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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Central School of Speech and Drama


Last, but not least - the news from my CSSD audition.

At Central their process is to audition over 100 applicants per day. When I arrived there at 9am I was given some forms to fill out and ushered into a big theatre where all of the other applicants were, chatting and filling out their forms.

After 10 minutes we were shepherded into a room on the other side of the school where we were given a speech and divided into 10 or so groups, each group having its own leader, a current student in the second year of the acting course at the school. Then we were given a warm up, a few voice and body exercises.

The morning was to comprise of the following: each one of the divided groups would have 3 one hours sessions:
A tour around the school with our student leader.
An hour workshop- movement based - led and assessed by two teachers.
An hour 'audition' in which each member of the group would give their speeches.

The tour was straightforward - just a good walk around and a chat - to pass the time really.

The movement workshop was interesting. I felt prepared for it as it was along the lines of the movement classes that I take on a weekly basis. The teacher put some music on and asked us to flow with it, letting go of our minds and giving ourselves to impulse. Then he asked us to embody fire. Then as the physical realisation of fire to deliver some of our speeches - one at a time.

The other members of my group were mostly 17 and somewhat inexperienced. Central is a school that you can apply to through UCAS, so I think a lot of kids applying just do it for kicks. Each person had a go and gave it some, but I was surprised at how the panel gave them a hard time- giving them advise on how their movement and flow was falling short to see if they could pick up the slack. Not for the faint hearted.

Then the 10 or so of us (5 boys, 5 girls) were led into another room, two staff on the panel who we each showed our speeches to. It was interesting to watch the other speeches and then share my own with the whole room. They were very strict on the modern time limit and cut off the majority of people's speeches.

Then that was it for the morning session, or 'Round 1' as you could perhaps call it. We were sent away for lunch - returning in half an hour to be dismissed or asked to stay for the afternoon. We all sat there as they read out the names of the chosen- the people that they wanted to see more of, to stay for the afternoon, 'Round 2'. I anxiously waited and hoped to be mentioned...and I was. The room gracefully cleared out and left about 20 of us.

At Central they have 3 'Strands'- three separate drama courses. They audition for all of them at the same time. The strands are: Musical Theatre, Acting for Stage and Screen, Collaborative/Devised Theatre.They explained to me that they wanted to audition me for both of these two strands- not Musical Theatre thankfully! I was the only person to be auditioned for both strands (the only boy in fact for the Devised Theatre strand!)

We went up for this strand first, me and four girls. We were given an hour long - very unusual audition, with a strong emphasis on creating abstract, physical drama. There were two members of staff on the audition panel and three second year students sitting in. The first thing that we were asked to do was to realise the 'unscrunching of a plastic bag' which was demonstrated twice. As a group we were asked to physically dramatise the cooking of a recipe. Then alone we were each asked to devise a short piece based on being a victim of some bad event. Then they worked on our speech asking to take on board some abstract piece of direction. I had to do my Hamlet speech as if vine was growing up my body. Gave it a go!

We were informed that a letter would be in the post within the next few weeks as to whether we were to be asked back for a third round recall.

Then I was escorted to the panel for the other acting strand. It was two members of staff and two students this time. This audition was solely focused on working with my two prepared classical speeches. (At Central you must learn speeches from their list- a bit of a bummer because the other schools don't want to see these speeches so you have to learn two others!)

They were very challenging with their notes, repeatedly stopping me and layering direction into my imagination, 'loading me up'. then they got the students up to do my speeches to, to find new angles and trigger some spontaneity. I think we were working for about 40 minutes. They asked me to go outside whilst they conferred. I went out with one student and left three in there. I popped back in and they said thanks very much - letter in the post.

Next up: Guildhall Friday 8th January

Friday, 25 December 2009

BIG UPDATE!!!

Lots of news to report from this past month, namely what happened at my:

BRISTOL AUDITION on the 12th
RADA recall on the 15th
CENTRAL on the 22nd

And what the news was following the LAMDA audition.

And so first up:

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

The audition was, of course, in Bristol. This meant getting up at 6am to catch a train from Paddington. I got there at 9am (its only a two hour journey). I had never visited the city before and so I took the opportunity to have a good walk around. I liked the feel of it and think I could be happy there if I got a place at the school.

The audition was scheduled for 11am and I got there a little early to sort myself out. The audition required me to sing as well as give a classical and modern speech. I did some voice warm ups a little distance away. The school was very cosy, seemingly a grand sized country house opposite a large green. Five minutes to and I approached the entrance.

Through the front door and the receptionist showed me through the hall to the adjacent room where two or three bright eyed fellow applicants sat. This waiting room seemingly backed on to two other rooms where two audition panels were working throughout. As we sat there we could hear the person in there giving their song and speeches. Oh dear, I thought, he sings like a bloody opera singer. Singing is only part of the audition I reminded myself.

The two other people beside me were chatting away- a garrulous 17 year old and a really camp guy, early twenties. Occasionally they directed a question at me which I quickly answered as I was trying to focus on what I wanted to remember about my speeches. And the door opened and I was summoned.

The long room had a table at one end, RADA style set up. Two ladies, both blonde, one in her thirties, the other in her sixties introduced themselves to me. They had a great glint in their eye, very friendly and I felt at ease. They fielded a lovely selection of personal questions, also telling me things about themselves making it feel more like a conversation than an interview.

Suitably relaxed they asked me which speeches I was to perform, which song to sing -(by the way I'm singing 'Brush Up Your Shakespeare' from Kiss me Kate.) and then asked me to do my stuff. Afterwards, they were wonderfully full of praise. They said that they 'can see why other drama schools have offered recalls'. They mentioned my energy, intensity, obvious great potenitial. They also had criticism - I am not the best singer in the world - granted. And they both wanted to see a relaxed side to my acting - a casual, laid back, making-it-look-easy style. I took what they said on board and left them both all smiles and headed home to London.

News was to follow by email two days later: GOOD NEWS! They have asked me for the recall- 30th January, a full intensive day 9am-6pm. Back to Bristol for a proper grilling.

Now for news from LAMDA - they responded wiith a letter by email following my audition last month. It said words to this effect:
'Thank you for coming. We felt that you did not audition at your best and would like to offer you another chance to have a first audition. We will ask you to attend in due course'
There you have it - nota fail, not a recall success, but somewhere in the middle but on the positive side...so I will give it another go when the time comes!

Now for the RADA recall....got there and was waiting in the reception alone this time. After a while I was led up by the receptionist to wait outside the same audition room. Two girls were ahead of me, perfectly friendly. Then I was called in. There were four on the panel including Ed Kemp, RADA's principal. Two of the others were in their sixties and a bloke in his late thirties. Ed Kemp led the interview, friendly, but obviously not pulling any punches. He asked me some probing questions to get a feel for my theatre knowledge:

What's your favourite type of theatre?

Who's your favourite actor and why?

How did you come to be an actor and here?

What roles have you performed and especially felt an affinity with the character?

I think that my answers were a bit all over the place. Then I did my speeches and my song, all went fine I suppose. Then he asked what other schools I was applying to and then said thank you very much - all over job done.

Week later -letter in the post - regrettable decline to offer me a third recall. No dice. Oh well - good to get the recall, an achievement in itself.

Last news to report - Central School of Speech and Drama. Tune in tomorrow. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Story herein!

Welcome to the latest instalment! News so far:

It was full steam ahead last week preparing for my RADA audition on the Friday and LAMDA on the Sunday.
I had a couple of sessions booked with the best drama teacher I know, well he should be good at £35 an hour!
I had 3 hours with him spread over a couple of speeches and he was a tremendous help and so when it came to Friday morning I felt calm-ish and prepared. After all I have been preparing for this for months now!

He sent me a text message in the morning, which summed up the key points to keep in mind-

'Good Luck. Breathe. Ground. Enjoy,'

I turned up at the tube station 40 minutes early and went into Cafe Neros for a tea. I was wearing a white vest and managed to spill it all down my front just before I left. Brilliant. 15 minutes to go and I was part lime green. Running to buy a new T-shirt was considered, but I thought fuck it - that stain is really the least of your problems this morning, and got on with it.

In the reception at 9am with 5 other people wearing the same nervously expectant face. At 9am prompt we were shown up to a grand conference room and given a curt speech by a secretary type. We filled out a couple of cursory forms and then...the waiting began. The audition panel (2 teaching staff members and a student who collected as and lead us across the hall) saw us one by 1 - and I was last! For an hour and a half I watched as each of them was summoned, lead in for 15 minutes and then left in a cloud of relief, to carry on their life.

There were 4 girls,  3 were 17-18 yrs old, one was maybe early 20s. All smiley, happy and perturbed. There was also a guy who spent the whole time doing vocal and physical warm ups, making life seem rather awkward for the rest of us who were playing it cool. Fair play to him, but he did seem a bit of a burke.

He came out last before me. 'You'll be fine' he smirked in a tone so saturated with condescension I almost fell out of my chair. He was about 19. Great.

'Would you like to come through then'. Long room, table with two friendly faces behind it, an older man, a younger woman and a chair opposite them. The student perched on a table a little way to their right. I took my place and had a nice enough conversation, Their manner was easy and their questions probed my grasp of theatre. 'How much theatre do you see?' 'What do you think of that play' Why did you choose those speeches'.

'Well...please show us your speeches then.' I performed my modern and classical and then they both asked to see my third speech. Apparently sometimes they ask, sometimes they don't- your not supposed to read into it either way.

Then when I finished, the man said 'Good - that speech suits you.' Praise! Wow! They actually make a point of saying that they will not give speech feedback in their paperwork (I suppose it makes the process too long as they are seeing 3000 people who have 2-3 speeches each. You do the math (whilst I cut my hand off for using such a horrifying phrase).

He went on to say something along these lines 'You need to let the words do the work more. The Cassius speech is conspiratorial - he's discussing treason essentially - so bring it down, more intense, and remember - conspirators don't look like conspirators - or they would get caught - factor in that circumstance- with less physical action.'

He finished by asking me me to confirm that I have only had training over the last year and at school. A loaded question? I dare not analyse it. So I walked out feeling pretty good. Nice chat, speeches went well enough, no dropped lines.

'You will hear from us in the post within the week: a letter either saying no thanks - try again next year- or come back and see us for stage 2/4.' Exit.

Days passed.

LAMDA on Sunday. A comparatively lightening quick affair and a different format to boot. In. Meet with Student. Running ahead of schedule. Lead across the school. Custody handed over to a guy outside a door. door opens. Big rehearsal room. Two old academics that looked like they have seen it all behind a table on 1 side of the room. 'Take that marker please and give us your speeches' (15ft away from them' Speeches ensue. 'Thank you...how old are you?' 'Thank you'. Exit.

Lead across to another room with two lovely fresh faced people for a 5 minute chat about this and that. 'How did your speeches go?' 'Had any other auditions?' 'Why those speeches' Thank you. Exit. All over.

Days pass. Letter in the post from RADA.




RECALL!!!!!!! TUESDAY 15th DECEMBER
Get in.
Have to sing a song. 5 members on the panel, including the head of the school. Eeek

So now your up to date. And my current tasks are as follows:

Factor in feedback that RADA gave me.
Have more singing lessons.
Have another private acting lesson.
Work more on speeches.

Speak to you again in a couple of weeks!