I had heard lots of things about the Drama Centre audition being extremely brutal and difficult and so I was very hesitant and reluctant to attend my audition for the school, especially after receiving so many knock backs recently, however I pulled myself together and went regardless of how defeated I felt. I spent the journey to London reading about the audition process and other candidates experiences. I was informed that we would perform our monologues in front of a panel of two tutors at Drama Centre as well as a graduate student, and once everyone had been seen we would have to wait for a list to go up with the people they wanted to see for the workshop in the afternoon. According to the bogs and articles I had read about the school, they tend to take 14 people in a year group, predominantly with a ratio of 3:1 boys to girls, meaning it is extremely difficult to gain a place at the school, and equally as hard to get recalled as they tend to be in favour of recalling more boys than girls for the course. This information, alongside the experiences I had heard from people I had met at past auditions, made me extremely reluctant and hesitant about auditioning as knew the odds were definitely not in my favour!
When I arrived at the school I was instructed to wait in reception until we were called by the person running the audition – as I was one of the first applicants to arrive I sat there and filled out the remaining forms we were to bring with us (a speech form with the play titles and characters listed, explaining the context of the speech, a 300 word statement about why we wanted to train at Drama Centre, and a photo form with information about our experience and training to this date). After everyone had arrived and briefly introduced themselves we were greeted by the graduate student, Grant, who would be looking after us and leading our short warm up before the panel audition. He explained that he studied at Drama Centre for 4 years in total, as he did the Foundation course first, and is now a working acting and producer, as well as often working with Drama Centre on projects and audition days. We were taken to the audition room where we did a brief warm up, consisting of a name game (which he called ‘layers’ as it involved remembering the names of the group in different orders and adding clicks/walking depending on who was addressing you) and also the rubber chicken body warm up. After this we went straight into performing our pieces to the panel, and naturally I was first to be called up.
I performed my modern speech first as I find it the easiest to warm up into as it is very naturalistic and relatable in age and style. I think I had gotten to the point where it was coming out of my mouth on autopilot again without me really listening to what I was saying, and although it felt very natural and realistic I think it lost its spontaneity and sounded like I already knew what I was going to say. I think the fact I know the piece so well and it just comes out without me necessarily thinking another the text, worked against me on this occasion as I ended up skipping out a section (however I don’t think this was noticeable as it still flowed well and made sense as speech). I went in to set up for my Shakespeare speech straight after I had finished however I was stopped and told that we would go round all of the candidates first speeches first and then go back round the group and perform our second speeches. I was slightly disappointed as I had worked myself up to perform my monologue and felt in the zone, as well as the face that I recently found out that another of the girls auditioning was also doing the Cressida monologue as their classical speech (which is my first choice Shakespeare) and so wanted to be the first to do mine! The rest of the people auditioning were okay however no one really caught my attention and made me think ‘wow’, especially the girls who were all pretty bland in their energy and performing style. There were only two boys in our audition (both of whom were 23+ and were auditioning here for their second and third times) and admittedly they were both composed and confident performers that owned the space and held themselves well. One of the actors was Welsh and had a very strong accent that complimented his Shakespeare and made his dialogue aww man very focused and solid and reminds me of the likes of actors like David Tenant who excel with Shakespeare. Despite his composed and strong delivery I felt that he lacked variety and his performance was very static and failed to show his ability to move. On the other end of the spectrum was the other male who was very strong and gesturing and moving in an animated and natural way on stage and owned the space very well, however I felt he often rushed his dialogue and slurred his words into each other because of the rapid pace of his delivery. In my opinion most of the girls have pretty average and bland performances and although there were some occasions that made me chuckle, I think it was the writing that was numerous not the actors’ delivery of the text. As I expected the girl who also had the Cressida speech chose to do that first, which although was annoying I knew I had a back up Shakespeare if needed. The girl did it in quite a generic and generalised cliche of love, which although worked for her, i didn’t quite connect with it and thought it was quite a safe option and perhaps she didn’t quite know the meaning or objective of each line as it was all brushed over with the thought ‘my character is in love’.
When it was my turn to perform my classical speech I gave the panel the offer of me presenting one of my other classical monologues instead so they didn’t have to sit through another Cressida, however they said they would still like to see the Cressida as they were sure I would do it in a different way to the version we had just seen. I asked one of the boys to stand in as the body of Troilus so I could direct the speech to him (however part of me wishes I didn’t as the boy had started to get cocky about being picked to be the stage in so often!). I felt my speech went as expected and I felt pleased with how I left time for reactions and to think before I spoke (as I wanted to take on board my Arts Ed comment about rushing) – however, despite this I still felt there were bits I brushed over slightly. I must say, although it’s so good having s body stand it can sometimes work against you when they don’t react at all as it can go against the image you had conjured in your head of their reactions when practicing. Overall I was pleased about how obviously different my portrayal of Cressida in the monologue was to the other girl as it showed I hadn’t just interpreted it in the generic way and had thought about my choices.
After everyone had performed both of our speeches we were taken of a short tour of the Central Saint Martins building and the Drama Centre space. It was undeniably a beautiful building which was a converted old granary building, with exposed brickwork, wooden beams and modern furnishing and glass decisions and extremely high ceilings. The building is an art, design and fashion complex to so was filled with quirky styles and people. The drama centre space seemed really nice, however we didn’t get to see much other than the corridors and outside of the rehearsal spaces and studios as classes were taking place, as it was term time. I got the feeling that there was a strong connection between the student years at Drama Centre, as the graduate guide explained they have a buddying system that is passed down throughout the years from third years looking after a year 2 and then year 2 with year 1 and so on and so fourth. The graduate explained that his buddy family supposedly kinks back to Tom Hardy! The facilities seemed very good with recording studios, theatre space, black box studio, radio booths, ballet studios and a massive costume supply and wardrobe department – Grant explained that costume is a big part of the actor training at DCL, with the belief that it is with the correct costume an actor starts to feel and move like the character.
The list went up after the tour had commenced, showing three names, none of which were mine! The two boys were obviously called back (no surprise), but the third name was definitely a strange choice which I can’t really see their rational behind, as her performance was undeniably boring and extremely bland! I had slightly got my hopes up as all of the other candidates were saying to me that they knew my name would be up there, as they thought I was the strongest actor. So although I personally wasn’t expecting it to be, the fact everyone else expected it to be, made the blow that little bit harder when it wasn’t listed. Nevertheless, the fact the only girl to be recalled was someone who most of us couldn’t really remember, and who I thought gave the most boring and monotone performance, made me question what they were looking for and whether it would be the place for me after all! I later discovered that it was also her third time auditions at the school and that she was that but older than the rest of us – but still! When I was walking out several more of the people in the group approached me and said that they were all so surprised I wasn’t recalled as they thought I was the best and gave a really strong performance, which really lifted my spirits as I knew these people’s opinions were genuine and that they had no obligation to say this to me if they didn’t believe it! At the end of the day, although I am disappointed, the comments from my peers lifted me and meant far more to me than the the fact I wasn’t recalled, as well as the illogical fact the only girl who was recalled was a pretty awful actress in my (and everyone else’s) opinion and so refrained me from judging my worth and ability on the panels decision and opinion!!!
We were informed that some of us might hear back regarding offers for other courses such as foundations or a different pathways – I’m not expecting to hear anything back but we’ll see!
Update: I received an email several days later saying that the panel were really impressed with my audition and wanted to invite me back for a recall audition for their one year foundation course, which I will be attending some time in February!