Going Beyond Your Self at Audition Doctor

Going Beyond Your Self at Audition Doctor

CRW_4873Harriet Walter wrote of her experience in The Guardian of preparing for the male role of King Henry in the upcoming all-female Donmar production of Henry IV.

“People ask us whether we have to do a lot of research or do different things to get into a male character. The answer is: not really. The actor’s job is to get behind the needs of their character that give rise to what they say and do…Shakespeare has done most of the work and my task is to lift his words and thoughts off the page. It is part of an actor’s equipment to be able to imagine life in a mind and body other than their own.”

Although Walter acknowledges that “Shakespeare is tantalising…, he gives us the most wonderful words to say, the most dramatic situations to re-create”, the task of crafting a believable human being out of Elizabethan language for a modern audience is difficult.

Aside from professional actors, drama school applicants make up an equally significant proportion of Audition Doctor’s student body. The majority of accredited drama schools require people auditioning to perform a speech from a Shakespeare play. Some schools, such as the Central School of Speech and Drama, provide those auditioning with a set list of Shakespeare speeches. The panel will be seeing thousands of Juliets, Portias, Hamlets and Macbeths. Due to the fact that the list of monologues that applicants can choose from is limited, the need to distinguish yourself from the masses is even more paramount. The reason why Audition Doctor is in high demand is because the work undertaken with Tilly is so tailored to you, that the interpretation you take to the audition is by nature original and specific.

Walter says of acting Shakespeare characters: “We have to stretch wider and higher and dig deeper than our standard selves in order to reach those words and those situations.”

Audition Doctor’s popularity is also due to the fact that actors recognise the difficulties of exploring characters alone. An Audition Doctor session affords students a structured and concentrated time to do precisely what Walters says – to go beyond your standard self. The openness and supportive nature of the sessions mean that experimentation with the text is only ever encouraged and never prejudged. Consequently, the resulting interpretation of your character is always a unique creation that is simultaneously supported by the text.

Kristin Scott Thomas mentioned in The Telegraph how exhilarating it was to work in theatre again: ““In films, they can edit and cut you; on stage, you have complete control. Ian [Rickson] gives me instructions and we work through stuff together but if I turn up at the opening night and decide I can do the whole thing standing on my head, no one can stop me,” says Scott Thomas. “There’s something incredibly exciting and dangerous about that.”

Similarly, Tilly gives her students direction and suggestions. Ultimately, however, it is the freedom and confidence to make your own artistic choices that characterises Audition Doctor sessions and why Tilly’s students often land the jobs and drama schools they audition for.

Audition Doctor as a Learning Tool

Audition Doctor as a Learning Tool

CRW_4845As a testament to the proliferation of learning tools for actors, The Stage have started to compile weekly lists of the best that are currently on offer. These range from apps that help you learn lines to books that offer advice and exercises.

Although written material and websites with video blogs can undoubtedly be useful means of furthering your development as an actor, they are still passive ways of learning about a practical and active profession. The reason why Audition Doctor is popular with both professional actors preparing for auditions and drama school applicants is that they understand that there is no comparison between reading a book on acting and physically getting up to play a scene.

Describing how she operates while on stage, Judi Dench said: “Although you and I can be playing a scene together, this ear here is not actually listening to you, it’s turned round like a cat’s and it’s listening to that person up there is coughing and this eye is also watching over there. It’s kind of a dichotomy.”

The skills required to achieve this kind of balancing act is something that cannot be reached using an app. It has to be practiced endlessly and diligently.

Harriet Walter advised: “Start from a humble point of view about your own knowledge. Be open to everything. It’s better to risk being a prat at drama school than in the outside world.” Students have realised that both Audition Doctor lessons and drama schools are concentrated pockets of time where they have the freedom to take risks. The rules of probability state that risk will involve a sizeable amount of failure. The advantage about doing this at Audition Doctor is that decisions that don’t serve the character or scene are scrapped and you have the opportunity, under Tilly’s guidance, to make better choices.

Talking of the nature of film versus theatre, Judi Dench said: “There are a thousand ways to do a scene, it’s agony to me that only one way is chosen. So that one way is kind of in formaldehyde…that’s why the theatre is so alive and spontaneous. Tonight I will do something that I didn’t do last night; I may do it worse but I may do it better.”

The reason why students normally have regular Audition Doctor sessions is that they know that from lesson to lesson, Tilly’s advice can give their performance an added dimension that they previously hadn’t thought of. No performance is ever set in stone. Furthermore, the experimental nature of the sessions mean that actors enter auditions with the advantage of having unusual choices in their arsenal while not stubbornly clinging to them. The unselfconscious willingness to experiment is something that Audition Doctor fosters. Audition Doctor’s success rate, in terms of drama school places and professional jobs landed, is proof that listening to a podcast is poles apart from a session with Tilly.