Thursday, 13 September 2012

Finding Myself

According to Phil and Kirsty, it’s all about location. If you’re an actor then you’ll have auditioned in all manner of places and will probably have learnt the art of judging a casting but its location. We’ve all frequented Soho’s dizzying array of casting studios and I’m sure most of us have found ourselves in the American Church on Tottenham Court Road. But it’s the other places. Those back rooms in bars. The dusty church halls. The creepy director’s basement. They’re the ones that make us wonder what on earth we’re doing with our lives.

I know I’ve written before about my ridiculous audition in Notting Hill McDonalds so I won’t be regaling it with you again. Should you wish to have a little look at it and shake your head at my woeful attempts to perform amidst Happy Meals then you can so here:

But what I wanted to write about is the experience of auditioning somewhere. Somewhere that you don’t know. Firstly, and I can’t repeat this enough, if you invite actors to an audition, please add some bloody details about where actors need to head to when they arrive. The amount of times I’ve found myself aimlessly wandering around a faceless arts centre and questioning clueless box office staff, I’m amazed I’m not on a Lost Actors Most Wanted List. Going to an audition is very much like navigating around someone else’s kitchen for the first time. Just because you think it makes sense to have utensils and pans in the cupboard next to the oven, that doesn’t mean that others think the same. And, just because we all think a box office or reception desk should be the first thing you see in a building, there are many companies that think a fancy sculpture or a pool table are far more important. 

A few weeks ago I had a casting at a law school. I was fine with that. It was in an easy to find location and, you’d presume, pretty simple to navigate when you got there. But how wrong I was. I should’ve known things weren’t going to go according to plan when I stood at the sliding doors outside for a good 20 seconds before I realised you had to buzz yourself in. Once in, I found myself having to traipse through countless waiting areas until I found a woman hidden behind a plant at the reception desk. I stood in front of her and she pretended to busy scribbling numbers in a notebook. I opened with the traditional “Excuse me.” Her eyes flicked up to me for about as long as the casting director considered me for the role in Hollyoaks that I went up for in 2008. Back to her numeric doodling. 

“Hi. I’m here for the audition with-“

“2 2.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You want 2 2.”

“Where’s that?”

“On the 2nd floor.” (I’m fairly certain, if she could’ve got away with it, she’d have ended this sentence with the word ‘stupid.’)

So I headed up to the 2nd floor presuming that all would become clear once I'd recovered from optimistically thinking I could skip up two flights of stairs. Once there, after a frantic search from a comfy seat and some gas and air, I spotted some doors that looked like they probably lead the way to the rooms on that floor. Of course I was completely wrong. Instead I burst in on seminar and was faced by a sea of bemused foreign students. I backed out and headed for the next promising looking door. This time I managed to creep my way into yet another seminar. Exasperated and wondering just how many law seminars one building needed, I desperately searched for a sign that possibly tell me where on earth I was meant to go. Finally I found one about the size of a postage stamp that seemed to vaguely point me in a director.

I headed down a corridor and found the elusive ‘2 2’ and sat on the solitary seat outside. Due to the lockers that lined the corridor, I found myself sat slap bang in the middle of the hallway, leading to numerous students and cleaners asking if I was alright. I told them that I was but I had no idea. Here’s another tip if you’re holding auditions: Put a bloody sign outside to let people know they’re in the right place and that they either need to knock or just wait outside. Despite what we may have put on our CV, actors are not mind readers and should never have been treated as such. Yes we have common sense and we’re not as dim as people like to make us out to be but a bit of help never goes amiss. Or make sure that, when I'm trying to peer through the tiny window in your soundproof door, I can see more than your red socked foot tapping impatiently. That tells me that despite arriving 15 minutes early, I'm running late. That puts me in a position where I'm nanoseconds away from clumsily bursting in on someone else's audition.

Or maybe they do it deliberately. Maybe navigating a building is our first test. If we make it to the audition room then we’re worth considering. Maybe we should be thankful of the services these ridiculous buildings provide in weeding out the opposition. Or maybe I should just learn to read signs properly.

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