Making a Shakespeare Part Your Own at Audition Doctor

This weunnamedek, Mark Rylance spoke about the trap that many actors, including himself, fall into when acting Shakespeare.

“[The acting ] is too slow. It’s too reverent. It is like taking a rap song in 400 years from now that we think is really wonderful and deciding it should be said slowly so all the lovers of rap can hear every word. To take a song like Honky Tonk Woman and study it for its literature is fair enough, but if you are going to revere it as literature, you are doing a disservice to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who would like it to be revered as a great rock’n’roll song. That is what I have always felt about Shakespeare. By all means revere him and love him, but revere him in the way he would want to be revered – as a playwright.”

However, saying the lines quicker is not an excuse for under preparing and not understanding the text. If anything, as Audition Doctor students can attest, it requires a commitment to an even deeper comprehension of the play as well as heightened verbal dexterity. Students have found that regular preparation at Audition Doctor gives them structure and they are able to see results quicker under Tilly’s guidance.

Even experienced actors such as Geoffrey Rush, who is rehearsing for King Lear, acknowledges that with Shakespeare: “I had to do my homework. I knew from when I did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum that it took me a long time to cram in Stephen Sondheim’s very fast patter lyrics at a comfort-zone level. So I started working on Lear early, absorbing it, talking around it, finding out about the history.”

Audition Doctor sessions take a lot of the pain out of the homework through targeting specific aspects of the speech students find difficult and practically solving them in the doing of it. Through this kind of experimentation, students find that they end up discovering their own version of the character.

Rush said: “If you look at Hamlet – not that I’ve played him myself – each actor has to find their own Hamlet. Certainly with Lear, you have to credibly enter an acceptable zone of seeming like an octogenarian. And you can reference behaviours and family members to get there but, ultimately, it’s got to be your own.”

Making a Shakespeare part your own is what Audition Doctor pushes each student to do. Tilly also makes certain that they enter every audition with confidence – both from knowing that they have an original take on a role and also from being ready to make bold choices and not being too precious. The readiness to abandon their performance altogether in favour of trying something new if the panel asks is a quality that Audition Doctor students possess.

Fisayo Akinade, who recently appeared in Russell T. Davies’ Cucumber, commented: “In a weird way, you don’t act the same way in an audition as you do when you get to set. It’s a slightly alien environment. A lot of the technique to an audition is understanding that it’s a very different thing to a performance.”

Audition Doctor gives students this understanding and Akinade also stated that in auditions, “you’ve got to be the better you”, which is absolutely what Audition Doctor enables each one of her students to be.

Making your Shakespeare Speech Exciting

unnamedIn this week’s Guardian, Christopher Eccleston warned against the waning opportunities for working-class actors. He described this disturbing phenomenon as contributing to a “culture that is resultantly bland”.

Despite recognising the excluding nature of today’s tuition fees, he stated: “It is not essential but my advice would always be: go to drama school, treat it as a trade, study it and then apply yourself.”

In an interview for Ideastap, Luke Treadaway stated that although he did go to drama school, he mentioned: “[When] if I meet young actors, I don’t tell them they have to go to drama school. I’ve met a lot of young people on jobs recently that haven’t been to drama school. I’ve been meeting 18 year-olds that have done more stuff than me and have got an agent from a very young age. I think that’s a great way to go…if you have developed your own contacts and you’re finding ways to get work, why mess up a good thing? Keep going with it, because you only really learn when you’re on the job anyway.”

However, getting the job in the first place is why actors come to Audition Doctor. Those that attend regular sessions are able to clearly chart their progression. Many become confident with Shakespeare which has stood them in good stead for drama school auditions most of which require at least one Shakespeare monologue.

Ideastap wrote: “A lot of [Shakespeare’s] speeches tell a story and, often, it shows the panel the intelligence of the actor, because it is quite hard to get that meter right. Although sometimes those monologues can end up being quite mannered and “Shakespearean” with a capital S.

Actors come back to Audition Doctor time and time again because sessions take away any anxieties and make Shakespearean monologues as exciting and relevant as their Modern piece.

Geoffrey Rush who is going to play King Lear in Sydney stated: “Shakespeare asks all the big questions. And for those who say it’s too much, think of it like a great box set of television which people can watch for 20 hours without getting bored. Lear is curiously entertaining.”

Aside from students notching an apparent upward trajectory in terms of their technical and intellectual development when approaching texts, Audition Doctor also encourages actors to be braver in their choices and not to shy away from inhabiting emotional spaces which might expose their vulnerabilities.

Amy Adams recently stated in an interview: “I’ve worked with a lot of actors who go to places that I can’t even imagine. I so respect them but I’ve always been a little too scared to stay there…I don’t like to use the word “brave” because bravery to me is like when soldiers are brave, I don’t know what the word is for actors, I’ll have to really think about it.”

The willingness to take bold decisions and the adventurous fearlessness with which students come to tackle scripts under Tilly’s tutelage is one of the many reasons for Audition Doctor’s continuing indispensability towards professional actors.