In a discussion called Is Acting Art? on the programme The Actors’ Roundtable, Christopher Waltz mentioned that while the performance that an actor gives can be called art, it’s the result that makes the art and not necessarily the process that leads to it.”
Nicholas Cage countered this idea and argued that “the happy accidents that happen between lines” that make certain performances spectacular have little to do with craft and a lot more to do with imagination.
Audition Doctor’s indispensability lies in the nurturing of the two. In the same discussion, Stanley Tucci stated: “In order for something to be art, it has to be truthful. Secondly, it has to be individually truthful and it’s that true individuality that makes art.”
Audition Doctor sessions are about creating emotionally detailed characters. The speeches that students work on are helpfully looked over by Tilly to ensure that they are suited to their individual talents.
This is especially useful for drama school applicants. Even experienced actors find it necessary to seek a second opinion. Tamsin Greig recently said: “I’m not brilliant at reading scripts. You would’ve thought I would’ve got better…so I take a lot of advice.”
In an interview with David Hare in today’s Telegraph, Gaby Wood wrote: “In plays from Plenty to Skylight to The Vertical Hour, characters’ emotions are as strong as their beliefs, and the electricity in the dialogue comes from fine tunings of disappointment or misunderstanding. Whole swathes of history can be dredged up in a single room; love can be ignited and lost within minutes.”
Students who come to Audition Doctor consistently find they become less intimidated by such scenes and that their approach becomes far more nuanced and specific.
Benicio Del Toro said: “There’s a science to acting. There are many obstacles that stop you from being good in front of that audience, as there are many obstacles that will make you freeze up in front of a camera. There is a riddle to it that is never the same, from role to role.”
Audition Doctor’s ability to remove the obstacles in an actor’s performance is one of the many reasons as to why Tilly is in high demand.
Del Toro went onto say: “It’s a difficult business, no doubt at all. People don’t realise that. The obvious advice for an actor is to work on acting and question what it is – all the time, everyday. But perhaps the best advice is to work on everything from the basis of theatre. I don’t think there’s such thing as acting for movies – there’s just acting.” This line of thinking is why Audition Doctor’s client base includes actors who are auditioning for all mediums – not just theatre.
Fiona Shaw recounted her experience of playing Electra and said: “Electra made me realise that a play – with the right cast, in the right moment, in the right place – can be like sculpture and painting and literature all at once…People come to the theatre in the hope that it will have something to do with them – and when it touches them, it is both painful and brilliant.”
Those that attend Audition Doctor are encouraged to develop both craft and art; it is the confluence of both that engenders a truthful performance and hopefully a meaningful emotional exchange between actor and audience.
In a webchat for the Guardian, the first question that Fiona Shaw was asked was whether she recommended going to drama school. Her response was: “Yes, I advise training, you can turn from a stooped library smelling tweed-skirt wearing philosophy undergraduate into the hawkish swan that I was at 21.”
It’s reassuring to know that despite rather depressing articles such as The Stage’s “Surely we are training too many students?”, successful actors still support the idea of professional training. The argument against being saddled with substantial debt is routinely employed as justification for eschewing drama school. However, the industry is responding to rising tuition fees with alternatives such as the NYT Rep Company and Cygnet.
Susan Elkin of The Stage wrote: “Cygnet really does seem to be providing fine, informed, very professional and successful training. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and I had an excellent taste last week. Cygnet isn’t Bristol Old Vic or LAMDA and it isn’t trying to be. There is room for a range and I’m all for students having as much choice as possible. There is a lot to be said, for example, for training at over £2,000 per year less than the big schools charge.”
Drama school is the place where risk and the possibility of failure are accepted and even encouraged. It’s where Shaw learned to “think on the line – which means don’t analyse but allow what you’re saying to completely be of you and from you.”
The three years spent focusing on aspects such as movement and voice are also invaluable. On the webchat, someone wrote to Shaw: “I saw you alongside Alan Rickman in ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ in the Abbey in Dublin. I was sitting at the very back row and at one point I literally felt your voice hit me with its power. I couldn’t believe it.” and asked what technique she used to achieve this.
Shaw responded: “If you are concentrated, and your imagination is fully engaged with what you are saying, it is remarkable how quiet you can be, but how you know not only the listener’s ear can hear it, but ideally their mind too. I’ve always been interested in the mutual hypnotism of acting. If the actor’s heart is racing due to a thought, engaged members of the audience’s hearts also race.”
Although this is inevitably achieved through years of experience, the process of communicating and attempting some form of communion with the audience is an essential part of drama school training.
When applying for drama schools, performing monologues is the litmus test for assessing potential. The reason why so many students attend Audition Doctor is because the sessions arm you against the overly introspective effect that monologues can sometimes have.
As Shaw says: “The audience in a monologue are, she says, her fellow characters and fellow performers: “Even if I can’t see them I can hear them, I can sense them, and every moment is being played with rather than for them. It would be dreadful if I just stood there and went blah, blah, blah. It doesn’t feel like that at all. I love talking to them and them back to me. We’re making the play together. Usually there’s a huge dialogue going on.”
Audition Doctor is about truthful communication and the portrayal of genuine emotion. This why so many students find they sail past the monologue stage of auditions and onto group workshops – because they have proven that even when performing alone, they are doing it for an audience and not for themselves.