What Does Training Give You?

There has been much debate recently over the usefulness of drama schools. Derek Jacobi averred: “It can teach you movement, it can teach you voice, it can teach you deportment, it can teach you fencing skills, all sorts of things. But I firmly believe that it cannot turn someone who walks into a drama school as a non-actor into an actor.”

Furthermore, Paul Roseby stated: “Drama schools are incredibly expensive and the majority of actors don’t need three years’ training. They need various modular courses every so often to go to. But they don’t need three years. You don’t need to learn how to act, you need to learn how to sell yourself. You can either act or you can’t.”
Drama school is expensive, but it costs no more than a normal degree. While drama school is by no means the only form of training, it is one that is professionally recognised. Additionally, alternative models that allowed Jacobi time and opportunities to hone his craft, such as repertory, no longer exist. Drama schools are still places where those who do have, what Jacobi calls, the “seed, the desire, the will and the talent” to become a professional actor can learn their craft. Although some actors do manage to build successful careers without training, the majority of actors on stage or on television will have had some form of professional training.
Furthermore, Nick Hytner this week confessed that even he found Shakespeare’s plays confusing. Drama school is a place where there are tutors who have extensive experience to unpick language and explore the possibilities of what you, as an actor, are capable of.
Edward Kemp, – Artistic Director of RADA- hit back at Roseby by saying: “These days RADA graduates such as Jessie Buckley can find themselves playing leading roles in major theatres almost upon graduation.” He added that training can give confidence and bring an improved sense of self-image that one could argue were requisite in marketing yourself to the industry.

This is precisely what Audition Doctor affords every one of her students. The way you perform you speeches is absolutely linked to confidence and self-image. Even if you have the will and the talent, a speech cannot be performed at its best if you are self-conscious in anyway. As mercenary as it sounds, an audition is also an opportunity to market yourself to the panel as a student worthy of a place. Audition Doctor sessions strip all the extraneous “acting” and self-conscious ticks which leave you knowing that you will be your greatest asset as opposed to your own obstacle at your audition.

Actors – Born or Made?

The one thing journalists love to ask actors is why they got into the profession. This week Hugh Dancy confessed: “I would never have thought of doing this if I hadn’t been forced into it, partly because of boarding [school] and partly because I was unhappy,” he says. “They had such wonderful facilities at the school … every time I say that, it sounds like I’m talking about the toilets.” Roger Allam talked of how he “became obsessed with drama, stomping around London and paying 10p for standing tickets in the gods, and reading a Great Acting book that he found in the school library. He haunted stage doors and watched actors walking into pubs.” People become actors for various reasons – escapism, “for the girls”, therapy or for the excitement of having the chance to experience lives that are so distinctive from your own. Whatever the reason, Derek Jacobi is of the firm belief that actors are born and not made and that drama schools can only nurture the nascent talent that the student already possesses.

In an interview in The Times, Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen talked of how they saw themselves in the acting profession: “McKellen casts himself as an actor who has had to labour at his craft, improving on the job over time until he reached his peak in his fifties and beyond. By contrast, he saw the young Jacobi as a natural. “Derek knew instinctively about the blank-verse line at an age when other people were having to learn about it. He was always able to speak Shakespeare. You’ve never thought about it, have you, in the way that Gielgud never had to think about it.”

Jacobi concurs, yet he thinks McKellen’s description of himself as a toiling yeoman, rather than a man with a gift, is disingenuous. “I don’t think a drama school can teach you how to act. That’s something you carry in you, to be honed and ­developed. And I don’t believe you, Ian, when you say you had to learn it all. I think you were a born actor, but you didn’t know it. I knew I was.”

Though McKellen is synonymous with the craft and has been knighted for his contribution to theatre, it is worthy to note that he still works at improving his craft. Whether he was born an actor or not, there is a constant hard graft to better himself as an artist even at the age of 76. This is the reason as to why Audition Doctor’s students are by no means purely drama school applicants but also working actors. The need to stay fresh and constantly sharpen and develop your skills requires discipline. Working with Audition Doctor means you can feel like if you were called for an audition tomorrow, you wouldn’t feel stale or daunted if you haven’t worked in a while.

There are no guarantees in this business, with Allam conceding that as a young actor: “I assumed in my grandiosity that in the fullness of time the good people of British television and the good people of Hollywood would of course hear of, or see, my brilliance and invite me to be in one of their marvellous films.”

Hugh Dancy is also proof that drama school isn’t for everyone, nor does it preclude you from the frustrations that come with being an actor: “Drama school might have given him a strong sense of purpose, he says, but he also worries that he might have felt that the world owed him a living…When you jump into this business when you’re 22, and you have that feeling, you could be in for a good kicking because it doesn’t always come so easily. I was lucky.”

Even the best in the business are unsure of what or when their next job will be; and if you are born with an “acting gene”, it will be useless if not trained. Whether you choose to go to drama school or not, acting is a vocation which requires practice, effort and of course – luck. Audition Doctor sessions ensure that you are constantly challenged to go to the edge of your limits. Like any muscle, the more you work it, the further the goalposts move and you find yourself being able to go the distant places in your psyche and physicality that you previously thought were out of reach.