Sunday, 18 November 2012

Un-Free Speech

It’s worrying when you start to see auditions and what kind of blogging potential they will bring. If my agent asks then you totally tell them that my first thought is how it will benefit my career. But, in all honesty, I mainly wonder how good an anecdote they’ll produce. I realise it’s about as professional as a politician’s expenses spreadsheet but I must admit that it does make gut-wrenchingly horrible auditions that little bit more bearable. And a recent audition was no exception.

The second I got the email through, I was getting excited about the blog. The damn thing hadn’t even happened yet and I already knew that it was going to make my insides scowl. There was a workshop. There were speeches. There was singing. There was hardly any notice. There was dance. It was going to be horrible. It was going to upset me more than Ribena ToothKind. But I went, of course. Because I’m a professional. It was nothing to do with the fact that I’d had very little to blog about over the last couple of weeks. No way.

So, off I went, the edges of my mouth about as heavy as my heart. And, as usual, my entrance was a fitting start to the whole debacle. Yet again, the production company had failed to secure any kind of waiting room meaning that when you arrived, you were propelled straight into the audition before yours. I tried to back out but the director insisted that I sit in and watch a bunch of actors stumble their way through some Shakespeare with the subtlety of a herd of hippos in top hats. I suddenly found myself sat almost underneath them as they tripped and fumbled through prose and verse. As awkwardness isn’t one of the key warm ups for an audition, I decided to try and find somewhere to try and pretend that I was getting myself ready. My options were to either stomp in front of the audition panel or hide behind a curtain. So, as I took my place behind the curtain, I patiently waited until the audition was over. Of course, I wasn’t to know that there were at least another ten minutes to go. Ten whole minutes trapped between a cold, brick wall and a musty old cloth. I must really love this job.

Finally the Shakespeare Stagger was over and the next workshop was called. As I emerged from behind the curtain, I discovered a whole host of other actors had since entered and were merrily chatting away. I came out feeling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and, I’m sorry to say, that was the high point of the audition. Followers of this blog will know that there is no place in my heart for workshop auditions. Seemingly innocent warm up games and improvisation sessions turn into competitive trials that would make Hercules balk. Fixed smiles and flailing arms become the order of the day as everyone becomes desperate to be seen and remembered. However, this audition had an additional element: MONOLOGUES.

The need for monologues has decreased somewhat. I can now go for months or years before I’m asked to do one which means that, rather unprofessionally, I don’t really keep any at the ready any more. They’re a chore to find and I think that, more often than not, they bring out the pretentious side of actors which is something many struggle to keep under wraps at the best of times anyway. So, being asked to prepare a couple for an audition with very little notice was something I embraced with the same enthusiasm that I’d embrace a spider. But performing a couple of monologues to an audition panel is FINE. Absolutely and completely fine. But in front of all your competitors? Oh pass me the sick bucket. And actually, it’s not that I have a problem performing mine in front others. If I did then I'm really in the wrong profession. It’s more that I have to sit through everyone else’s. All twenty of them. All twenty of them performing two speeches each. That’s 38 bloody speeches (yes, maths fans, I’ve already deducted my own from the harrowing ordeal.) So, we settled down to watch everyone desperately emote their way through nearly 90 minutes' worth of monologues. And very few had done the decent thing of choosing short speeches. Oh no. They’d chosen the double-sided printed ones. The ones that, were you watching them in the theatre, would have you trying to get your watch in the right light so you could work out how much longer you have to endure this crap. 

I’ll admit that some were good. A couple made me a bit jealous. But the majority made me want to gnaw off mine and everyone else’s feet. I’m still having nightmares about it now. It’s so bad that I can’t even begin to write about the rest of the audition. The dancing. And the singing. And the movement pieces. And the chanting in a bloody round. I’ll save all that for another day when we’re all feeling a bit more brave.

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