By Olivia Jones
I walk into Elvet Riverside ready for my first audition at university. I have heard some older students say that “freshers never get cast”; however, equipped with several supporting roles in school musicals, I am determined to prove them wrong. I join the queue of eager auditionees waiting outside the room, overlooked by a sullen producer who is typing loudly on a laptop. I collect an audition extract and try to avoid eye contact with someone in the queue with whom I think I made out during Freshers Week. The corridor is filled with a hushed ambience that is unique to corridors outside audition rooms: people reading through their monologues; people warming up their voices, and a few afflicted with the dreaded freshers’ flu who are coughing heavily further down the corridor.
The audition extract I have been given has its pros and cons. It is complicated, but in a way that does not quite go anywhere. The character seems to be displaying several emotions and no emotion at all, all at once. The summary of the show on Wikipedia does not shed light on the context of the speech. It is as if it were designed to slightly confuse actors. I am no theatre critic, but there may be a reason why this show was described as “forgotten and underappreciated” at the audition event. How do I make my audition stand out? Should I play it safe? Or should I try and make some bold acting choices with the material I have been given?
The producer wordlessly beckons me into the room, signalling that my preparation time has drawn to a close. As I enter the audition room, I am met with a theatre director straight out of a stock photograph, complete with beret, thin scarf, and moustache. The assistant director is eating a meal deal next to him.
I begin with my song, which I had spent hours choosing. Two minutes is not a long time in the musical theatre world, I thought when I saw the time limit on the audition event, especially since most songs last over four and tell a significant story. But the song I found and learned is perfect: it is only just over the time limit, has a similar style to the show’s soundtrack, and it also showcases my range and acting capabilities, especially in the second verse. The panel stops me after the first chorus.
We move on to acting. The show is set in New York, so I put on my finest attempt at an American accent. The stage directions simply read “drunkenly”. I have been drunk exactly three times in my life, all within the last week and a half, but nevertheless, I think I have a good amount of experience to convincingly act drunk. As I finish reading, the expressions on the panel’s faces are unreadable. After a moment, the director tells me to read the extract once again, but while sitting down. I sit cross-legged on the carpeted floor. “On a chair, I meant,” the director says. I realise that around the room are several empty chairs – this is a seminar room by day, after all. Oh well. I have made my bed; I shall now sit in it. Bold choices, after all. The panel looks unimpressed. I shall hear from them tomorrow. I thank them for their time.
Leaving the room, I give my contact details to the stony-faced producer and hand the audition extract to an aspiring actor waiting in the queue. They look as hopeful and enamoured with the audition process as I am sure I did less than ten minutes ago. I sigh and walk down the corridor to my next audition. Maybe the second time’s the charm.
Image credit: Verity Laycock
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