Shaping your Career at Audition Doctor

Shaping your Career at Audition Doctor

tilly-blackwood-19In an interview for BAFTA, Imelda Staunton spoke of the importance, for her, of being able to fail on the job after drama school. Repertory theatre afforded her the opportunity to continue to mould herself into the kind of actor she wanted to be.

“I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go to the RSC and stand at the back. I wanted to be at the front making a fool of myself. I didn’t care as long as I was doing it. I was given a lot of responsibility when I was very young. I was 20 when I left RADA and I went straight into a leading role. I wasn’t very good at it but I was giving it my best shot and really learning my craft. I certainly didn’t come out fully formed when I left drama school.”

Audition Doctor gives actors the similar chance to advance their technique and artistry albeit in a less public setting.

Sarah Frankcom, who has directed Maxine Peake in Hamlet, spoke of the need for actors today to manage their own careers: “[Peake] is part of a generation who are having to shape their work and opportunities in a different way, and that is about taking control rather than serving an industry.”

With the demise of repertory, actors today are increasingly looking towards spaces such as Audition Doctor to avoid stagnation between jobs and to forge ahead with their professional development.

Actors value Audition Doctor sessions because they endow them with the ability to tell a story which, at its most basic definition, is an actor’s job. Tilly’s students are often successful in auditions for simply being true to the part and not embellishing it with any falsity or “acting”.

As Staunton said: “You’re privileged enough to dive into someone else’s life and tell their story. That is your only responsibility; not to make it bigger than it is or more extraordinary than what it is, it’s just what it is…Doing it in the moment is the most important thing.”

Staunton also went onto mention: “ [When rehearsing] Entertaining Mr Sloane the language is difficult and technically it’s quite difficult. I thought [my character] had terrible problems and she needs delving into in my head. That was for me to do work on in my own time. not discussing in rehearsal “Oh what do you think she’s feeling?” That’s my job. I do that privately.”

Audition Doctor has proved indispensable for those applying to drama school who understandably need guidance with mastering difficult texts and also the private work that Staunton speaks of. Audition Doctor’s students have proved that they are remembered in the right way by audition panels – for serving the role authentically and not for any artistic choices that might be perceived as  attention-seeking.

Sarah Frankcom said of Maxine Peake: “Her great gift is that she makes you feel like she is going through something. She helps an audience makes sense of what is happening between people.”

This is what Audition Doctor helps all her students achieve and pushes them closer to following Peake’s own mantra about acting: “Just be honest, be interesting, be alive.”

Strengthening Your Gut and Critical Faculties at Audition Doctor

Strengthening Your Gut and Critical Faculties at Audition Doctor

Till 1When Phillip Seymour Hoffman was asked at in interview at the Golden Globe Awards what advice he would give to those starting out in the acting profession, he said:


“You have to act wherever you can, you can’t be picky. Wherever you get a chance to act – and it might even be an audition room, even if you’re auditioning for something you know you’re never going to get or you might have read it and you might not even have liked it but you know you have to go, if you get a chance to act in a room that somebody else has paid rent for then you’ve been given a free chance to practice your craft. In that moment, you should act as well as you can because if you leave the room or the theatre or wherever you are and you’ve acted as well as you can, there’s no way that the people who watched you will forget it. That was something that someone told me years ago and I think it’s great advice because it’s always about that, it’s always about the work at the end of the day.”

Actors have found that Audition Doctor is a place where they are able to hone their craft to such an extent that they are able to reach the emotional places that the role requires every time. Consequently, auditioning feels like less of a lottery as students are often in control of their performances; performances that have been rehearsed and considered but without any loss of spontaneity or authenticity. Audition Doctor’s popularity relies heavily on the fact that lessons encourage students to become more independent of thought and more confident and adventurous in their artistic judgements.

Hoffman went onto say that the stature and awards that have become attached to his name mean precious little “If I show up to work one day and the work I’m doing isn’t any good, I’m just a guy who’s not acting well. I’d tell that to anyone starting out: take those words and bring them alive. If you do that, something will transpire.”

Professional actors come regularly to Audition Doctor because every lesson takes away the fear of being “that guy”. The intensity of Audition Doctor sessions also strengthens a different muscle – that of developing an acute concentration.

Last week, Mark Lawson wrote an ode to Maxine Peake in the Guardian in which Steven Moffat spoke of Peake’s ability to maintain focus during TV shoots: “Filming can be tedious and repetitive. But even by the seventh take of a scene, she’s still listening to what the other actor says and responding to it, giving you something fresh.”

This is something else that Audition Doctor develops in every one of her students – the capacity to continuously listen and react in the moment and on the line.

“I’ve done 30 hours of television with [Maxine Peake] now,” says Moffat, “and she has never spoken a line of mine wrongly. There has never been an interpretation that jarred, which is very rare. She has this native actor’s intelligence for what you intended or even sometimes to go beyond that and show you something you didn’t know was there.”

Actors who come to Audition Doctor find that sessions strengthen both their gut instincts and their critical faculties, which means that in the audition room, they often surprise themselves as well as those auditioning them.

Danger and Risk at Audition Doctor

Danger and Risk at Audition Doctor

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 09.32.33In an interview for The Stage, Guildhall acting teacher Ken Rea spoke of the qualities that certain actors possessed that marked them out separately from the swathes of actors he has trained.

“They’re unafraid of danger,” he says, mentioning Antony Sher with whom he worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company before Sher was famous. “He was by far the bravest risk-taker in the rehearsal room,” recalls Rea. “It’s the freedom to be unpredictable and spontaneous within the form that marks out people like him. When I see actors I trained working, and when I visit them backstage afterwards, they often ask ‘Ken, was I dangerous?’ because it’s a key element.”

For both professional actors and drama school applicants, risk is one of the main reasons to come to Audition Doctor. The work undertaken at Audition Doctor is unfailingly original as texts are explored through the prism of your experience and your vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the speed of progression rests heavily on your openness to risk.

Particularly with Shakespeare, the likelihood that a panel has heard your speech before is high. However, the intensity of research and experimentation at Audition Doctor means that the complexity of your character’s psychological process is palpable even for the short duration of a monologue. Audition Doctor students are offered recalls because they show the potential and capability for expansive emotional and intellectual inquiry.

Rea also mentioned the necessity of enthusiasm in rehearsal: “Just as one negative nay-sayer in a rehearsal room can drag everyone down so, conversely, an energetic enthusiast can raise the level of everyone’s work.”

Audition Doctor’s popularity with actors is also down to the passion that characterises the lessons. They are never one-sided lectures but a collective rigorous exploration that ensures character decisions are never generalised and above all, yours.

Even when they’re not auditioning for specific roles, actors come to Audition Doctor to continue to test their psychological elasticity and take risks in parts that perhaps they would have less chance to be cast in.

Maxine Peake’s Hamlet is an example of this. Peake said: “I mentioned it in jest [ to director Sarah Frankcom] at first. I felt why, as a woman, can’t I do it? I had always been attracted to it because there aren’t many female warrior roles. Hamlet is fearless.”

The encouragement and safety that have come to define Audition Doctor sessions are why it has become the place where actors feel fearless and able to gamble with the text as well as their emotions.

Television and film actors increasingly come to Audition Doctor because the sessions are very much like the rehearsal process for a play.

Ruth Wilson in the Guardian: “I come from theatre and I feel like I have to go back to it every few years because it’s like nourishment for the soul. And, as an actor, it’s the place you have most control, no one cuts or edits you and you get to tell the story each night. It always boosts my confidence and my choices in the film and TV work I do after that. I tend to make bolder and more interesting choices after I’ve done theatre.”

The freedom of expression and discovery that Audition Doctor sessions instil mean that actors from all mediums have come to view it as an invaluable part of career improvement.


Artistic Nuance and Flexibility at Audition Doctor

Artistic Nuance and Flexibility at Audition Doctor

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 09.22.53Headlong’s Artistic Director, Jeremy Herrin, whose production of The Nether is in the West End, gave his advice on auditioning in this week’s Ideastap magazine:

“Choose a piece that suits you in a profound way: either you might plausibly be cast in the part or know you have a clear way of transmitting that character.  Avoid speeches that are too obvious, i.e. try and avoid those 101 Audition pieces anthologies. The panel don’t want to sit though “I left no ring with her, what means this lady?” more than six times that morning. Why not try something contemporary? Start early and read widely.

This is why for those applying to drama school, most come early in the year for their Audition Doctor consultation sessions. Students who come later in the process sometimes underestimate the amount of preparation that is needed. Aside from picking the right speech, Herrin advises to “Study the whole play and get a three-dimensional idea of the part. Make sure you understand and, crucially, can pronounce every word you have to say. Get good help with rehearsing it, so you know how you’re coming across. Think about what the character wants, and how they counter any obstacles in their way. Where is this speech on that journey?”

Both professional actors and drama school candidates have found that Audition Doctor has been the “good help” that Herrin speaks of. Audition Doctor’s success lies in probing and extracting your unique perception of the character so that you deliver a performance that is wholly yours. However, some of those who have directed themselves prior to going to Audition Doctor have found that their intentions behind the text have not translated in the acting of it. This is why Audition Doctor has often proved to be crucial even for those who decide to come at the eleventh hour.

The character’s desires, obstacles and motivations within the speech are inevitably informed by the wider content of the play itself and its historical context. The decisions behind every beat is crucial and can have a drastic impact on how you play the role.

Maxine Peake’s interview in today’s Guardian illustrates this. Speaking of her portrayal of Hamlet at the Royal Exchange, she mentioned: “I was 28 when I did Ophelia at the West Yorkshire Playhouse with Christopher Eccleston. In a strange way she’s slightly more complicated than Hamlet. I thought she was slightly mad from the beginning because she’s in this oppressive regime and then she completely loses her grip on reality by the end of it. When I did it, it was all about her heartbreak. So I was blown away by what Sarah [Frankcom] and Katie West did in our production. I realised – maybe because it was a female director or because Polonius was Polonia – it’s because she’s lost a parent. In the production I did with Christopher Eccleston, it was all about Hamlet’s rejection that sent her mad, which I found difficult.”

Finding the right motivations that you believe in and can support textually is something that  Audition Doctor concentrates on. However, the brilliant thing about Audition Doctor is that different avenues will be tested, worked on and analysed before discarded. This means that when you are redirected in the audition, there will be fewer surprises and you will be able to give the panel a host of equally believable alternative interpretations. The ability to to show this level of flexibility and artistic nuance is the reason why Audition Doctor sessions have proved so invaluable to professionals and drama school applicants alike.