Recently, there have been several articles where both actors and directors have spoken about how important an audience is in a play’s growth and development.
Ralph Fiennes said: “It’s in front of an audience that I start to really learn what I’m doing. You rehearse, but a play grows over time. I feel sad that we don’t have a system of adjusting and changing things after the first night.”
Many people find that rehearsing solo is only helpful up to a point and it is only when they attend regular Audition Doctor sessions that they discover a freshness in to their speeches. The longer you give yourself to rehearse with Tilly, the quicker it is to find the rhythm of the speech, develop originality and plumb the depths of the character.
In the Guardian, Matt Trueman said: “In preview, Waste was – frankly – a bit dull: a fascinating, intricate play but a long, drawn-out watch. A month on, it’s far livelier. Everything’s more expansive. Lines have more spring. Each becomes a rollercoaster with ups, downs and loop-the-loops. It keeps you listening, holds your attention. Each individual moment is 1% or 2% better. The whole lifts by 10.”
Students who attend Audition Doctor report much the same after a consistent string of sessions.
Watching [Waste] most nights, staff director Oscar Toeman commented: “If you read Waste, it’s heavy,” he says. “The actors are doing a hell of a lot of work to make it feel as light and buoyant as it does. The point is that they have learned what an audience needs. Just as you only learn to drive after passing your test, you only really learn how to play a role after press night.”
Similarly, Audition Doctor gives actors the chance to learn what a potential audience needs and road test different takes on their part.
Charles Edwards, playing Henry Trebell in Waste, said “[As a show goes on], you find that running the thing with a crowd, allowing the language to strike you in ways it hasn’t already, you make realisations of your own”.
The rigorous sessions at Audition Doctor mean that students often find they continue to find nuances which keeps a rawness to their performance – a quality highly prized by audition panels.
Fiennes advised young actors: “It’s important not to get into a little hole of just perfecting one’s own technique. I’m always looking at other actors.”
Tilly strongly recommends that her students go frequently to the theatre. Students have found that a combination of both observing other professional actors and attending Audition Doctor lessons quickens the pace of their own progress and they become more confident and successful in auditions.
Geoffrey Colman, head of acting at Central, wrote an article on the danger of aspiring actors disregarding the merits of professional training. “The cult of the untrained reigns supreme. Why wait three years, or even one – why make the effort to be trained at all?”
Many young actors, who routinely see the untrained catapulted into the spotlight, understandably feel that training is not a prerequisite to forging a career. However, the longevity of such a career is usually short. Colman encourages vocational training as a way of committing yourself to “a craft that has bestowed such meaning and continuity” and raging against the prevailing view that “all is instant, all is now.”
“…the cultivation of knowledge is worth the risk; worth pursuing for nothing more than its own sake. The vocation of knowledge and the vocation of training are old terms that identify a set of standards and assumptions not immediately associated with the click-and-download generation of today – and therefore are terms and ideals that we must fight for and protect.”
Colman also talks about the idea of surrendering and this is what Audition Doctor sessions encourage students to do. The act of surrendering is linked to a willingness to be open and vulnerable. Those that attend Audition Doctor sessions quickly begin to realise that their progress is dependent on how much of themselves they are willing to proffer.
This can feel exposing and requires a kind of bravery. However, the reason why Audition Doctor continues to be in such popular demand is because the sessions never make you feel unsafe. Any vulnerability is channeled into the role and it is this courage, which is cultivated in the sessions, that breeds work.
In a recent Guardian article, Alex Jennings stated: “I love to keep working,” he says, “but you have to wait and you have to be brave.”
This is the reason professional actors come to Audition Doctor between jobs. Many of them see waiting not as a static state, but as a time to push their craft further and to prepare them for roles which require more of themselves than they have previously ever given.
An Audition Doctor session is also the place to experiment and see the kind of roles that, as an actor, you would like to aim for. Ralph Fiennes recently commented on these roles, comparing them to “the gift of a garment”. “You go: ‘That’s perfect, I love that. That feels like that’s me.”
Those that come to Audition Doctor are serious about their careers and are focused solely on the betterment of their craft. Colman wrote of the subjectivity of what great acting is, however, he said that the one “common unifying quality, the greatness I hope to encounter with each new intake of students, is actually very simple – honest, full commitment to a craft that lies beyond the scope of apparent ambition or easy-won fame. In my long experience of training actors, I think that it is this single quality that distinguishes the real acting elite.”
The act of coming to Audition Doctor is an honest and full commitment to acting and a step to inching closer to the greatness that every actor hopes to reach.
Ralph Fiennes was recently interviewed and asked if he had a set way of approaching characters. He said: “I don’t have a specific method that there’s a label for, I think different projects require a different way in, and again depending on the director, often they will spark off a way to imagine or feel or think your way into a role.”
For all acting jobs, there is clearly a need to demonstrate in the audition that you have the emotional perception and intellectual precocity to somehow find a way “in” to a role. For professional actors and drama school applicants, Audition Doctor has been an invaluable intermediary stepping stone – giving students the benefits of a director’s guidance prior to an audition. Much like Fiennes’ outlook, Audition Doctor’s success lies in having no proscriptive method for her students. Each character is simultaneously dissected and constructed in a unique approach that best suits the individual.
However, what all Audition Doctor’s students share is the graft that both Tilly, and most importantly, the student commit to throughout the sessions. This brings to mind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s opinions on preparing for a part:
“I think that the amount of concentration — sometimes the amount of personal exploration — it takes to do something well, can be not pleasant … like hard work is. That doesn’t mean that you don’t want to do it, or that you don’t love it, or that it’s not ultimately satisfying… There’s always something about that job that’s exhausting, and that’s what’s exhausting about acting, is the level concentration over very long period of time.
If there’s something emotional about what you’re doing that day, you’re carrying that emotion on one level or another for a long period of time … it can be burdensome. But it’s part of the work, and you’re trying to create something artful out of it…You’re there to take what you know and the experiences and behaviour and emotional life of yourself and others and try to make something artful out of it.”
Creating something artful is hugely helped if you pick the right speech – something that Audition Doctor is vociferous about. However, Ralph Fiennes recently spoke about the difficulties that actors perversely felt when the script was too perfect: “Sometimes if a script is really good it’s easy to learn the lines and have fun but then you forget where they come from and who the person is who’s saying them.”
Audition Doctor never lets students run away with or hide behind the language. Fiennes went onto say: “I think the interior life of the character is very important, how they think, how they feel, what’s going on inside them.” The focus on the character is so in-depth and sustained at Audition Doctor that students always use the language to their advantage; as a weapon to communicate emotions more effectually with the spectator.
Fiennes went onto say that his greatest challenge was “about not judging. What I like is finding the totality of a person…it’s about the humanity and the horror of them.” Characters created at Audition Doctor are never one-dimensional. The work put in in the sessions means that students always end up forming an authentic character, in other words, creating a piece of art.