Engaging the Heart and Mind at Audition Doctor

Engaging the Heart and Mind at Audition Doctor

CRW_4887Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It appears to be this sentiment that has been the driving force behind the the Guardian and the Royal Court’s decision to co-release a series of online state-of-the-nation microplays. The coupling of journalism and theatre is a move to humanise the statistics that are routinely quoted but rarely truly comprehended in articles.

The first microplay explores the neglectful and seemingly merciless attitude of the coalition government towards food poverty, with Katherine Parkinson playing out Edwina Currie’s unforgiving sentiments earlier this year. The feeling that you experience at the end of the play will linger far longer than reading the fact that “food prices have soared by 43.5% in the past eight years while the disposable annual income of the poorest 20% fell by an average of £936 over the same period.” The numbers are shocking, however, they are forgettable when compared to excruciatingly watching Parkinson trying to make a substantial meal out of a can of tomato soup, a tin of fish and no electricity.

Director Carrie Cracknell wrote: “Why is it more useful for it to be a drama than a well-researched, well-written article? As my work develops, I am increasingly interested in the ways in which stories can open out and shine light on our day-to-day realities and perhaps this way hit you in the heart as well as the mind.”

Meanwhile, at the National Theatre, Meera Syal will be appearing in the forthcoming production of Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which depicts the appalling reality of living in a Mumbai slum. Echoing Cracknell in an interview for the Telegraph, Syal agreed that “powerful storytelling has a better chance of thwacking people in the solar plexus. People are more likely to want to effect change if they are affected emotionally rather than intellectually. A good play can get to a part of you that a thousand political speeches might not.” Consequently, the actor has a huge responsibility – to not only make you feel but also inhabit a world that is so distant from your own.

Audition Doctor is where you learn to create such worlds organically and gradually. Both professional actors and applicants for drama school have found Audition Doctor sessions to have been indispensable. Tilly’s methods mean that any ego or self-consciousness that students feel are easily put aside in favour of telling the truth of the story.

Actors come to Audition Doctor for help with both stage and screen acting, recognising the need to be familiar with as many mediums as possible. Versatility has always been essential in order to make a living in the industry. The online microplay, which Cracknell describes as a “new adventure where theatre meets film in an inescapably theatrical setting”, will undoubtedly have its own unique demands. However, what remains constant is the actor’s commitment to be true and to be real. At Audition Doctor, all students give performances that cost them. This vulnerability and daringness to portray what it is to be fallibly human is what forces an audience to feel. Consequently, students who come to Audition Doctor often end up unforgettable.


In the Guardian last month, Sylvestra Le Touzel spoke of how many actresses felt shortchanged by Shakespeare. She spoke in light of her experience playing Lady Percy in Henry IV: “Inhabiting Shakespeare’s women can be frustrating, not because he lacked insight into the female condition but because he didn’t give us enough space in which to play. “Have you ever felt that one of your scenes is missing?” Elizabeth Bell once asked me as she adjusted Gertrude’s lipstick, rose from her chair and exited with resignation to meet Hamlet in her closet.”

The advice most frequently dispensed by Audition Doctor to drama school applicants is the imperative of finding the best speech for you. The speech is the medium through which you will be judged first and foremost. For women, the range of speeches to choose from is narrower, however, the way a speech is interpreted has no limitation.

Le Touzel went onto comment on how “Many years later, while working on one of [Lady Percy’s] speeches with a drama student, we came to a section where the pentameter has an unexpected rhythm. I’d skipped over it 20 years before, but working on it again we found the underlying beat of a drum woven into the sentence structure. You can work on a speech for years and still find new insights.”

This week, Carrie Cracknell gave an insight into the National Theatre’s rehearsal process of Medea which incorporates dance into the production. Choreographer Lucy Guerin mentioned: “Actors need a lot of background on what they’re expressing and why. Carrie does these sessions called intentions, where everyone sits down and goes through the play line by line to figure out each character’s place.”

Audition Doctor sessions are not at all dissimilar; sessions are spent discussing motive and unpicking the text line by line. Such commitment to detail roots the performance in truth. Consequently, when questioned by panels as to why a particular decision was made, Audition Doctor students are always clear about the psychology behind every choice.

However, the thing that marks Audition Doctor’s students out is their awareness of how many different ways a character can be played. Redirection during recalls is common and due to the experimental nature of Audition Doctor sessions, students find that they are able to play many, and often opposite, intentions truthfully.

Cracknell said: “I do think we live in a culture of liking to know where we’re being led,” she says. “I would much rather be drawn into a work, and asked lots of difficult questions, than be taken on a well-worn story where I know what the outcome will be.”

Audition Doctor sessions are characterised by the refusal to go down the well-trodden path of the easiest option. Drama schools are looking for those who are prepared to be bold and ask difficult questions. It’s what Audition Doctor prepares each of her students to be.