is invaluable. If you are unsure as to how you are trying to affect a fictional character, the real human beings sitting on the panel will undoubtedly also be left unconvinced.