The audition for The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was set out differently to most other schools audition days. Firstly, Central has a total of three Acting Pathways which each applicant specifies their interest in auditioning for (CDT, Acting, and MT), however the panel will consider your suitability for each of the courses and if they think you may be suited better to a different pathway they may advice you to do so and you may be recalled for the other course. The audition day is made up of a series of rotating sessions including a presentation of your chosen monologues to an audition panel of tutors at the school, a workshop where the panel will see you move and interact as well as showing your chosen unaccompanied song, and a tour of the building.
The whole day started with a full physical/vocal warm up with everyone who was auditioning on the day before we were split up into groups depending on our preferred course choice and then started the day. The first thing I did was the tour of the school, and I really loved the feel of the building which was a mixture of old original rooms and a more modern extension which helped the school feel new and up to date. Once this was completed it was time to present our monologues to the panel (which we did in front of the rest of the group). The panel consisted of two woman who taught at the school, one of which was Sarah Case (the voice and text tutor) who was older and clearly very traditional in her ways. I was the first to be called up to perform my monologues, and although this added slightly more pressure, I was pleased to get it out of the way, so I could relax and watch the others without the fear of performing my own at the back of my head. At this stage we didn’t receive any redirection, however the panel did ask us a few questions. We were requested not to perform our speeches to the panel directly or to use the other auditionees, but obviously my modern speech required me to do this and so I had to think on my feet and decided to play it front and just to imagine the character just to the side of where the panel were, to ensure I didn’t distract them with unnecessary eye contact. I started with my Cressida monologue which I felt I performed well, followed by A Brief History of Helen of Troy which I performed with the new angle I work-shopped in my last audition class. I felt that this new approach to the piece really freshened it up and allowed my to deliver certain lines without automatically saying it in a particular way due to autopilot. I played it with much more innocence and as if I really did want to be a porn star and didn’t see anything wrong with the idea at all – which actually made the monologue more humorous for an audience and showed the characters naivety.
Following this we were to take part in a workshop, however on arrival, myself and another girl quickly realised that the person leading the workshop was someone who was on the panel and lead the workshop at our GSA auditions and so we had to inform our student helper and were moved to another group to prevent any bias decisions or preconceived opinions being made. We had the choice of being out with the CDT group or the MT group for the next part of our audition and so I decided MT would be best seeing as we were yet to show our songs. On arrival to the new group I became worried as obviously all the applicants for this course were bound to be extremely good singers, however I tried to not let this affect me. We were called up one by one and were asked to perform our unaccompanied song followed by our Shakespeare monologue again – as this particular panel hadn’t yet seen us act. As I was sitting there I couldn’t remember the words to one of the songs I was planning on presenting, so at the last minute I decided to do a different one that I had also prepared, ‘Dear Daddy’ by Bobby Croin, alongside Cressida again as I felt it was the stronger and less conventional of the two Shakespearean speeches. I felt my singing was strong and that I acted it well and conveyed the emotion in the song (which in my opinion not many of the MT applicants did as well), I was particularity pleased with how I handled the runs in the chorus of the song as this isn’t an area I am too practised or confident in compared to some people. I felt the MT audition panel were a lot more welcoming and warm than the Acting panel and so felt a lot more at ease and as if they wanted us to do well. The only thing I regretted about joining this new group was that I missed out on being seen for CDT, however I suppose this couldn’t be helped.
After this session was finished we were allowed to go on a lunch break where all the panels made decisions on whom they wanted to recall. After lunch we all convened in one of the studio rooms and the course leaders read out names of individuals who had been recalled for each of the courses; they explained how some people may be requested to be seen for courses that they didn’t initially indicate as their first choice but that the panel had seen potential in that area and may think you are better suited to that course. I was thrilled to be read out as one of those who had been given a recall for the Acting course, and even more surprised to be one of very few people who had be requested to be seen for more than one of the courses, as I was recalled for MT as well!
The recall audition was extremely full on and the panel certainly put each of us through our paces, testing us and pushing us in areas they felt they needed to see more of. The thing I really liked about Central was that in the recall they spent as much time as they needed to on each individual person, and looked at different things for different people depending on the areas they felt they needed to investigate further – they may spend 10 minutes on one person and 45 minutes on another.
We started the Acting recall with a short movement and vocal warm up where we did various exercises that I remembered from other auditions and also my Youth Theatre Sessions with David at Bury Theatre Royal at home! For example the diction exercises such as ‘PPPPP’ and ‘AH, OH, OOO, EEE, EH’ exercises.
For the recall we had to offer our second Shakespeare speech we had prepared (mine was Ophelia) and then they pulled it apart and worked on specific areas, asked questions about the character, the play, the subtext, objective etc. The first thing I was asked was why I picked Ophelia and I explained how I felt that the Character Ophelia was very misunderstood by actors and audiences alike, how she is always portrayed as this floaty, fragile being, when in reality she is a lot more complex than that and is far tougher than she seems. The panel seemed very relived by that answer and went on to say that that was a breath of fresh air to hear as they had seen numerous amounts of pathetic Ophelia’s throughout the audition process so far! I performed my monologue as practised however I tried to invest more force and anger behind the dialogue. I got to the end of the speech, however as soon as I had finished I was interrogated by one of the panel and asked numerous questions about the character and how she felt etc. This particular member of the panel was extremely brutal and blunt and had a way of testing you and pushing you beyond belief – which despite being extremely difficult and slightly demoralising, I loved! She gave me a lecture about all the girls who come to auditions and give generic Juliet’s and Ophelia’s and how if they are not going to invest anything in it and do something different then they should just give up now! Then she made me do it again and this time brought in the student helper to be her father as she felt I needed more incentive and motivation in the scene. The other panellist chipped in and asked me to run up and down the corridor a few times before entering as obviously the character Ophelia would have just come straight from the situation to find her father and tell him. This I did, and I felt it helped charge the character and give me more energy and passion for the scene, however the panel still felt like the stakes seemed too low, perhaps because the actor I was playing against wasn’t giving me much to play off. I was made to do this activity over and over and over again, running back and fourth up the corridor before entering the room, clocking her father and then approaching him and trying to get him to listen to her. I felt that doing this helped get the characters desperation and agitation across as well as her persistence and strength. After doing this several times, they wanted to take a slightly different approach and try and portray how difficult it would have been for Ophelia to tell her father (whom she doesn’t have much of a relationship with) that Hamlet pretty much just exposed herself to her and how shaken up she would be and how nervous and apprehensive she would be about telling her father, especially as he would probably just dismiss it. This was difficult to do as I had to juggle that same power on entering the room and approaching her father with the hesitation and difficulty before actually verbalising what happened and getting him to listen! It was really difficult to do but I really enjoyed working on the scene with the tutors and felt like I learnt a lot and was pushed in so many ways, but I also felt like I took on board what they said and was willing to work on it and accept the direction and build the scene and character.
Only myself and one other girl were recalled for both MT and Acting, so we were seen separately after we had finished our acting recall. I was the last to be seen and so spent a lot of time waiting with the student helpers which was actually really enjoyable and helped distract me and pass the time, as well as giving me an insight to the types of people at the school and whether I thought I would fit in with them or not. I felt I gelled quite well with them and they really made me feel at ease and as if I was on the same level as them which was really nice.
By the time it was my audition slot I was pretty tired as it had been an extremely long day, and I was the last person to be seen and so it was pretty late by now. Luckily the panel was equally as warm and welcoming as earlier in the day and I felt relatively at ease as obviously they had seen something they like earlier as otherwise they wouldn’t have called me back – especially as it wasn’t even my chosen course!
I presented them my folder which had several songs in, however I indicated that the song I had prepared was ‘Gimme Gimme’ from Thoroughly Modern Millie. The pianist wondered if I had anything more legit in my repertoire and unfortunately I didn’t as I wasn’t even expecting to be auditioning for MT, however I luckily had two other songs in my folder which I could offer (‘Not A Day Goes By’ and ‘Somewhere that’s Green’, both of which I hadn’t actually sung in months and months – nearly a year). Thankfully they agreed that Gimme Gimme would be fine and so I performed that to the panel (the man I was supposed to workshop with earlier was on the panel too) and it seemed to go pretty well overall, although I could have perhaps acted it with a bit more truth. Once I had finished the pianist asked if I would sing ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ in my own accent and got the student helper up to sing it to after asking me questions about who the character could be talking to. I explained that in the show she is singing to herself or the audience but out of context she could be singing to Seymour or her friend or someone she could confide in. As I hadn’t sung the song in about a year I unfortunately missed out the bridge by accident and jumped right to the end, however I didn’t apologise for this instead I finished confidently in the attempt of pretending it was planned all along! However I was asked to go back and sing the bridge, which I did without much panic and I felt like I did confidently.
Once this was done I was allowed to go, and was informed that we would hear a decision after Christmas. Although I really loved the feel of Central and the teaching style, if I don’t get any further I still feel like I got the most out of the day and learnt a lot from the workshops, and at the end of the day I did the best I could and so should be happy!