In an article for the Independent entitled “How to tell good acting from bad acting”, Christopher Hooton wrote: “An actor’s job is to know the breadth of human possibility and the depths of his or her own possibilities. He or she must pull from this well and surprise us. Otherwise, the actor becomes boring and predictable.”
He went onto cite the importance of emotional vulnerability, listening and knowing “how to use [their] voice and body to serve whatever role [they’re] playing” as essential characteristics that good actors must be in possession of.
The reason why people value weekly Audition Doctor sessions is because they give students the opportunity to focus on each of these attributes. Students find that as a result of Audition Doctor sessions, they land not only more parts, but parts that are also far more varied.
Daniel Mays recently warned actors to avoid stereotyped roles: “Having a posh guy playing posh is just playing it safe. There’s this huge debate about diversity at the Oscars – and if that’s the case, we have to mix it up as best we possibly can. Because any actor worth their salt wants to risk, and wants to play outside the box.”
Students always credit Audition Doctor with fostering the sense of possibility and risk in their acting. It’s where nothing is played safe and where they are encouraged to make strong decisions.
Kathryn Hunter was interviewed for Whatsonstage and said: “When an actor has invested in the creation of the piece, with ideas, rather than being told to stand there and do that, that’s fuel.” “For her, acting is about engaging heart, body, soul and, crucially, brain too.”
Aside from professional actors, Audition Doctor is also extremely popular amongst drama school applicants and always stresses the importance of training.
Fenella Woolgar said: “Nobody knew who I was when I got a part in Bright Young Things, I was a couple of years out of drama school, so that was just brilliant. I would always recommend to anybody if they really want to act, go to one of the top five because you’ll get seen and that will launch you.”
She went onto say: “The glory about doing theatre is it’s a relationship, you’re not on your own.” For those applying to drama schools, the entire process can feel daunting and difficult – especially if you are preparing on your own. Audition Doctor gives them the chance to collaborate and get a taste of what it’s like to be directed so they are able to show their best and most confident selves in the audition.
Recently, there have been several articles where both actors and directors have spoken about how important an audience is in a play’s growth and development.
Ralph Fiennes said: “It’s in front of an audience that I start to really learn what I’m doing. You rehearse, but a play grows over time. I feel sad that we don’t have a system of adjusting and changing things after the first night.”
Many people find that rehearsing solo is only helpful up to a point and it is only when they attend regular Audition Doctor sessions that they discover a freshness in to their speeches. The longer you give yourself to rehearse with Tilly, the quicker it is to find the rhythm of the speech, develop originality and plumb the depths of the character.
In the Guardian, Matt Trueman said: “In preview, Waste was – frankly – a bit dull: a fascinating, intricate play but a long, drawn-out watch. A month on, it’s far livelier. Everything’s more expansive. Lines have more spring. Each becomes a rollercoaster with ups, downs and loop-the-loops. It keeps you listening, holds your attention. Each individual moment is 1% or 2% better. The whole lifts by 10.”
Students who attend Audition Doctor report much the same after a consistent string of sessions.
Watching [Waste] most nights, staff director Oscar Toeman commented: “If you read Waste, it’s heavy,” he says. “The actors are doing a hell of a lot of work to make it feel as light and buoyant as it does. The point is that they have learned what an audience needs. Just as you only learn to drive after passing your test, you only really learn how to play a role after press night.”
Similarly, Audition Doctor gives actors the chance to learn what a potential audience needs and road test different takes on their part.
Charles Edwards, playing Henry Trebell in Waste, said “[As a show goes on], you find that running the thing with a crowd, allowing the language to strike you in ways it hasn’t already, you make realisations of your own”.
The rigorous sessions at Audition Doctor mean that students often find they continue to find nuances which keeps a rawness to their performance – a quality highly prized by audition panels.
Fiennes advised young actors: “It’s important not to get into a little hole of just perfecting one’s own technique. I’m always looking at other actors.”
Tilly strongly recommends that her students go frequently to the theatre. Students have found that a combination of both observing other professional actors and attending Audition Doctor lessons quickens the pace of their own progress and they become more confident and successful in auditions.
In an article in The Times, Emma Rice – new artistic director of the Globe – stated that “she would like to aim for a 50-50 split between roles for actors and actresses at the Globe, despite female characters being a minority in Shakespeare’s work.”
“There is a target,” she said. “I’d love for it to be 50-50. There’s no reason why Gloucester [in King Lear] can’t be a woman. If anyone can bend gender, it’s Shakespeare.”
The article cited the examples of Fiona Shaw as Richard II at the National Theatre, Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female productions of The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe in 2003 and Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse in 2012, as well as Maxine Peake’s Hamlet at the Manchester Royal Exchange in 2014.
While the film industry is famed for its conservative outlook on gender and race – (see Idris Elba’s recent speech on the lack of diversity in television here), theatre is where unconventional casting is allowing actors and directors to explore more radical avenues.
In an earlier interview for BAFTA, Idris Elba also advised young actors to keep an open mind both in terms of approaching characters and in terms of approaching their career.
“Keep an open mind. This may seem like an obvious thing, but you are the vessel and then on top of you and added into you are these personalities that you have to portray…Throw away any ideas you’ve got and start building a character from the beginning.
[Also], some actors starting out have this idea that they want to be movie stars and on TV but I started out in theatre and ended up in television…The theatre route just opened doors for me. As an actor you can do voiceovers, read scripts, read plays. Get as involved as you can without being too choosy about the kind of work that you do. It’s just really great to get your performance and creativity out.
Many actors have found that Audition Doctor have given them the opportunity to get their creativity out. Whether they are preparing for auditions or between jobs, the work that comes out of the sessions is vital for keeping their options open. Elba went onto advise young actors to “have an attention to detail” when it came to observing the emotional and psychological reactions of human beings.
Audition Doctor allows actors to put their observations and creativity into practice. The sessions are focused and at times exacting, however, all of Tilly’s students have credited the ambitious level of preparation that is expected of them as being an integral part of their development as an actor.
Many drama school candidates and professional actors attend Audition Doctor sessions in an attempt to unravel Shakespeare. For some of those applying to drama school, Shakespeare represents a hurdle to overcome as opposed to a weapon in their arsenal.
However, it is clear that Shakespeare plays are increasingly giving actors more opportunities to play the atypical and avoid being pigeon-holed. Competition for these kinds of roles is fierce and many have found that the space, time and guidance that Audition Doctor provides is an integral part of their preparation to getting the part.
Last year, Ophelia Lovibond was interviewed for Whatsonstage before she appeared in Lucy Prebble’s The Effect at Sheffield Theatres (Crucible Studio).
“I’m so excited…The luxury which I am realising I’ve not had working in film and television is the time to figure out every different facet of the character and discuss everything – it’s very addictive.”
Students at Audition Doctor often comment on sessions with Tilly in a similar vein. The regularity with which most attend is a testament to the value they place on the time for experimentation and discovery that Audition Doctor provides.
Lovibond spoke particularly of how acting for the stage was pushing her to learn “a different aspect of her craft. There are so many ideas that you can interrogate. And Daniel Evans, the director, is so full of ideas; he’ll make you try things out that hadn’t occurred to you and you discover something you never could have anticipated which enriches your performance so much more.”
Similarly, Audition Doctor alerts students to less obvious and consequently more interesting character choices. Many make the mistake of making bold choices for the sake of being remembered in an audition. At Audition Doctor, the choices made are original and daring without compromising the motivation of the text. Audition Doctor students are remembered for the right reasons at auditions – for playing unique characters that are ultimately rooted in truth.
Gael Garcia Bernal commented on his time at LAMDA saying: “Looking at it in retrospect it was of course very formative and incredibly important.” Aside from professional actors, Audition Doctor has proved highly popular with those applying to drama school. While some have used Audition Doctor as their main training ground, Tilly encourages everyone to receive formal training and the focus that the one-on-one nature of the sessions affords is integral to drama school candidates. With 5000 people auditioning, the need to assert individuality and imagination is a must to pass the numerous recall stages.
Furthermore, the brilliance of working consistently on one character at Audition Doctor is that the intensity of focus encourages a feeling of ownership. This is invaluable especially with parts – such as female parts in Shakespeare plays – that are not only limited, but also performed with such frequency.
Bernal spoke about the importance of ownership and how much easier it is as an actor to achieve in a television series and in theatre than in film: “In a film you don’t get the chance to feel that. Even if you do feel and develop that, later when you see it put together, you see a whole different collage of what you did. [In a series], you feel more in the chronology, like in a theatre.”
With drama school auditions, candidates don’t have the luxury that a full-length play affords to display this ownership over character. Audition Doctor gives her students the ability to show a panel that they are fearless and innovative in the time it takes to perform their monologue, which is why most of Audition Doctor’s students go on to gain places at leading drama schools.
In an interview for Whatsonstage, Kate Fleetwood spoke about Medea’s rehearsal process and said: “It’s hard in rehearsals to get that contact with something emotionally whilst also trying to contain an intellectual dialogue as well; it’s easy to bellow and scream your way through these things, you have to make sure you’re clear and the argument is being addressed.”
Speeches that demand this balancing act are the speeches that Audition Doctor always encourages students to tackle. If properly worked on, these speeches often reveal vulnerability and a real mastery of craft. As Harriet Walter said in the Guardian: “Treat directors (and writers) as innocent until proven guilty. The good ones, if you don’t resist them, will take you places you never thought you could reach.”
However, as Fleetwood attests, it’s easy to confuse being loud with conveying honest emotion. This is a particular area in which countless students have cited Audition Doctor as being a great help.
Lenny Henry advised actors: “Think of long speeches as a series of connected thoughts, not one big clump of dialogue. Each thought, each sentence, is a separate piece of your armoury. Think through each sentence: about how you glue it together; what it means; how you feel when you say each thing. You’ll find it comes together like a kind of delicious soup.”
From the premeditated “actioning” of every thought, to spontaneous experimentation, Audition Doctor guides her students through a variety of techniques to ensure that the resultant performance is an original and true take on a character.
Aside from the obvious artistic reasons, students also come to Audition Doctor to gain practical knowledge on how to harness the inevitable nerves that most, if not all, actors suffer from in auditions.
Lesley Manville said in the Guardian: “Accept that you’re going to have nerves to begin with. I don’t know many actors who aren’t nervous the first time they do a performance on stage. You’re nervous about whether you can remember your lines; whether you can get through it; whether the audience are going to like it; whether the other actors are going to remember their lines, or you’ll have to bail somebody out. But after that, the nerves should get better.”
The level of preparation that each student goes through at Audition Doctor means that nerves do get harnessed and cease to negatively affect performances. With these under control, students find that they feel much freer to experiment, make bold choices and generally be unafraid to take risks. Although the outcome sometimes may not quite serve the writer’s intention or indeed your own, being vulnerable enough to make such unorthodox artistic decisions is what audition panels are looking for.
Audition Doctor sessions push students to combine imagination as well as thought, to risk and to embrace the uncertain outcomes that ensue. The sessions remain so popular because students can clearly chart their progress week by week as they take what they’ve learnt from one speech into the next. It is the students that persist in this unceasing quest for improvement at Audition Doctor that find they land the jobs they audition for.
In Backstage, Timothy Simons (who plays Jonah Ryan in Veep) spoke about the importance of approaching an audition from a personal perspective, rather than the perceived perspective of those on the other side of the table. “You don’t want to go in trying to force yourself into some archetype that has been thought up by a director and translated by a casting director,” he said. “If you have a particular read on it, go in with your point of view, because it doesn’t make sense trying to go in with somebody else’s point of view.”
Many of Audition Doctor’s students come to work on Shakespeare speeches. Students often come with idea on how to “act” Shakespeare; performances are often more declamatory and not approached in the same way as they would a modern speech. In their initial Audition Doctor sessions, they often begin by having no clear cut vision of their character’s emotional journey. However, as the sessions progress, students find that they cease to copy the performances of other actors that they may have seen, and instead, come to develop something truly original and wholly their own.
This is what audition panels are looking for and Audition Doctor has helped countless actors reach this by eliminating all extraneous and unhelpful preconceived notions on acting Shakespeare. Students are encouraged to approach the text with the aim of creating a truthful human being as opposed to “ A Shakespeare character”.
Audition Doctor has no one size fits all approach and each student benefits from different kinds of advice and practical exercises. What they all need and receive at Audition Doctor, however, is the gift of guided preparation.
When preparing for her role in “Two Days, One Night”, Marion Cotillard worked extensively on her character’s backstory. She said: “I wrote her life before. I wrote scenes I would use later when I needed some support to be able to burst into tears out of nowhere. I needed to build a structure of stories that I could use when I needed to reach this or that emotion.”
Audition Doctor students have done similar exercises. The reason why most students sign up for at least several sessions is because many find that their abilities and subsequently, their confidence, progress significantly once they have had the time with Tilly to identify which methods of approach works best for them.
Through working with Audition Doctor, students routinely report how much their confidence improves. Last week, Eddie Redmayne said in The Telegraph: “…if you begin to believe in yourself too much then you can’t access the fragility of the characters you have to play and you are not listening enough to play them.”
At Audition Doctor, students always gain the right kind of confidence – the assurance that grows through the results of the rigorous work that is achieved in the sessions, as opposed to any kind of mistaken self-belief.
Students rate Audition Doctor so highly because they also remain open to vulnerability, astute to direction and unafraid of making unconventional artistic choices.
At Audition Doctor, Tilly always encourages students to spend a considerable amount of time in search of the speech that they would like to work on.
David Haig recently was interviewed in Whatsonstage playing King George III: “It’s incredibly rare to find a role that you feel is in your blood stream. When I did George III, I felt that it fitted like a glove and that I could really express what I wanted to as an actor,” he explains. “I put so much of myself in it and it seemed to work well and therefore it came together chemically, I don’t think I’ll ever meet a part like that again or will feel the same about acting again,” he says. “So I have a slightly different attitude to acting than I did three years ago because of that.”
Picking the right role is paramount as students find that certain parts allow them to access a vulnerability or progress through an emotional trajectory that showcases their abilities to the utmost.
While most of Audition Doctor’s students are professional actors and those applying to drama school, some are untrained actors seeking informal training sessions.
Dee Cannon, who taught at RADA, wrote an article in The Guardian about building characters and the acting industry as a whole:
“Actors may believe that they can do without formal training…Natural ability will get you so far, but it’s the trained actors who know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and can produce that emotion take after take. Talent may be enough to get by on screen and TV, but with a few notable exceptions such as Kelly Reilly, the untrained actor often fares badly on stage. The performances that most often thrill us are those where instinct and technique are both in perfect balance but also opposition, and flamboyance and inner life collide head on, transforming feeling into thought and words. When this mixture of abandon and control ignites, what happens is as mysterious as alchemy; the theatre crackles; it leaves the spectator reeling.”
While Audition Doctor provides help to many actors, Tilly always encourages those who have not formally trained to do so. Audition Doctor sessions give students a helpful taster of the kind of work they will be doing at drama school.
Cannon went onto say: “To fully transform into a character, to be truthfully and emotionally connected needs hard work, technique, good direction. But the audience should see none of this. They should see nothing other than the fully realised three-dimensional character right in the truth of the moment.”
Audition Doctor is unique in that Tilly offers the space and guidance to help students realise this. The blending of instinct, technique and emotional perspicacity that students come to master is something that comes out of the sessions and why students never fail to recommend Audition Doctor highly enough.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman often spoke about the level of commitment and dedication acting required: “I think that the amount of concentration — sometimes the amount of personal exploration — it takes to do something well, can be not pleasant … like hard work is. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want to do it, or that you don’t love it, or that it’s not ultimately satisfying. You know that old cliché; … nothing’s worth it unless it’s [a] hard to do kind of thing. I wear that on my sleeve sometimes when I’m working. … There’s always something about that job that’s exhausting, and that’s what’s exhausting about acting, is the level concentration over very long period of time.”
Many students, both professional actors and drama school applicants, come to Audition Doctor because sessions give them the time and space to focus on their craft. Sessions are hard work as the effort and creativity required for students to create three-dimensional characters that are unique and believable is significant.
Past and present students attest that the work in Audition Doctor sessions is rigorous, however, most commit to regular sessions. The more sessions they attend, the more students become acutely aware of when they are hitting the emotional truth of the scene and when they are merely skirting around it. Consequently, they become more astute when judging the credibility and honesty of their own performances.
Hoffman said: ”[When there’s] true acting going on, then [the audience] will give over — you know what I mean? Because they want to give over because what they’re watching is true…It’s really about your belief in the circumstances of this character and what they’re going through and that you buy that story in that character’s journey as long as what you’re doing is honest.”
Becoming adept at making audition panels believe they are the best candidate for the part is the reason why students continue to come back to Audition Doctor.
Andrew Scott said recently: “You have to be very wary of heroes having to be flawless. Human beings aren’t perfect – I hate perfect heroes. It’s boring.” Characters created in the sessions are never cliched or even a “perfect” interpretation. Audition Doctor encourages experimentation, malleability and a daringness to make bold and less obvious choices.
Furthermore, Audition Doctor also excels at making sure students plumb the emotional depths required while consistently delivering an artistic performance and not a performance that is a form of therapy.
Hoffman said of certain roles: “If you’re carrying that emotion on one level or another for a long period of time … it can be burdensome. But it’s part of the work, and you’re trying to create something artful out of it. And so, it’s not therapy. So, you’re not there to be in therapy; you’re there to take what you know and the experiences and behaviour and emotional life of yourself and others and try to make something artful out of it. But the carrying of that around and the focusing of that can be, it can be tough.”
Audition Doctor focuses students on the art, which is why the majority so frequently land both professional parts and places at drama school.
Simon 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.
Julian Fellowes recently caused a debate when explaining why he had rewritten vast swathes of his film of Romeo and Juliet: “To see the original in its absolutely unchanged form, you require a kind of Shakespearean scholarship, and you need to understand the language and analyse it and so on,” he told the BBC in 2013. “I can do that because I had a very expensive education; I went to Cambridge. Not everyone did that, and there are plenty of perfectly intelligent people out there who have not been trained in Shakespeare’s language choice.”
Antony Sher, who will be playing King Lear next year, responded: “I am sorry, that is nonsense,” he said. “I never went to university but my job as a Shakespeare actor — and I have done a lot of them now — is to work hard on conveying the meaning. It’s not a university degree you need, it’s the craft of speaking Shakespeare, which we at the RSC work very hard at.”
As an actor, understanding the text is an undeniable necessity. However, comprehension as a result of intellectual analysis does not automatically mean you will be effective in portraying the heart and emotional heft of a speech. The craft of speaking Shakespeare and doing justice to the poetry of the language is difficult, which is the reason for Audition Doctor’s unabated popularity amongst both drama school applicants and professional actors.
An actor’s responsibility, particularly with Shakespeare, is to use the language as a means to communicate a character’s truth. Actors come to Audition Doctor for help with Shakespeare because, unsurprisingly, sometimes the language can feel more like a hindrance in portraying that as opposed to a help. The antiquated wording and ornate lyricism of it all can sometimes prompt actors to “act” or “perform”.
Director of the Television Workshop, Ian Smith spoke about performance in an article for Ideastap:
“In my vocabulary, performing is something that gets in the way of truth. As an actor, your bullshit detector should go off. You should know if something doesn’t feel right – but you then have to work out where and why it didn’t feel right. What made you hit the wrong notes. Why do you say something the way you say it, when you say it? Why does that thought occur to you? How do you bridge that change from one thought to the next thought?”
At Audition Doctor, these are the kind of questions that every student explores through their work.
Smith went onto say: “If a cat walks across the stage – a real cat – of course it upstages everybody. The whole audience is looking at the cat, because you’re looking at real life; at something totally unpredictable. That’s an element to Samantha Morton, Jack O’Connell, Vicky McClure; you get the sense that you’re watching something unpredictable but absolutely tuned in to the moment.”
Students who attend sessions regularly notice that their ability to be spontaneous on the line and to react honestly is greatly strengthened, which is something that cannot be achieved by having an expensive education or a university degree.