Taking Notes at Audition Doctor

Taking Notes at Audition Doctor

audition classes londonSimon Russell Beale stated in an article for the Guardian entitled “Actors’ advice to actors”: “The actor’s primary responsibility is to make the text understandable at first hearing. That’s quite a big thing, and quite difficult, especially if it’s a fairly complicated text. Know the rules about verse-speaking. After that, I don’t care whether you break those rules – just make me understand what you’re saying, the first time you say it.”

Students have come to rely on regular Audition Doctor sessions because the rules of verse-speaking can be found in countless books on Shakespeare and acting, however, it is putting them into practice that is challenging.

Andrew Scott said in this week’s Guardian Chat: “If you can’t remember the line it’s because you don’t want to say the line. When you work out what it means, you’ll be able to remember it.”

Students who benefit most are those that attend Audition Doctor sessions consistently because there is a process to unlocking a character and a text that takes persistence and routine, which can only be partially achieved in a one-off lesson.

Tilly guides her students, especially those applying to drama school, through every stage of the process – although this does not preclude an inordinate amount of work on their behalf. Picking a speech and character that will raise your game as an actor requires patience and time.

Denise Gough, who recently played Emma in People, Places and Things, said: “I had a profound moment on stage the other night, I was on stage with Nathaniel who plays Mark, and I realised that my storyline does not depend on him, and it meant we could play, because you’re not having to grab on to the male storyline to make your woman live. She lives anyway.”

Andrew Scott said: “The endeavour is everything.” In the rehearsing, researching and performing of a piece, Audition Doctor’s students find out a huge amount about their acting – their strengths, weaknesses and the kind of parts they can see themselves playing in the profession.

Moreover, those that come to Audition Doctor also comment on how much easier it becomes to take notes and act on them. Malleability and versatility are qualities highly prized in actors and are what drama schools are looking for in a potential student.

In the Guardian, Anthony Sher advised fellow actors: “Take notes not just graciously, but gratefully. Don’t argue back. You get actors who, as soon as a director starts to give a note, will say, “Ah, what I was trying to do …” What you were trying to do is irrelevant – just listen to what the director, if it’s a good director, is saying, because it’s worth gold. I love notes; I thrive on them. I can’t wait for someone to help me go further than I can by myself.”

Put simply, this is Audition Doctor’s USP.

Being Honest and Watchable at Audition Doctor

Being Honest and Watchable at Audition Doctor

help with acting classesIn the Guardian, actors Rory Kinnear and Anthony Sher discussed their different approaches to playing Iago.

Kinnear commented: “Nick Hytner’s first instinct was always to steer away from racism and examine that jealousy” while Sher decided from the outset: “We definitely wanted him to be racist.”

What is immediately apparent is that the depth of research and rehearsal that each actor undertook led to nuanced and rich performances that differed hugely.

Kinnear said: “With a lot of Shakespeare’s characters, something seismic has happened to them just before we meet them. Hamlet has lost his father. Angelo jilts Mariana in Measure for Measure. Iago suspects that Othello has slept with his wife. As an actor, you have to know who that character was beforehand in order to understand how they’ve changed.”

From both actors’ accounts, the analysis and quarrying of the play to understand Iago’s mental make-up appears to be extensive; there is a constant questioning and determination to drill deep into the character’s psyche.

Sher said: “Words such as “evil” and “villain”, they don’t mean much to me as an actor. They seem to hark back to a time when we knew nothing about psychology, and I’m far more interested in thinking about those people as damaged in some way that leads to their actions.”

Professional actors and drama school candidates attend Audition Doctor sessions because the environment that Tilly provides allows for a forensic exploration of character. It’s a rare situation where you are not spoon fed any “answer”, but are encouraged to organically find your own way into the character.

Lupita Nyong’o once said of her experience of working on 12 Years A Slave: “Every single role brings with it an ignorance and an insecurity, and so you have to approach it with the same curiosity and humility. I’m always nervous. Doesn’t matter how many times I do this. But I remind myself it’s because I care. Steve [McQueen] would say, ‘Fail and then fail better!’ And that environment was so liberating. It’s not about getting it right. It’s about getting it truthful.”

This is the similar ethos employed at Audition Doctor. Students who come to Tilly’s sessions often land jobs or places at drama schools not because their performances in front of audition panels are so polished and “finished”, but because there is always an honesty, rawness and daring in their acting that is unavoidably watchable.

Kinnear said: “You have to implicate the audience. They’ve got to squirm, not just over what happens [in Othello], but because they did nothing about it. They had all the knowledge – this guy was not to be trusted – and they just sat there.”

Students who have trained at Audition Doctor understand this. Sessions push them to reach these stakes and bring a grit and fearlessness to their work.

Avoiding Conservatism in Acting

Avoiding Conservatism in Acting

CRW_4932Sean Holmes, Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith, was interviewed in The Stage and spoke about his attempt to radicalise and disquiet the traditional model of British theatre through Secret Theatre. It was based on a speech he made in 2013 when he stated that “maybe the existing structures of theatre in this country, while not corrupt, are corrupting.”

Secret Theatre was about “forming an in-house ensemble of actors and creatives, deploying gender- and colour-blind casting as default, keeping show titles secret – almost to prove to British theatre as a whole that there are other ways of doing things.”

Holmes elaborated: “All of Secret Theatre was about one thing and one thing only, though I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t about being German and it wasn’t about new approaches to new writing. It wasn’t really about directing. It was about acting. It was about empowering the actors individually and collectively to reach their potential. Because the biggest thing that no one talks about is the deep conservatism in the choices British actors make, and the reasons – before they all come and kill me – are structural. It’s not their fault. It’s to do with economics…It’s really hard to earn a living in theatre, even if you work a lot. If you want a relatively nice life, you’re going to do TV and film meaning you’ll do your one play a year. That leads to different choices…You can’t affect the structures…[but] you can’t moan because the answer is “Well, do something!”

Audition Doctor has become the answer to many professional actors who want to be pragmatic. Like Secret Theatre, Audition Doctor is a space where the actor is truly allowed to play and where the actor is put first and foremost. At Audition Doctor, the actor is encouraged to shake off any preconceived notions of how Shakespeare should be approached or how a part should be played, and instead explore different routes that require imagination and lead to a genuinely original performance.

Audition Doctor has proven to be crucial for actors who want a quick brush-up before an audition but also actors who want to delve deeper into how they engage with acting as an art form.

Speaking recently in The Stage, Anthony Sher was asked whether he had pinned down what he considered to be good acting and he replied: “No, other than that you can smell it. You can see it, and feel it, instantly. I don’t believe there’s one way of doing it, and I find myself changing from show to show. I like that.”

The actors that come to Audition Doctor long-term are those that use the sessions to change and experiment. Speaking during his third week of rehearsals for the upcoming production of Death of a Salesman at the RSC, Sher went on to say “It’s ridiculous in this country. Six weeks of rehearsals is not nearly enough for these great plays. In Europe or in Russia they rehearse for months.”

The actors who have had the time to come to Audition Doctor regularly before auditions are generally those who have the time to eschew the obvious and conservative artistic choices that Holmes laments – not only within the work itself but also in terms of the type of work that they are offered. This is because Audition Doctor encourages every student to be  an artist – something that Stanley Tucci described as “[taking] whatever is in front of you and [making] it into something else.”


Using Shakespeare to Your Advantage at Audition Doctor

Using Shakespeare to Your Advantage at Audition Doctor

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 04.57.50In an interview on acting for BAFTA, David Morrissey recounted how he ended up at drama school. “I did a TV drama when I was 17. I was very lucky and it was about two Scouse lads who had run away to Wales and funnily enough I was a Scouse lad myself who had been to Wales so I had a lot of research already on my plate. There were adult actors on that show who advised me not to go to drama school. But there one actor called James Hazeldine, who became a mentor to me, told me to go to drama school because it will give you a career or you can play Scouse lads for the rest of your life if you want to but this will give you an ability to do other things, theatre, different accents, work on your posture, all those things. I went to RADA and found drama school really valuable.”

Aside from professional actors, Audition Doctor has a large number of students applying to drama school. With drama schools receiving such a high volume of applications, the need to show yourself to be a candidate who is emotionally literate, open to direction and willing to take risks has never been greater.

Tom Hanks said of his early acting: “I operated on instinct and energy. I was just loud, I was just fast. I would just swamp the process with this blind accelerated pace – that was the only speed I knew how to operate even after I came out of repertory. I could have learned earlier on how to take your time and do the interior work that you can do alone just by studying the text. Before that I would just learn the text and then do it as opposed to planning out a mode of attack.”

Students who have been to Audition Doctor never enter an audition room and rush through their speeches – as is so often the case. An audition speech is regarded as the apparatus with which to show off your abilities. The extensive interior work done at Audition Doctor means that you give the audition panel an authentic character, as opposed to a nervous speed read. Audition Doctor sessions effectively give students the time to strategise and make bold and interesting choices with their character. Preparation at Audition Doctor means that the performance students give in auditions is most often impressive and considered.

One reason for Audition Doctor’s popularity is people’s fear of Shakespearean language. Anthony Sher’s web chat in the Guardian this week said: “I, like many other actors who have joined the RSC, used to believe that there is a prescribed way of playing Shakespeare. There isn’t. Each generation devises their own way dependent on how audiences want to receive Shakespeare. Earlier generations of audiences were happy to hear him almost sung or performed in a very grand operatic manner. Modern audiences want him to be done more realistically, they want to recognise the characters on stage as people they know in their lives. So it will keep changing, but there are some basic rules about playing Shakespeare that it is best for actors to know about even if they then choose to discard them. Playing Shakespeare in a totally naturalistic way with the mumbling of modern speech, the tendency to fall away towards the end of a sentence, this simply wouldn’t work when speaking Shakespeare verse.”

Audition Doctor’s high demand rests on the fact Tilly ensures that every applicant performs their Shakespeare speech with exactly the same vitality, authenticity and conviction as their modern speech. The basic rules are taught but what is the most important is that the language is never thrown away and always harnessed to communicate emotional honesty. Audition Doctor sessions make Shakespeare less of an obstacle to be overcome and more of an ally, which is why more often than not, Audition Doctor students gain places at drama school.