Brian Cox, Bill Paterson and Mark Thomson were interviewed in the Independent about their recent production of Waiting for Godot at the Edinburgh Lyceum.
Paterson said: “Even if you’ve seen Beckett, if you’ve seen Godot, you underestimate what it needs. You tend to think it’s incredibly simple staging, just two guys, but it’s much more complex – probably than what we anticipated, I think it’s fair to say. But you can see how people have it as part of their repertoire. Once you get these parts under your belt you could live with them forever. They’re like arias, the characters. They’re operatic, almost.”
Shakespeare’s work, much like Beckett’s, is part of a national repertoire. The requisite Shakespeare monologues that drama school applicants have to perform have been seen countless times; it’s easy to fall into the trap of acting it the way you assume they should be done, rather than treating them as fresh texts that are worthy of real emotional excavation and experimentation. Actors have found Audition Doctor sessions helpful in that they break down the intimidating barrier that some actors understandably feel prevents them from really digging deep and making bold choices with the text.
Thomson went onto say about Waiting for Godot: “It takes away a lot of your familiar anchors. It denies you, it takes away set, relationships, character. Every line, there’s a choice. That’s when you realise the detail of thinking… you have a great mind that’s being very clever and quixotic, and you trust him. It’s like tuning into a bandwidth, you feel about and then you get it and you jump onto it. I think anyone taking on Beckett as an actor, it’s an act of faith and bravery.”
At Audition Doctor, the emphasis is always on choice and being unafraid to make vulnerable decisions if it serves the character’s motivations. Tuning into any writer or character’s bandwidth, however, takes consistent rehearsal and preparation. Those who succeed in gaining strides in understanding their character’s world and psychological landscape are those that work regularly at Audition Doctor. The consistent graft that is undertaken at Audition Doctor often leads to breakthroughs – both in terms of understanding the character and landing professional jobs.
Cox stated of Godot: “…it’s exhausting. It’s a hard play, there’s no easy way to chart it. There are bits in it which are effortlessly magnificent, and there are bits where you have to work your socks off to pull the focus of it and keep the engine of it going. It’s scarily simple, that’s the problem with it, and you have to trust that.”
Audition Doctor’s students have found that keeping the engine going and playing the truth of the scene becomes so much easier with practice.
Although he was speaking about dance, Matthew Bourne summed up the importance of coming back to “revisiting past work and improving it” in The Stage this week:
“A lot of choreographers like to create something then they don’t want to do it again. But for me you can always do better and find new ways to be creative with a piece – there’s no doubt that they’ve always got better when they come back. Every one has had a very big overhaul when they come back for the first or second time.”
Sessions with Tilly are about finding ways to be better and to push each actor’s creative limitations further, which is why most students come back to Audition Doctor frequently.
This week, Brian Cox was quoted as saying “The Benedicts, the Redmaynes are very good. But, I look at a lot of young actors and I don’t think they’re very good. There’s a thing that goes on in acting now where they don’t engage, there’s a blandness about them, they’re homogenised…There’s a lot of people who work in television and film who can’t cut it in theatre, they don’t have theatre chops. And theatre really is, for an actor, an actor’s medium. It’s where you exercise your craft.”
Lyn Gardner wrote a rebuttal in the Guardian defending the variety and entrepreneurial spirit of today’s actors. She argued that the new exigences of the acting industry demanded much more from its members.
“The old ideas of career progression have disappeared in acting as much as they have disappeared in other professions, too. One of the great things about the younger generation is that they are making their own opportunities, writing and directing and devising and not just sitting around waiting for the call from the Royal Shakespeare Company that may never come.”
Professional actors have found Audition Doctor to be a real help in furthering their craft and avoiding precisely the kind of uninteresting acting that Cox refers to. Consequently, Audition Doctor has proved to be a necessary step in terms of career progression for many actors. The recalls and job offers that Audition Doctor students receive are testament to the bold and unusual creativity that the sessions foster.
Christopher Lee said: “I think acting is a mixture of instinct, imagination and inventiveness. All you can learn as an actor is basic technique.” Those that come to Audition Doctor are building far more than just technique.
Aside from building an actor’s creative development, Audition Doctor offers practical guidance on speech choices as well as more general career advice that is tailored to each student.
Gillian Anderson advised aspiring actors: “Attempt to get an objective perspective of what it is that you individually bring to the table, and foster those strengths, and embrace those strengths. And work really hard.”
Audition Doctor’s popularity with drama school students lies in guiding students in having a sense of where they would fit in the profession and enhancing their natural talents to ensure originality and ultimately, durability in a notoriously insecure profession.
Anderson also stated knowing why she wasn’t cast for jobs was “just as important to embrace. Not just to help with diminishing disappointment, but it infuses one’s experience with a practical nature, which is important to have, to keep sane.”
Many drama school applicants have come to Audition Doctor towards the end of an unsuccessful bout of auditions. After a change in speeches and a couple of sessions, Audition Doctor often successfully manage to help students gain hard-won places.
Audition Doctor sessions encourage hard work and ensures that students are prepared to give believable performances in every medium. Consequently, they are ready for any kind of job that comes their way.
The question of whether aspiring actors should go to drama school or enrol in drama based university courses seems to be continuously debated at the moment. Both Ideastap and The Stage have devoted articles offering the pros and cons of both institutions. However, when asking professional actors, the consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of drama school.
Brian Cox remarked: “The things I learnt at drama school are things I still employ to this day, almost 50 years later. It’s only as I get older that I think, “Oh, I see, that’s what it meant.” It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life, and formative in every aspect. It gave me inroads to everything.”
Julie Walters went onto say: “Training gives you the chance to play roles that you will probably never be cast as; to act without the pressure of real audiences and critics. You’re students, so you’re forgiven. You can have a go at finding out what it is that you actually like doing.”
Although many will see university as a safer option, many such courses are simply not equipping students with adequate preparation for the profession. Intensive training at an accredited drama school is a three year time period in which you are given permission to experiment and fail within a demanding framework. Furthermore, the majority of Audition Doctor’s students are professional actors who already have gone through the rigours of drama school. This confirms the widely held credo that developing your craft is a process that is only begun at drama school and that it is up to the individual actor to continuously advance and evolve.
Susan Elkin in The Stage wrote: “In most university departments, for example, only six hours or so of contact time per week are provided when students are formally taught by staff. Drama school students are guaranteed at least 30 (and it’s often more). It isn’t always easy to persuade the rest of the university of the necessity for this.”
The idea that a student can master Shakespearean language, plumb emotional depths and explore voice and movement in six hours that are scattered through the week is highly unlikely. This explains why aside from professional actors, many of Audition Doctor’s students are on university courses. Audition Doctor sessions provide the vocational and practical aspect that theoretical courses don’t have the resources or time to offer.
Richard Eyre once said that“the paradox about acting is that it’s a perfect balance between being conscious of yourself and not being self-conscious.” Whether you are a professional or aspiring actor, Audition Doctor sessions give you the opportunity to get as close as you can get to solving that paradox.