A New Medium

Michael Billington wrote of how “we are now in an era when the gap between film and theatre, thanks to sophisticated technology, is constantly narrowing.” Filming live theatre has established a new hybrid medium. “The result is to democratise theatre. It’s not just that the performance can be seen worldwide. The key point is that everyone now has the best seat in the house.” The live aspect coupled with the advantage of close ups has meant an end to seating with restricted views. Consequently, every audience member is “the most privileged theatrical spectator”.

Billington professed: “While I remain an evangelist for live theatre, I think it’s time we stopped pretending that it offers an unreproducible event. A theatre performance can now be disseminated worldwide with astonishing fidelity. This represents…a revolution which knocks on the head the old argument that theatre is an elitist medium aimed at the privileged few.”

The emergence of this new form, as evidenced by the popularity of National Theatre Live and Digital Theatre, has rendered courses specialising only in one medium a risky investment. As discussed in last week’s blog, the importance of choosing the right drama school is paramount. Many make the mistake of dismissing Shakespeare as an irrelevance when considering the kind of training they wish to embark on. This is a precarious line of thought when King Lear is being screened in cinemas globally this month, thus disproving the perception that Shakespeare is strictly confined to the stage and of interest to only a particular type of audience.

In the same week, Sarah Crompton wrote of how Kevin Spacey’s performance in Clarence Darrow “makes a pressing case for the power of the monologue”. She laments how the monologue – “one of the most enticing and flexible forms” – has unfortunately become synonymous with “terrible fringe venues” and “actors who crave attention…with their solo shows” in Edinburgh.

The reason why the success rate of Audition Doctor’s students is so high is because their performances neither become attention-seeking nor introverted. The choices that students make in the sessions also mean that the auditions themselves become a place of experimentation. Far from falling into the trap of embodying the cliché of introspective self-indulgence, Audition Doctor’s students perform their monologues “seeming simultaneously to look at you and through you… It places everyone in intimacy with the performer, letting them eavesdrop on his private thoughts”.

Finding Speeches

Audition Doctor always maintains that the most important decision you make when applying for drama schools is choosing your speeches. While the scope of modern speeches is pretty much boundless, the choice of Shakespeare and Elizabethan monologues to pick from is far more limited – especially if you are female. It’s also worthy to note that although female candidates far outnumber male applicants for drama school, the vast majority of monologues in the literary canon have been written for male characters.

Speaking to The Guardian in an article entitled “Theatre’s women of substance”, Kate Fleetwood said:

“A great female role is one that drives the narrative. Back in 2007, I played Lady Macbeth in a production directed by my husband, Rupert Goold. It was an enormous role for me. She drives the play by being the force behind Macbeth, motivating him to act: ‘Be a man. Be a man,’ she’s continually saying. She may not have the power to express what she wants in public, but she’s the power behind the throne. She’s much, much stronger than him. It’s a massive gamut, emotionally, too; to go from isolated army wife to a woman aligning herself with the spirits, forcing her husband on, then realising her actions have driven her mad, she’s gone too far. Shakespeare is brilliant at writing complex roles for women. There just aren’t enough of them.”

The likelihood of you playing the same character as the person who goes in before you is high. If you are applying to the Central School of Speech and Drama which has a set list for all candidates to choose from, you know for certain that the panel will see thousands of Juliets, Hermiones and Rosalinds. The need to differentiate yourself is paramount. Thousands will utter the same words but it is those that make interesting and informed decisions with the text that will make it through to the next stage. Although the choice of speech is evidently an important one, even more important are the choices that you make within it.

In the same article, Janet Suzman was also asked to comment on what were the great parts for women:

“There are some great roles for women – St Joan, Cleopatra, The Good Woman of Szechuan – but nothing equivalent to the great male parts. People talk of Hedda Gabler as the female Hamlet – and even though she doesn’t have the long soliloquies or the same interiority, we watch her make her choices and meet her fate, just as Hamlet does. She’s in every scene in the play, and she’s got plenty of hidden depths. With utmost economy, Ibsen gives us an extraordinarily fucked-up character. She’s cruel, she’s cowardly and yet you feel for her. Hedda’s bound to domesticity, trapped in a marriage she can’t stand, and she longs for freedom. In that respect, she’s a very modern woman.”

Finding the “interiority” of a character is what Audition Doctor excels at. It’s finding the different shades of emotion and hidden motivations that will mean that the panel will genuinely be seeing Juliet for the first time – because it will be yourJuliet and not anyone else’s.