The Stage


Grads' Club

A year in the life

In an industry built on the rolling wheels of gossip and hearsay (alas, not the ill fated pop group. Although I’m sure Noel has had his fair share of whisperings whilst receiving multiple chills from his Sandy), I suddenly found myself quite out of the loop this week.

I was at an audition yesterday and it was a bit of a culture shock. Of course I remember the nervous changing room banter, the many coloured vests and the “Talk amongst yourselves” - it was quite good to come back to those. The 35 guys in one studio with another 50 girls outside peering in as they wait to tap away their dignity for the next TV dance crew I could’ve done without, but I guess that’s the nature of certain auditions.

The interesting thing here was dancing with four guys who only weeks prior to the bright vest-athon of yesterday, were giving me their best 16 bars at auditions where I was sat firmly on the other side of the table. And bizarrely, I felt it more important to prove why I was in a dance call with them than having to validate my role on a creative team. Interesting. I suppose by holding my own in the same field that we were assessing them on earlier in the month (one hopes!) it goes some way to making the latter less strange, both for me and those auditionees who I were now auditioning with.

I also encountered one of my major bugbears this week, which has on occasion led to pub brawls and fisticuffs. No, not a Bros track on the jukebox, nor the latest series of that X based ‘talent’ show. No. In fact, it was the ever irksome moment when an actor fails to take a note or perhaps offers his/her view on the note received or in a worst case scenario starts a ‘debate’ (more commonly known as argument) about the note; I mean really, smile and say thank you. That’s all that’s required of you in that moment.

I’m sure that a three year dance training instils this level of discipline in you automatically. If the step ball change whack is on the 7 count and you’re doing it on the 8, you can do nothing but take the note. And yes, there might be a certain level of leeway as far as noting a play is concerned where actor’s choices are being questioned. However, even then, if a director has asked you to try something different, then you should try it. If it doesn’t work then by all means there is a discussion to be had in private with the director to make it work. But to flatly refuse the note is rude and remarkably unprofessional.

Speaking to a director I’m currently working with, he suggested that a lot of conflict in note sessions stems from simple miss projection. An actor might be adamant he is being stirring and romantic when all the while the audience are getting “crazed lunatic with over active eyebrows”. And it’s the director’s job to focus the actor’s performance to best tell the story they are playing. An actor should be open to this and want to communicate the story as best he can. This involves having someone as an outside eye and so there has to be an understanding of trust that what they are asking of you is necessary to clarify the story telling.

Anyway, as our good friends M People said, moving on up. This week has also seen Bells Are Ringing enter its third sell out week at the Union, Flashdance reaching press night at the Shaftesbury and Complicite joining forces with NT Live to broadcast A Disappearing Number to cinemas across the world. What a marvellously mixed bag of theatre treats. Who knows what would happen if 25% of our arts and culture were slashed but it would be a travesty to dilute the incredible artistic talent within this county when it is enjoyed by so many and is such an integral part of who we are. And if that’s not quoted in some sort of “response to the arts crisis” article next week I’ll be most upset.

Hats and scarves at the ready as the weather takes a sudden drop and Londoners begin wrapping up for winter. It also means I need to get a new comedy woolly hat. I’ve never really been a hat man but I always feel most people can get away with some sort of silly knitted affair in winter. So if you do spot a tall chap wearing a many bobbled monstrosity, singing his way along the street in the coming chill, do say hello.

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