When asked what advice she would give to an actor starting out today, Gina McKee said “Ask yourself why you want to be an actor…At every step of the way keep answering the question “Why do I want to be an actor?”
This is a question that is routinely asked asked at drama school interviews and many understandably spend time crafting the “perfect” answer to impress the panel. However, it is perhaps the private and unpolished response that will clarify the kind of actor you want to be.
Mark Rylance mentioned that the thing that sustained him as an artist was secrets – “things that are forbidden to be said. Maybe people are frightened of something, maybe they don’t have the words to express it, but those are the things that need to be said by theatre. That’s what it’s here for. Look for those secrets in society and inside yourself and give them a voice. That’s the role of an artist in our society.”
He went onto say: “Going to the theatre should be like going on holiday. It should allow you to experience a little piece of someone else’s life for a while. If it’s really good, when it’s over you should be able to look at your own life and see it with fresh eyes for a while.”
Sessions with Audition Doctor are all about unearthing bits of the text and discovering the unspoken. The result is that although there may be 30 other people doing the same Shakespeare speech as you on the day of the audition, your performance will be both unique and adventurous.
Many students come to Audition Doctor to start again. This can be because they aren’t getting any recalls, because they find their speeches are no longer being performed as if for the first time or because their interpretation seems to be formed from a mishmash of other actors’ performances.
It’s reassuring to know that even Simon Russell Beale admitted that the most difficult thing when starting a new play was “getting rid of my preconceptions. Harder than you might imagine. If somehow I can start from scratch, then there have been many occasions when I have discovered things that I never expected to. The second thing is trying to achieve absolutely clarity of thought. Before that’s done the emotional life of any character is a bit of a mystery for me.”
Clarity of thought is something that Audition Doctor emphasises in lessons. This is because an audience (and especially an audition panel at drama school) will be able to hear if you don’t understand the text you are speaking. Inevitably, as soon as this happens, the audience’s suspension of disbelief is dispelled and the illusion is broken. Moreover, you fail to hear what Shelley Winters described as “the sound of a wonderful, deep silence that means you’ve hit them where they live”.