“Hello, my name is David and I’m going to be doing Richard III from Richard III by William Shakespeare.” Alarm bells bounce off the wall and hit me like an Acme hammer. I applaud any young person for even considering showing Richard III at an audition and quite remarkably, this chap was actually rather good, but it immediately opens up a minefield of pitfalls which even most accomplished actors would prefer to do without.
Yes, we started the NYT casting auditions in Newcastle last week and they got off to a great start. A run of 21 speeches in the afternoon did leave me slightly bleary eyed, but the members were great and really stepped up to the challenge.
But back to Richard, and perhaps my pet hate at auditions - ‘mad’ acting. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never seen huge worth in an audition speech that involves split personalities, long drawn out screaming or talking to a variety of cuddly toys, animals, cheeses or similar. I find these speeches are often chosen to shock or appear ‘out there’ and often fail to show the true talent of the actor. Of course, there is always truth in madness and if the actor can access that and find an emotional connection, thumbs up: potentially a very moving audition. However, the majority choose to shout, scream and bang things, throwing in the occasional switch between manic laughter and wailing to show variety. This type of audition will eventually send me mad and I arrive home in a cold sweat, banging walls and playing Shirley Bassey unnecessarily loud on a record player.
So I got to thinking about the ideal audition speech. And yes, this acting game does involve some element of ‘pretending’, but we can all give ourselves a helping hand and choose a speech which will help us and not play against us.
Choose something close to your playing age and life experiences. A 16 year old girl should not be attempting a Talking Heads number about endless days in a dog chewed armchair waiting for Meals on Wheels to bring her favourite Lancashire hotpot.
Shakespeare does not impress by default. Yes, he is one of the world’s greatest playwrights, but don’t be fooled into stumbling over “Happy be Theseus!”. All that glisters is not gold, so choose a text you are comfortable with and is within your playing ability.
Speak up. If the panel can’t hear, you’ve failed before you’ve begun. Make sure you’ve warmed up vocally and you speak with appropriate volume for the space in which you perform.
Good luck to all those auditioning for NYT in the next few weeks. Give it your best and above all else, please enjoy it!
As the start of rehearsals edges ever nearer, I’m being warned about the physical nature of the show and just how exhausted I will be. This, teamed with a rather stressful house hunt, has sort of rearranged my housing priorities - large bath, ample wine storage and plenty of room for a rather marvellous snug made up of many bean bags, cushions and comforting throws! And of course some very understanding housemates who will hopefully be uncannily good at massages - yes, you two, get practicing….!