Here is a brief list of important things I have learnt about auditioning. I should point out to avoid wasting all of your time that absolutely none of these tips involve help in actually getting the job once you’re in the room. Still trying to figure that one out for myself. I’ll let you know.
Do – Pick your moments to ask about the logistics.
In 1999 at the age of 10 – I arrived onto British television. I performed a live and frankly stunning version of “Whole Again” on the “Atomic Kitten Kareoke” section of The Saturday Show presented by Dani Behr. Cruelly robbed of the grand prize (a chance to perform with Atomic Kitten themselves) – my blind rage at the injustice of show business was short-lived when my mother recieved a phone call from a casting director in LONDON who had spotted my obvious pizzazz with a 90s ballad and invited me to come up for an audition to play the tooth fairy herself in a new comedy with Ray Winstone.
I don’t remember much about the audition apart from the casting director fatefully saying she would “Let me know.” As I descended the stairs a terrible fear gripped me. She’d said she would “let me know ” – but when?!!!! We only had one landline and my sister hogged it day and night playing digi-pets on the dial-up internet ! What if Hollywood called and we were too busy doing the big shop in Lidl to answer ?? The anxiety overwhelmed me and before my mother could stop me I bolted back towards the casting room, burst through the doors, horribly interrupting Sylvia Young’s finest mid-audition, and screamed at the top of my little welsh lungs;
“YOU SAID YOU’D LET ME KNOW BUT YOU FORGOT TO SAY WHEEEEEN!!!”
I’m still waiting. May be advisable to phone your agent and get them to check for you next time.
Don’t – Overestimate your skill-set. No matter how unemployed you are.
You’d think I’d have twigged something was amiss when I sat my 5ft squat welsh bum down in the American Church next to a harem of lithe limbed, 6ft beauties who all knew each other from Laine. I didn’t. I didn’t because I am stupid. I didn’t twig until the choreographer stuck her head of the door and asked us all to put our tap shoes on and prepare for the dance call.
Not wanting to admit that putting it mildly I was very much unaware/unprepared for this development – I very cooly let out an “Oh plums. Love to have a step-ball-change sesh with you all but what a darn shame I seem to have forgotten my shoes, I’ll just have to wait here for the acting bits” – at which point lithe limbs #3 clearly sensing a golden comedy opportunity kindly offers me her spare pair. Which so happen to be in my size. Oh thank you very fucking much you absolute babe.
It is at this point I should have admitted that my at best I have the tap skills of a drunken Ian Hislop. But I didn’t. I didn’t because as you now know I am stupid. And also at the time so very unemployed that I would have happily danced the Cha Cha naked over tower bridge to get out of another month of temping. It was then I had the worst thought I have ever had in my life:
“How hard can it be?”
Very. Is the answer. Very hard. Very, very hard. Hard.
I learned an important lesson that day – neither unemployment, sheer desperation nor blind panic will enable you to play the clarinet/speak Spanish or master any form of dance. All of these things were subsequently removed from my CV. Information about my dyspraxia is available upon request.
Don’t – Be Too Early.
I’ll keep it brief like my last meeting for Legally Blonde. There is nothing worse than being on the Northern Line with your face in someone’s armpit, helpless as the “signal failure” slowly and mercilessly crushes your one big chance – so I would always advise leaving loads of time in order to arrive fresh-faced, sweat free and ready to kick some acting ass.
However. If you are an unemployed actor – this probably means you are very poor. Which definitely means spending £10 on a frappacino and £20 on stationary up to 3 times a week is going to ruin your life. I feel like the staff in Paper chase Tottenham Court Road should be made aware of this problem and start banning Spotlight members from purchasing anything half an hour either side of their meetings at RADA. We aren’t of sound mind guys.
That being said, do NOT under any circumstance take the “free personality test” in the Scientology centre on Goodge Street to kill time. I know it seems like an inexpensive and harmless way to kill time but trust me when I say this It will NOT. END. WELL.
Take a book, last nights’ chicken and sit in Soho Square like the bum you are until 15 minutes prior. You can thank me for that one when the tax man calls in January.
Do – Say hello
Walking into a room which contains dozens of people who look like a thinner/more successful/bigger breasted version of you can be a little daunting. In the early years I sat in the corner, hiding my face behind my phone (they were fortunately bigger at the time) – whilst scanning the room and dissecting all the ways everybody else was going to nail it and subsequently make me look like the bargain basement pound land version of them.
And then one day, I sat down opposite the vision incarnate of what I had in mind when I read the part I was desperate to play. My dreams died before my very eyes and as I fixed her with a gaze of both admiration and bitter contempt – she turned to me and said;
“Jesus Christ I’m hungover. Are you off book? Because I’m not. Shit the bed I’m nervous.” My shoulders went down, I made a friend for the afternoon and it was a total game change.
I started saying hello to people who seem up for it and ever since, I have found audition waiting rooms to be places of real solidarity. As our forefathers sat anxiously in the trenches waiting to go over the top sat sharing a last cigarette with their doomed comrades – so I have shared lipgloss, thoughts about characters and even a post-traumatic gin afterwards. Nobody has ever been mean or unkind to me and it has always not only made me feel calmer, but also made me realise that we are all swimming in the same stormy sea. Also, none of us are off book.
Do – Listen to Walter White before every audition you ever go for.
Because he can say it better than me anyway. And because he is the one who knocks.
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