To Succeed Or Not To Succeed – How Do You Do It?

Over the last weekend I have travelled across the country to go to two auditions. I love travelling so this was a great experience, plus any chance to go to London I jump upon, it is simply my favourite city! Anyway, I thought I would divulge some information about what an acting audition is like. For some readers this article will evoke a strong sense of déjà vu, whilst for others this article should offer an insight into the acting audition experience. To conclude I will offer some advice, but take it with a pinch of salt, I’m no Cumberbatch yet!

Audition One – Friday

This audition was in Highbury & Islington, an up and coming area of North London. The audition itself was above a cool bar, and I nervously rang the doorbell asking to come in. I was not auditioning for a specific part here, but rather for an agency, someone who could find work for me. I greeted the man and said ‘Hello’, then the classic small talk began: ‘How was your journey’ or ‘How long did it take you to get here’ etc. etc.

Before I was even given the chance to do my monologue, this lovely guy was firing off all the jobs his clients had got in the past few months, as though this was some sort of sales pitch! I have never understood that in my experiences of auditioning for agents; it is us actors who are desperate to get representation from them, yet the agencies are always telling us who they have on their books and what great opportunities they have for you. I came banging on their door, let me do the sales pitch, let me do the monologue. I don’t care if the best job you’ve ever found was a one-man show in a telephone box, I want anything you can find!

After the niceties and the superfluous sales pitch, I am given my time to shine. I was performing the ‘If it were done’ soliloquy from Macbeth, yet was performing it in a tiny room. I’d prepared this piece with a lot of movement, but, not being able to move quite as expected, had to adjust as required. I am always a fervent believer of the philosophical mantra of ‘going for it’. So I did. I went in with the conviction needed to make these few minutes seem as genuine as possible. I pretended to be a egomaniacal man married to a psychopathic wife who was determined to become King. It was great fun. One can only do their best, fortunately this auditioner liked what he saw and offered me representation.

Sir Kenneth Branagh playing Macbeth in Manchester.

Audition Two – Saturday

This audition was held at The Actors Centre in Central London, right in the heart of ‘Theatreland’. I have been to many auditions over the years, but the same sensations arise every time. I feel energized yet nervous, as if I’ve ingested sugar to the point where it makes you feel a little sick. After arriving at The Actors Centre, I was redirected to the rehearsal room where the audition was going to be held.

There’s always some sort of showmanship going on at these events. Someone in the room where you are will be flamboyant, obviously acting before the audition has even started. They will go and shake the auditioner’s hand violently, move around with a spurious energy which makes me question whether or not they have any narcotic dependencies, anything to set an impression. The audition is a performance, I guess some people just get going a few minutes before I do! Acting is a cutthroat world, I don’t blame theme acting in such a way, but the lack of genuineness is visible from a mile away.

Again, niceties and small talk begin the affair. ‘Where are you from?’ the standard. The casting director will then give you an introductory spiel, then it is one in after the other. I was in second this time. Before going in is a great opportunity to be an ultimate people-watcher, whilst keeping the monologue you have prepared in the back of your mind. Some pace around the waiting room, frantically going over their prepared piece, some seem to be ultra-cool, as if apocalyptic warfare could break outside, but they would still be calm and ready for their audition. You simply never know. This time there was only one other outside with me, a personable twenty-something year-old guy from South London. We had a brief chat about Theatre in Education (we were auditioning for a show to be performed to children at schools) and then eavesdropped on the guy currently auditioning, in a fruitless attempt to work out what monologue he was performing.

My name was then called. I walked in, the walk in being the moment where your nerves reach there strongest, telling you this is a bad idea, willing you to fail. A few deep breathes and a ‘Hello’ to the casting director and the nerves are banished, the adrenaline and pure excitement taking its place. This is a performance, after all, and it is your time to shine. I performed my monologue, albeit not perfectly, but the casting director wanted to see more, offering direction on how I should perform this monologue a second time. I took his direction on board, and performed the monologue in the way proposed. This time much better. Well enough to get the part. Two brilliant days with two successes.

The Actors Centre, where my audition was held.

Advice On Auditioning

Now I was very lucky to have got these two successes in back-to-back auditions. I have been going to auditions for the last six months, without success. You just have to keep turning up, that is the key. Keep turning up and successes will follow.

If I were to offer any advice it would be to not be a suck-up, take direction well, and be prepared.

Don’t Be A Suck-Up

Nobody likes a bootlicker. Be confident and friendly, but never over-the-top, it only makes you appear unprofessional and desperate.

Take Direction Well

This is very important, in my opinion. Even if you do not fully agree with the direction the auditioner has given you, prove to them that you can take direction. They need actors to be able to do whatever a director asks of them, so you need to prove that you can do this!

Be Prepared

This is a really useful and straightforward way to set a good impression. By be prepared I mean know your monologue flawlessly, but not just the words. Know the play, the character you’re portraying, and exactly what is happening at the moment your monologue is set. If you know all of this before going in, the auditioner will know you’re proactive and that you will prepare in the same way for whatever the show, play or film is. All of the above should give the auditioner the best possible impression of you.

Final Thoughts

Break a leg to anyone who is auditioning and has read this. I hope all goes well for you. If you have read this but are not an aspiring actor, I hope you have seen what the auditioning experience is like. The advice above can be loosely applied to interviews in general, too.  Its a crazy world, the acting world. I’m a crazy man, so think this world suits me just fine…

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