In 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.
The Stage published an article this week stating that “Spotlight recently sent a memo to agents informing them that 1,700 new performers are to graduate from Drama UK and the Council for Dance Education and Training accredited schools this summer. This is a staggering figure given the likely number of available jobs. The 1,700 figure is a conservative estimate. Hundreds more will flood out of the non-accredited schools to compete for the same small number of professional opportunities. The actual number of 2015 course completers is more likely to be 3,000.”
This, coupled with another article about Gemma Jones claiming that “a rise in entertainment and reality formats on television is limiting the opportunities for young actors”, does not paint an optimistic picture for those starting out in the industry.
Jones went onto explain: “When I first started there was Play for Today, Play of the Week – really good classic dramas were done on television all the time. Now, reality shows and game shows and all these series, however well they are done, mean that there is not so much choice. I was incredibly lucky to come into the business when I did because there was always work somewhere. You might have to go a long way away to a lonely rep theatre but there was always something. Now it’s much more difficult.”
Audition Doctor’s indispensability lies in the high number of jobs and drama school places that Tilly’s students get in the ostensibly overcrowded industry. Whether it’s a speech for drama school or for a professional job, the work undertaken at Audition Doctor unfailingly means that your performance will never be hackneyed or the most obvious option. The originality of interpretation that Audition Doctor students develop during the sessions is their greatest currency. It is this that makes them distinguishable from the other 3000 graduates and the thousands of others already working in the profession.
Luke Treadaway said in Ideastap: “Drama school is a great training ground and a great way of experiencing lots of things. It gives you the space to try out lots of methods of working.” Audition Doctor works in much the same way. Different approaches are taken with each actor to elicit a real and untheatrical delivery.
However, the work that an actor at Audition Doctor chooses has limitations on how far they can exercise head and heart ,which means picking the right speech is hugely important. Jenny Agutter recently said “You need to go after the things that excites you, there is great drama and you need to chase after that.” The more interesting the speech, the more students get out of the sessions themselves.
The most successful of Audition Doctor’s students are those that work on their craft continuously in the lull between jobs and auditions.
In Niamh Cusack’s advice to young actors, she said: “If you see a play and there is a particularly good speech in it, then get the play and learn the speech. Practice is what makes you a good actor. The more you’re prepared – learn speeches, try them out – then the easier it will be for you to walk in and do a good audition. Thinking you’ll get that big break without that hard work is a bit crazy. I don’t think there are that many geniuses; most people have worked really, really hard.”