Come to Audition Doctor!

The auditions process for drama schools is a sobering harbinger of the brutality that characterises the acting profession. The need to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other candidates who not only look and sound just like you, but of course who are doing the same speeches as you, can quickly drive some to despair. But they are also a realistic indicator of what professional actors go through everyday. As Freddie Fox said in his Ideastap interview : “In no other business will you be turned down for three jobs in one week.”

Rejection occurs so frequently that it feels hard to exercise control over your career. Drama school auditions feel similar; the desire just to get a foot in the door means that you forget that, as Hayley Atwell said, “you audition them as much as they audition you…I applied to a lot of drama schools – As much as I wanted to go to RADA, when I got there I didn’t feel like it was me. When I went into Guildhall, I just felt so relaxed. We had a whole term of classes about failing – ironically, a lot of the best work came out of that.”

Drama school is famously emotionally and physically exacting with 12 hours days and learning lines every night. It’s important that you like the place where you will be devoting the next 3 years of your life. The recession and £9,000 a year hike will make the decision to go harder to justify, but no amount of hoping or arrogance will ensure that you will be one of the lucky few who “don’t need training.” Successful and well-respected actors who haven’t trained – such as Tom Hollander – are a rarity. There is no certainty in any job sector anymore, let alone in acting, and thinking you’ll be as fortunate is risky.

Yet drama schools aren’t the only way to receive training and to get noticed by agents. The Industry is trying in some ways to give young hopefuls who can’t afford drama school a leg-up. Vocational alternatives like Fourth Monkey’s £2,000 training scheme, Frantic Assembly’s physical training courses and NYT Rep are financially viable and thrilling opportunities. These involve Industry mentors, workshops, Q&As, weekends in Stratford with the RSC and a showcase performed in front of Industry professionals with the chance of representation. However, like with all jobs in the Industry- unless you are Derek Jacobi – these schemes must be auditioned for as they are highly competitive.

Anyone who is auditioning for either professional acting jobs or drama schools at the moment will be uncomfortably aware that you need every bit of help you can get. Audition Doctor sessions have proven to be unique because Tilly’s students are able to receive peerless direction coupled with insightful practical advice. No actor can control the outcome of any audition, however, going to Audition Doctor means that you can be confident in the knowledge that you have at least managed to control the fact that you are the most prepared you can possibly be.

What Do Drama Schools Want?

The acting profession is famously brutal. As with all art, it is subjective. Consequently, the reactions of an audience or drama school audition panel will inevitably vary. What will speak deeply to one person will leave another cold. Feelings cannot be quantified, nor can a performance be numerically appraised like a quarterly profit and loss statement. Like a professional actor auditioning for a job, whether or not you get a place at drama school hinges on factors that you are powerless to control.

In an interview in The Times, Ruth Wilson spoke about how no one in the Industry was exempt from the harsh realities of the profession: “You get rejected on a daily basis,” she says, “and it’s usually for things out of your control. You don’t have blonde hair, or you’re too big, or you’re not quite pretty enough.” How did you react to being told you weren’t pretty enough? “I’d get angry and say, ‘I AM!’ And force people to think otherwise about me.”

Nothing and no one can change certain unalienable facts about yourself; dyeing your hair a different colour or changing your body shape will inevitably only make you “unsuitable” for the next job. However, Audition Doctor can force a drama school audition panel to think differently about you. Whatever your background, acting is about transcending the trappings of your own existence. Going to Audition Doctor will make you stand out as Tilly will guarantee that you don’t take the easiest option. Daring and interesting choices are made within the speech that eschews a lazy performance.

Furthermore, the success of your drama school audition is not dependent on how “original” your Shakespeare speech is. The drama school panel will have seen a thousand Ophelias, Cressidas and Helenas, but Audition Doctor gives you the luxury of exploring how to inhabit the character and make it your Ophelia. In RADA’s advice on choice of audition speeches, it stipulates: “Don’t mimic the performance of someone else you’ve seen act the speech; we want actors not impersonators.” Sessions at Audition Doctor ensure that the Ophelia you portray, is wholly yours and not a cringeworthy reproduction. The audition panel at drama school don’t want you to replicate Jean Simmons or Helena Bonham-Carter and thankfully Audition Doctor ensures you don’t.

Drama School – Not a Talent Show

The Times reported that “in a report published by the Conference of Drama Schools, it was revealed that more than 25,000 applications were made to the 22 accredited drama schools in England and Wales…Which means that they are now twice as difficult to get into as Oxbridge.” The number of applicants is ever increasing, seemingly immune to the hike in tuition fees. The main reason cited for this was the proliferation of audition-based shows on television.

Geoffery Colman (Head of Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama) stated: “This year, we received more than 4,000 applications for a place on our degree course and that figure is going up every year. But we’re finding that fewer and fewer of those applicants will have ever set foot in a theatre, understood what it means to train for three years to be an artist, or have any idea of the professional world they’re signing up to. Audition-based shows have made it look quick and easy to attain a kind of celebrity-based stardom…You have only to work on your voice for about three weeks and, bam, you’ll be good enough for the West End or No1 in the US charts. Whereas what we’re saying is that it takes three years to train a voice. Young people are increasingly coming in with this idea that talent is an instant right that should be ‘spotted’. They aren’t coming in with a real commitment to the work required to become an actor.”

Edward Kemp, artistic director of RADA insisted that despite the fact that such shows encouraged record numbers to apply, the panelists are not of the Simon Cowell persuasion: “What we want to see is not the commercially lucrative finished product of the TV audition show but unformed raw material that we can mould. That is a totally different auditioning experience, for a quality that is much more difficult to spot.”

The idea that a drama school audition is a talent show is a misguided one; drama school auditions do not solely comprise of performing audition speeches, the interview is also regarded as an integral part of the process. This is where the panelists gauge your commitment to the Theatre, how receptive you are to direction and your dedication to the training process.

What Audition Doctor can help with is not a rigidly polished performance but the capability to respond authentically to the circumstances of the play. As you have more lessons at Audition Doctor, Tilly also opens your eyes to the fact that the interpretation that you might have both agreed on is merely one out of a thousand possibilities; Audition Doctor gives you the freedom to adapt and play around with the character. This is why Audition Doctor sessions are such golden opportunities – the chance to be vulnerable in the presence of a professional eye is rare and it is one of the assets that drama schools most prize. As Colman says: “What we are looking for is authenticity, pliability, a core radiance. It’s up to us to find that. But my best advice is – be vulnerable. And, for God’s sake, go to the theatre.”

Drama at University or Drama School?

There will be many aspiring actors fresh out of school who will consider reading Drama at university – “reading” being the optimum word. It looks like the safest option – a bona fide university degree which you can “fall back on” should times get tough and a chance to learn the craft of acting. Drama school looks risky and as Daniel Mays noted: “You can count on one hand the people consistently working still from my year [at drama school] which always scares the shit out of me.” However, there are many in the Industry who believe such courses provide none of the security that a university degree supposedly offers; the largely academic nature of them renders them largely useless in a profession that prizes vocational training above all else.

A couple of years ago, Nicholas Hytner expressed his worry that because university courses were forced to increase the academic aspect of their courses to qualify for government funding, the “actors” that were flooding the Industry upon graduating were merely “theorists”. Consequently, he opined that “young actors [were] not as well equipped as they were 20 years ago to rise to the challenges of the stage, particularly of the classical stage”. He was adamant that “the most important elements of an actor’s training is vocational craft training: voice, movement and acting technique…This process is slow and repetitious and has therefore occupied the greater part of the traditional syllabus in drama schools.”

Drama schools are still proven to be the bastions of unparalleled vocational training and are far better equipped than universities to offer practical guidance about the realities of the profession. Tom Goodman-Hill commented: “I naively thought that I could become an actor without training…For me the Bristol Old Vic was a great school as it was really geared towards having a career in the Industry and was realistic about what you required as an actor in order to become a “working actor” – someone who was actually going to make a living out of it”. Although the academic nature of university courses can be argued to furnish a student with the ability to analyse texts, being a working actor is ultimately not about intellectual theorising.

The experience of drama school varies from actor to actor; Ed Stoppard likened it to “electric shock therapy”. That’s probably precisely what aspiring actors need to go through, as opposed to sitting in a library reading up on “theatre theory”. Tom Goodman-Hill went onto say: “Fear and excitement is a large part of why I do this. It’s about letting go, it’s about losing your inhibitions, it’s about having absolutely no dignity whatsoever and not being afraid to fail.” It’s at drama school that you are encouraged and given the time to do that. Audition Doctor can be seen as a microcosm of drama school as it is a unique place where you can have access to peerless training as well as seek advice and insights into the profession. The practical nature of Audition Doctor sessions is undoubtedly the reason why Tilly’s students frequently prove themselves successfully rising to the challenges of auditions by getting recalls, and in many instances, a place at drama school.

Training Doesn’t Stop At Drama School

Every so often, Ideastap will interview eminent actors on their careers and their perspectives on the acting profession. This is in the hope that the advice disclosed will provide some solace and useful guidance to those occupying the already overpopulated waiting-room that leads into “the Industry.”

Anthony Head’s interview raised some interesting points on the topic of drama school and training. Although he was of the view that drama school “isn’t a prerequisite, some people suit drama school more than others”, he deplored the fact that British “actors are the only artists that don’t practice their craft when they’re not working. Americans do classes once or twice a week.” For actors, drama school is the most obvious method of achieving professional instruction.

However, there are other avenues to explore such as classes offered at the Actor’s Centre or private Audition Doctor workshops – both of which Tilly teaches. Training in any sphere – be it artistic, scientific or business is an undeniable necessity if you want to become a professional and acting is no different. British Theatre is known for being an exemplar of unsurpassable quality, largely due to the consummate pairing of talent and rigorous training that British drama schools offer. However, British actors who fail to hone the skills that they learned at drama school may find themselves lagging behind their American counterparts. Attending regular workshops is a way of topping up and building on skills that could easily become rusty.

As Daniel Mays stated in his interview in this week’s Independent: “the daily rigours of theatre work are the best work-out he could hope for. “It’s a muscle you’ve got to come back to, and it’s a discipline. It’s like playing sport…You’ve got to turn up and deliver every single night, and sustain that character for two hours.”

It seems that drama school can give you a solid grounding but if stamina and longevity is desired, attending regular acting classes throughout your career is a necessity. Private lessons at Audition Doctor or Tilly’s group workshops at the Actor’s Centre are a fantastic way (to quote Anthony Head) to “keep that energy and feeling of success going when you’re not working and to practice not falling into your default mechanism…it’s when you feel a bit unsure, you go back to your old schtick – all the stuff you know you is not brilliant but it’ll get you through. It’s a chance to get to recognise and avoid that.” Sessions at Audition Doctor are a way of experimenting and stretching your acting muscles. It’s a chance “not to be lazy and not to stick to what you play time and time again.”

Leading Theatre Critic Praises Drama Schools

Last year, when Michael Billington was asked what the best way to get into the business was, his immediate response was: “I would say if you want to act, design or take on a technical role, it’s vital to get proper training at an accredited school. Only directors seem to magically emerge without any proper training!”

He recognised the difficult financial situation students currently face, however, he maintained that receiving professional training was paramount and even urged the national press to take more notice of student showcases at drama school. He declared: “These academies offer the best theatrical value in London: you see unusual plays done by tomorrow’s stars at low prices.”  If the country’s leading theatre critic is enthusiastically attending drama school showcases, as well as vociferously shedding light on the high calibre performances, you know that drama school is a safer bet than trying to get your foot in the door on your own. British drama schools are unique places where you receive world-class training and the possibility of getting noticed by respected Industry professionals, who might well be reviewing you later on in your career.

The third year showcases that Billington saw were so “exceptional” that it led him to bemoan the fact that drama schools only let the public watch student productions in their final year. He argued that the earlier students were exposed to criticism, the better they’d be suited to the profession. Furthermore, it would give an insight into how drama school training is imperative if British Theatre wants to conserve its reputation for being the best in the world.

With an average of 3,000 applicants for 30 places, it would be unwise to attend a drama school audition in the hope that you’ll be able to “wing it on the day.” Coming to Audition Doctor means that you enter prepared to not only perform your audition speeches confidently, but also to be redirected. During Audition Doctor sessions, you will have been used to Tilly suggesting you try things differently and experimenting with the text. Everyone knows that auditions are stressful but going to Audition Doctor ensures that you have done all you can to prepare and the candidate that you present to the panel is you at your absolute best. With so few places available, you have to be ready to prove that you will be an invaluable asset to not only the drama schools to which you are applying, but also the wider profession. This is what Audition Doctor can help you achieve.

Drama School and Theatre – Worth the Investment

When Hattie Morahan won the Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards last Sunday, the papers were quick to draw attention to the fact that she had received no formal acting training. Despite her recent success, however, Morahan did intimate that drama school might have been a wise route to take: “Because I didn’t go to drama school, I didn’t start in the business with any toolbox apart from enthusiasm and instinct. I’d throw everything at a part and sometimes realise that I had hit my limits.”

With auditions for drama school looming, many potential students will be debating whether to enter into a profession which Nicholas Hytner this week said was “on a knife’s edge”.

Morahan notes that “fewer films are made, so it’s harder to get on television, because all the film actors are doing TV. And TV budgets are cut…In theatre, it seems that artistic directors spend 90 per cent of their day on bended knee begging either the Arts Council or wealthy people to give them money.” However, it isn’t all negative as she argues that “even in these times London is the most exciting I have seen in years…people are unafraid to push the boundaries, and I keep seeing the most extraordinary work.”

Much like drama school, Audition Doctor provides a relaxed space in which students can have what Morahan perhaps wished she had had before stepping onto a professional stage – the opportunity to test limits and the chance to experiment.

When this weekend’s Observer asked Simon Russell Beale: “Will people continue to go to drama school, given how much debt they’ll now incur?” He replied: “I’m sure they will. But that isn’t a very good answer, is it? I get letters from students wanting money all the time. We all do: ask any actor. It’s heartbreaking.”

While drama school might now seem like a financially dubious choice, like with any vocation, training is paramount. Competition is stiff and Audition Doctor gives you a relaxed space in which to fail, explore and discover. The confidence that comes with being willing to fail and test boundaries is something that Tilly actively fosters. It is this quality that will be sought after not only at drama schools, but also in an industry whose members are currently desperate to prove to the Government that their livelihoods are worthwhile and that their work is not an exorbitant extravagance only to be enjoyed in times of affluence. It has enormous influence on the spiritual well-being of the country’s citizens. Unfortunately, however, as Sarah Sands opined in The Evening Standard: “spiritual health does not come under the Treasury brief.”

To Train or Not to Train

With the sharp hike in tuition fees and an industry suffering from government cuts, acting hopefuls have to think carefully about whether training at drama school is an advantageous investment or whether saving £27,000 (and chancing it in an industry where notable practitioners such as Miriam Margolyes and Eddie Redmayne are a success without having gone at all) is a worthy risk to take. Bursaries, grants and scholarships are becoming increasingly difficult to come by and with universities and colleges offering a variety of “Theatre Studies” courses, it’s hard to know whether the traditional route of a three-year course at drama school is the best choice. Reality television has also proved that you can be viewed as an “actor” without having ever stepped foot in an accredited drama school.

As theatre producer Richard Jordon stated in the Guardian: “It’s a big problem in the industry that those reality shows make it seem as if being an actor is easy, and that you don’t need the training. But if you’re going to survive, then being properly trained is crucial, not just in acting technique but also in the techniques of getting a job, building a career and surviving in the longer term.”

In other words, it’s not just the vocational training and development of creativity that drama school offers but also the tools with which you can most effectively market your talent. In an industry that is infamous for its precarious employment statistics, the skills, support and advice that drama schools offer seem integral if you want to sustain a long-term career as an actor. Although universities now offer many theatre-based courses, these focus largely on academic theory. While the history of drama is useful knowledge, what drama school offers is performance-based training that is the most applicable and beneficial to someone aspiring to become an actor.

Having trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Tilly recognises the categorical importance of professional training as a working actress. The high standard of teaching that Audition Doctor provides is incomparable and is an invaluable asset when auditioning for drama schools. The meticulous and rigorous sessions that Audition Doctor offers maximise your chances of gaining a place at an accredited drama school which will ensure, as Lyn Gardner wrote, that young actors will attain “the skills, support and confidence that will allow them to develop as independent artists, make their own opportunities and help broaden the theatre ecology.”

Applying to Drama Schools for the Second Time

Auditioning for drama schools for a second time can be argued as being an even more challenging process than when you applied the first time. The stakes are higher. While not getting in the first time could be put down to you using the auditioning process as a litmus test to see whether or not you feel you are cut out for an acting career, the second time can no longer be regarded as a “trial run”. You are now a “veteran” of the process and not getting recalls for auditions can no longer be excused away with the reasoning that you didn’t know what to expect and thought doing two Modern speeches was acceptable as opposed to one Shakespeare and one Modern. Trying to rationalise your failure to get to the next stage in the audition process becomes harder when you realise that if the audition panel didn’t like you last year and proved that they’re still not keen on you this year, the simple reason might just actually be that you’re not good enough for drama school.

Aside from the self-doubt, you are in fact in a more advantageous position the second time round. You’ve been to the drama schools and met the teachers who would be teaching you and you realise that just like the audition panel – you are allowed to have preferences. The stock phrase uttered at every “Welcome To Our Drama School speech”: “Just remember that you’re auditioning us as well” becomes a little more believable.

Having spoken to people who have applied again, it is clear that different strategies involving detailed planning are deployed. From the timing of applications to the spacing out of recalls, drama school aspirants put a lot of forethought into changing tactics to increase their chances of getting in. While this pragmatic deliberation can be helpful,  finding the right audition speeches is surely the most important decision. This is where Audition Doctor comes into play. Having a third-party with a professional eye when auditioning speeches is essential.

As Tilly gradually gets to know you better over the course of your sessions with her, landing on the right audition speech becomes easier. Audition Doctor is hugely helpful when it comes to not only helping you with audition speeches but also picking up on the unconscious ticks that every actor who is starting out will have. It’s always useful to be aware of these so you can keep them in check during your audition. More than anything though, it’s also simply reassuring to know that someone apart from your Mum is on your side.