Acting in the UK – Do Acting Classes Help?

Bel Knight interviews Audition Doctor founder Tilly Blackwood

How did you come to set up Audition Doctor?
It started as a happy accident. Initially Michael John at the Actor’s Centre suggested that I teach a couple of one-off sessions once a month, due to the overwhelmingly good response I was then invited to have my own regular class each week. These acting clases were quickly oversubscribed so I decided to set up Audition Doctor.

What do you do at The Actors Centre?
I teach Shakespeare Masterclasses, Audition Masterclasses and Introduction to Acting courses there. Being part of such a rigorous and unique organisation means that I am in quite an uncommonly good position. At the Actor’s Centre, I mainly work with young professionals so I’m very conscious of the ever-changing demands placed on up-coming actors.

What would you say to someone thinking of an acting career?
Acting is a wonderfully fulfilling career if you are willing to be adaptable and as auditions for both drama schools and theatre and telly jobs are getting increasingly more cutthroat, actors need to continuously develop their auditioning skills. The reality is that it can be a dog-eat-dog world and when people realised that I had an insider-view so to speak, they started to ask for more acting sessions- especially one to one lessons so I set up Audition Doctor.

What do remember of your acting teachers?
I also remember how my own acting teachers at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama such as Patsy Rodenburg-the internationally renowned voice coach- had such a profound effect on my journey as an actress and I suppose I’m in a way trying to pass on what they opened my eyes to- things like being present, staying true to the text and being connected to the language are all acting absolutes.

Do you think the auditioning process has changed from when you started twenty years ago?
Yes, radically so. The nature of the acting profession has changed immeasurably. I auditioned after a three year English degree at university and chose speeches that were totally wrong for me; I did Amanda from Tennesse Williams’ ‘Glass Menagerie’ who is a 60 year old Southern woman- not the best choice for a 22 year old from Sussex and Portia from ‘Julius Caesar’. I was also stupid enough to think that it was fine to learn my audition speeches overnight- you just can’t get away with that now.

What do you think of the acting industry today?
The acting profession has always been a highly competitive industry but there are so many more people applying now. Consequently, much more thought has to go into your audition speeches to highlight your individual talents, so your audition can differentiate you from the gazillions of others.

What do you remember of your first audition?
When I did my audition I didn’t have a large amount of acting experience- Acting and directing in productions at university was about it-apart from the West End musicals that my parents used to take me to. Now I think you have to be far more savvy because the acting world has changed; Equity is no longer a closed shop and there is more of an appetite for reality TV. While it’s great that acting has become more inclusive, there exists a kind of assumption that anyone can act. Admittedly, there is no definitive guide to acting or auditioning but the honing of any sort of craft requires an enormous amount of passion, discipline and technique which I hope Audition Doctor fosters.