Wednesday, 4 April 2012

To Prep Or Not To Prep

The couple of you who read my blog will know that I’ve had an audition coming up that I’ve almost completely refused to do any preparation for. Despite it being an audition where I’ve been given specific things to prepare for and having oceans of time to do it in, I’ve completely and utterly failed to apply myself and get anything done. Yeah, I read the script a few times and I suppose I made a few character decisions but that, my online friends, is it. A thank all that is holy in the world of theatre that I did.

This was one of those auditions where they’d actually stipulated what they wanted. Often you’ll get castings that ask nothing of you bar turning up roughly on time. And then there are others that need you to learn Mandarin, Swahili and Catalan along with how to play the lute and the ability to juggle fire at an intermediate level. This job fell in somewhere in between. They wanted auditionees to be familiar with another language and I had to pick some scenes that I wanted to work on during the casting. So I did this. Sort of. I picked the scenes that I liked and thought would be good in a casting. One was a light-hearted scene where as the other was much more serious so I thought these would be good to go on. As for the language, I must admit that I did very little work indeed. Apart from looking up how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ I sought out very little else as it seemed like a very pointless exercise. 

So, I turned up to the casting all ready to be thoroughly ashamed at the little work I had done. I arrived and the auditionee before me was already in. The casting room had rooms thinner than Keira Knightley on Weight Watchers so I could hear every single word. Of course, I should’ve spent my time looking over my script but instead I spent the whole time listening to my competition and thinking how she was doing things that I wouldn’t have done and also, rather smamelessly, picking up a few ideas too.

Finally, it was my turn to go in and I was welcomed in my a team of smiling assassins, all ready to show me up for the lazy, no-good thesp that I really am. We had a lovely little chat where I got to be pathetically self-deprecating about my so-called acting career and then we started on the audition proper. I was already for them to ask which scene I’d like to do first and to enter into a infuriatingly sincere speech on why I’d chosen it when they told me which scene they’d like to hear. Oh. OK then. So we did the scene where, despite my character having to react to a lot of action going on around her, I had to sit very still and speak to a casting director who refused to look at me. This went on with three other scenes in the film, the panel giving nothing away on whether they were impressed with what I was doing or if they were planning on setting up a firing squad in the corridor outside for my crimes against acting. And then the audition was over. No foreign languages. No painful moments where I had to desperately try and sight-read in another language. No hilarious blog material. Instead I was thrown back out into the real world, all rather happy that I hadn’t spent hour after agonising hour getting ready for it.

Now, they often say that preparation is the key but it often feels like that, in acting, it’s not always necessary. Surely a lot of our job is reacting to the moment and being able to deal with anything that’s thrown at us , be it an accent, an emotion or even a chair. It’s the unexpected that keeps this job exciting and surely makes us better performers? Of course, I understand that there are exceptions to this and if you’re asked to prepare a comedic yet tragic monologue from the 18th century then you do it, but there is a certain joy in improvising your way through things too. I could never have prepared for the audition that asked me to read the news while receiving alien signals via my back teeth and there's little I could have done to get myself ready for an audition that asked me to sing Mrs Lovett's 'By The Sea' while pretending to be an angry jellyfish. And it's those moments that make this job both so ridiculously wonderful and irritatingly awkward.

As I returned to the tube station, I saw another actress, clearly up for the same role, using the train platform as her own preparation room. She was sat on the bench, whispering the lines to herself, clearly desperate to get it right. After a few minutes of trying the lines out in different ways, she got up and then proceeded to do her make-up and hair in those fish-eye mirrors which are presumably there to make sure there’s not a murderer lurking behind you late at night. I admired her dedication to her preparation but I was seconds away from telling her not to bother…

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