Many will have noticed that in the initial letter from various drama schools, aside from delineating the acceptable length of speeches, what timeframe constitutes as “modern”, the precise date and time of your preliminary audition, there will be general advice. Some of it is invaluable – “Don’t imitate a performance you have seen before”, some of it is unrealistic – “Don’t prepare for for your audition by receiving any sort of coaching.”
Coaching comes in all different guises. The vast majority of the applicants will have had been members of the National Youth Theatre, some will have parents who are actors, some will have already had experience in professional productions. The term “coaching” does not only mean attending acting workshops or private lessons. In the hugely competitive world of drama school auditions, it would be unwise to naively walk into an audition thinking that all your other competitors have done to prepare is recite their speeches to a cupboard in their bedroom which “acts as the panel” a couple of times.
In his final interview for Ideastap, Andrew Scott said: “I think often in an audition situation what they want is to see if you are directable. Even if they like what you do, they want to see if you can do other things. That you’re not a one-trick pony.” It’s hard to do this if you are on your own with said cupboard. Experimenting with different intentions for your character’s thoughts is crucial to prove that you are malleable. Thinking of the intention yourself inhibits the spontaneity that comes from just receiving the instruction and throwing yourself into it. Discovering new nuances to a speech often comes from not over-thinking and just trying it out.
Mark Rylance mentioned in his talk at The Old Vic how crucial the rehearsal period is for any actor. Audition Doctor sessions are rehearsals for your drama school audition. Rylance mentioned that he didn’t expect actors to understand every line of a Shakespeare play in the initial stages. However, he did mention how the rehearsal period was integral to unearthing the text, which is precisely what the initial lessons with Audition Doctor focus on. Rylance also stated: “If an actor understands the meaning of the line, but doesn’t understand why he says it, it’s clear to me and it’s clear to the audience.” One can only assume that a drama school audition panel will be just as unequivocally forensic.
Andrew Scott also voiced the opinion: “With character work, if you go too far from yourself, it can over-complicate things. Try just acting it as yourself – don’t put any character on it.” This is much harder than it sounds; there is a natural tendency for most people to “act”, thinking that’s what the panel wants. What Audition Doctor does so brilliantly is strip away any “theatricality” and get to the simplicity which is often more real. Even Mark Rylance mentioned how hard it was not only for an actor but a director to do this. Having played Benedict himself, he fought hard to ensure that he didn’t force his own Benedict onto James Earl-Jones and wanted this Benedict “to be as close to James as possible.”
Like Rylance, drama schools don’t want imitations of previous Beatrices or Benedicts, no matter how marvellous they were. They want to see you. Audition Doctor sessions make sure that you don’t enter thinking that you will only be noticed if you are the “bells-and-whistles-you”, they make you realise that the “you-just-as-you” is far superior.