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.

Avoiding Conservatism in Acting

CRW_4932Sean Holmes, Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith, was interviewed in The Stage and spoke about his attempt to radicalise and disquiet the traditional model of British theatre through Secret Theatre. It was based on a speech he made in 2013 when he stated that “maybe the existing structures of theatre in this country, while not corrupt, are corrupting.”

Secret Theatre was about “forming an in-house ensemble of actors and creatives, deploying gender- and colour-blind casting as default, keeping show titles secret – almost to prove to British theatre as a whole that there are other ways of doing things.”

Holmes elaborated: “All of Secret Theatre was about one thing and one thing only, though I didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t about being German and it wasn’t about new approaches to new writing. It wasn’t really about directing. It was about acting. It was about empowering the actors individually and collectively to reach their potential. Because the biggest thing that no one talks about is the deep conservatism in the choices British actors make, and the reasons – before they all come and kill me – are structural. It’s not their fault. It’s to do with economics…It’s really hard to earn a living in theatre, even if you work a lot. If you want a relatively nice life, you’re going to do TV and film meaning you’ll do your one play a year. That leads to different choices…You can’t affect the structures…[but] you can’t moan because the answer is “Well, do something!”

Audition Doctor has become the answer to many professional actors who want to be pragmatic. Like Secret Theatre, Audition Doctor is a space where the actor is truly allowed to play and where the actor is put first and foremost. At Audition Doctor, the actor is encouraged to shake off any preconceived notions of how Shakespeare should be approached or how a part should be played, and instead explore different routes that require imagination and lead to a genuinely original performance.

Audition Doctor has proven to be crucial for actors who want a quick brush-up before an audition but also actors who want to delve deeper into how they engage with acting as an art form.

Speaking recently in The Stage, Anthony Sher was asked whether he had pinned down what he considered to be good acting and he replied: “No, other than that you can smell it. You can see it, and feel it, instantly. I don’t believe there’s one way of doing it, and I find myself changing from show to show. I like that.”

The actors that come to Audition Doctor long-term are those that use the sessions to change and experiment. Speaking during his third week of rehearsals for the upcoming production of Death of a Salesman at the RSC, Sher went on to say “It’s ridiculous in this country. Six weeks of rehearsals is not nearly enough for these great plays. In Europe or in Russia they rehearse for months.”

The actors who have had the time to come to Audition Doctor regularly before auditions are generally those who have the time to eschew the obvious and conservative artistic choices that Holmes laments – not only within the work itself but also in terms of the type of work that they are offered. This is because Audition Doctor encourages every student to be  an artist – something that Stanley Tucci described as “[taking] whatever is in front of you and [making] it into something else.”

 

Demystifying Shakespeare at Audition Doctor

CRW_4943Judi Dench recently spoke of how uninspiring teaching led her to a mental stalemate with regards to understanding some of Shakespeare’s plays early on in her career. She credited seeing the plays performed on stage, as opposed to reading “six lines each in turn, regardless of who was saying them”, with igniting her passion and understanding.

Speaking of the reluctance of many to engage with Shakespeare, Dench said: “It’s a fear, there’s a terrible fear about Shakespeare that it’s a language we don’t understand. [But] it couldn’t be easier. It’s the prejudice of things. Somebody telling you it’s hard, and the fear that you’re not going to understand it. You’re not going to be able to understand? Well that’s up to the actor.”

Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, also said: “If you’re reading Shakespeare you can get baffled by the language, but if you see actors deliver it with passion and engagement, even if you don’t pick up every word, you can follow a story and be transported to a different world.”

The importance that both place on the actor is why Audition Doctor is sought out by professional actors and drama school applicants alike. Audition Doctor students succeed in landing jobs and places at drama school because the sessions places such importance on unpicking the text. Once the language is understood, there’s a framework within which to experiment. Audition Doctor sessions encourage students to explore the myriad of ways to play the scene and students often experiment in ways that oppose one another. However, as Indira Varma said of her time rehearsing with Pinter: “If you’re truthful, nothing you do is wrong.” Of course, that has to be within the limitations of the play but it was the most liberating thing to be told.” There is no right or wrong at Audition Doctor, but Tilly will guide you to the option that shows you to be bold and above all, the one that rings the most true.

Another reason why actors, particularly those in TV, come to Audition Doctor is because of their lack of rehearsal time. Imelda Staunton spoke about the problem in this week’s Telegraph:

“That’s the thing that’s disappeared unfortunately with television is a terribly old-fashioned word called ‘rehearsing’. As if it doesn’t mean anything – ‘It doesn’t matter, you don’t need it’. Well, you do need it! And I think you need it for everything, particularly this, and thank goodness we got it. There’s no way we could have done it without. And we all mourn the days of – they were awful the BBC rehearsal rooms in Acton – but you rehearsed. You did The Singing Detective – you rehearsed it and then you did it. Like any piece of work you do, whether it’s a play or theatre or film, you don’t just turn up and go, ‘That’s what I’ve done, I’ll do that’. And it was very valuable for this and I wish more people would think about putting an extra two bob in to allow people to have a bit of time. We live in a world where we want instant things. ‘Just do it now! We want it instant, we want it good and we want it successful’. Well, the best things take time, whether it’s a very good stew or a show. The best things take time to cook and develop and I think people underestimate that. No one wants to rehearse to waste time, it saves time.”

In today’s unforgiving climate, Audition Doctor has become a rehearsal space where actors have the time to work on their parts and develop their craft. The instant success that Staunton speaks of is nigh on impossible to achieve without professional direction, hard graft and time – all of which Audition Doctor provides.

Achieve Spontaneity at Auditions with Audition Doctor

CRW_4961Speaking of the rehearsal process and the nature of being part of a company, Simon Russell Beale commented: “I personally would be unable to develop a part by myself at home…I need the stimulation of other people.”

One of the reasons for Audition Doctor’s popularity is the need for professional actors and drama school applicants to have a professional sounding board when creating a character. Especially as the drama school audition process is protracted one, rehearsing monologues countless times at home is unsurprisingly not conducive to preserving the vitality and originality that perhaps you had at the beginning.

In an interview on The National Theatre’s website, Nick Hytner said: “Good actors can’t learn their lines unless they know why they’re saying them and you can take an infinite amount of time finding out why you have to say the lines that are written for you. The best acting gives the impression of being spontaneous. In order to be spontaneous every night, you have to feel like the words you say are the only response to the situation you find yourself in…Rehearsals are the process of discovering those reasons.”

Audition Doctor sessions are the closest thing drama school applicants will have to rehearsals and the final recalls that students achieve are testament to the uninhibited freedom of expression that Tilly instils each of her students with. This quality is also why Audition Doctor is increasingly regarded as a necessity for professional actors preparing for jobs.

Judi Dench spoke out this week against the financial constraints placed on actors without significant private funding to pay for conservatoire training. She mentioned: “Anyone who’s in the theatre gets letters countless times a week asking for help to get through drama school. You can do so much, but you can’t do an endless thing. It is very expensive.”

The Guardian commented: “She accepts that talented aspiring actors can make it without going to drama school. “But it’s a hard and rocky road,” she added.”

The collapse of the repertory system – which Dench describes as  “where you went to learn and make your mistakes and watch people who knew how to do it” – has meant that drama schools have become increasingly important for actors learning their craft.

Despite the increase in fees, the competition is no less fierce. The National Theatre website states: “Acting requires a wide range of skills, vocal, physical, imaginative, expressive, intellectual, intuitive, and work can demand different dialects, languages, accents, vocal control or body language, improvisation, observation and emulation, mime and often dancing or stage combat. A stage actor will often be required to research around a character or a period of history. In an ever changing world it is a continually evolving profession”. Students understand that the industry is a demanding one and that the skills taught at drama school are essential to survival and longevity as an artist. 

Speaking of her imminent return to the London stage, Emma Thompson said that she was suffering from nerves and nausea but that she was adhering to the advice of the late choreographer Agnes de Mille: “You have to keep flinging yourself, leaping into the dark.” Whether you are preparing for a professional role or a drama school audition, Audition Doctor prepares you for that leap and makes it far less terrifying.