Friday, 4 May 2012

To Bee Or Not To Bee

A little Twitter chat last night got me thinking. It got me thinking about horrible, nightmare-inducing things. I got me thinking until I wanted to turn my brain off and never think again. It got me thinking about the 'things' we have to be in auditions.

Y'see, if you have a nice, normal job, you probably didn't have to be something else when you went up for it. Yes, you probably had to be a more eloquent, presentable version of yourself, a being that you don't quite recongise who apparently works well one their own as well as part of a team and whose only fault is the inability to say no but I bet you haven't had to be an inkwell, a fried egg or a giraffe (many thanks to @ThatMrStirling & @Cromerty for sharing their audition woes.) Imagine the dismay when, after a beautifully thought out audition where you perform your monologue perfectly and read the script beautifully, you're then asked to be a broom. It's utterly demeaning and is one of the key moments where you truly find yourself questioning what on earth you're doing with your life.

Having to play inanimate objects is ridiculous. There's a game that some teachers or directors like to play where you're put into teams and random objects are shouted out and you have ten seconds to create that object between you. I think it's meant to show just how desperate actors are to please people but all it really achieves is getting actors to stand in a line with one idiot sticking their leg out while another gurns to try and show that they are representing a pencil. There's nothing quite like finding yourself in a flailing human pyramid pretending to be a piece of cheese to really make you realise that your parents are probably wildly embarrassed by you.

But even worst than this is animals. I love animals. If I wasn't an actor and I genuinely couldn't find myself someone who would support a life of sofa-sitting and crisp-eating, I'd work with animals. They're awesome and better than most humans. But find yourself being asked to be one in an animal and you find yourself in stereotype hell. If someone asks you to be an elephant, what's the first thing you do. Yep, you put your arm in front of your face and wave it around like it's a trunk. Monkey? Get your hands out of your armpits. Squirrel? Yes, I've just made you nibble at an imaginary hazelnut. Putting horrors of animal studies at drama school aside (running around a dance studio in a tiny leotard pretending to be a crane, anyone?) my worst experience was at a drama school audition. If my memory serves me right, we were in groups and had to devise a small movement piece. The rest of the auditionees then watched and were asked to come up with animals that it reminded them of. We then had to take the movement piece as inspiration and perform an extended improvisation piece as those animals. Other groups got lovely animals like lions and horses which mainly meant they got to wander around until time was called. However, when it was our group's turn, some wiseguy decided to shout out 'MOTHS!' which meant we then had to spend the next five minutes furiously flapping around a ground floor studio with windows on every side. All that ensued was bemused looks from other students as they walked on by and five hyperventilating auditionees who were fired up by flapping arms and adrenaline. It was not pretty. There was a myth at the school that one of the dents in the walls had been created by someone pretedning to be a bee. Note to directors: make sure you've got insurance before asking a desperate auditionee to be an airbourne creature...

And then there's trees. Because of this bloody advert:

People will always ask if you had to be a tree while at drama school and I can actually say that yes, I did once have to be a tree. It was during a seemingly innocent voice class and our tutor suddenly threw out the instruction 'And now I want you to be a tree.' Shocked looks all round as we wondered if we were being filmed for a TV prank show but no, he was being deadly serious and we entered a stereotype that we never imagined we'd be part of.

If only they'd ask me to be a resting actress. I can do that one perfectly...

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