In the dramatically titled Guardian piece – Frank Langella: Legend of the Fall, it transpired that acting and writing autobiographies aside, Langella delivers sobering talks to drama school students. “The desire has to be raging in you, because such is the brutality of the profession, and the horrible indignities you have to suffer, you have to really love what you do.”
Simon Hattenstone’s piece paints an Icarus-like figure whose career is chequered with impressive highs as well as crashing lows. Langella talks of having to come to the realisation that he was no longer leading man material with the loss of his hair and how it “heralded a renaissance” in his acting career which goes to show how essential. However, rebirths are generally only afforded to those who have the the skills to adapt to the profession. This is why Susan Elkin states “debunking attitudes [like not needing to train professionally to become an actor] is probably one of the most important things I do as The Stage’s Education and Training Editor. After all, however great your footballing potential, you wouldn’t expect to walk in off the streets and immediately play for Manchester United. It takes years of training to achieve the right skills. And you never stop learning. Exactly the same principle applies to performing on stage or screen.”
It was recently reported in The Stage that professional actors work 11.3 weeks per year on average and 86% of those have been through formal vocational training which points terrifyingly at the assumption that those who haven’t trained must work even less. The reason that many people cite for not wanting to train is that they have no interest in Shakespeare; they want to be film actors and everyone knows that British drama schools are severely lacking in this aspect of training. While this is a legitimate desire, it is naive to believe you will have that much control over your career. Film actors still emphasise that theatre training, especially through Shakespeare texts, was requisite to their subsequent success on screen. Many drama schools are also currently revising their training programmes to incorporate more lessons on screen acting.As for those who want to seek success in America, shunning Shakespeare would be foolhardy. As Neil Constable, the Globe’s chief executive, told The Independent:  “There’s more Shakespeare in Broadway than in London, the audiences lap it  up. It’s a joy and a pleasure. They know their theatre and know their Shakespeare.”
Drama schools have always been places where students are allowed to experiment in safety. Repeated trial and error has always been the basis for improvement. Getting to know your weaknesses as well as your strengths is necessary before you launch yourself into the profession. Audition Doctor is the step before drama school – the Foundation Course before the BA. Langella spoke of the fact that he has realised above all is the fact that acting is less about “covering up as much as possible; it’s all in the unpeeling. Each decade of my career I’ve tried to reveal more of myself. I want it to be less of a mask.” This is what Audition Doctor concentrates on above all else – paring the performance down to reach the truth of the text and eschewing any “acting”.
As director Marianne Elliot said: “It’s impossible to feel the creative juices flowing if you’re always worried about the end result. I think really, really good work comes out of people being quite open, not stressed, really exploring, trying to be imaginative, without worrying too much about the end result. And being allowed to fail, really being allowed to fail.” Audition Doctor sessions are all about failing – not in the negative sense – but in the Samuel Beckett sense – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” This is precisely the quality that drama schools are looking for.