As I may have already discussed, Central is unlike many other drama schools in that it hosts two full size strands of drama students within their overall Acting course. Each strand studies much of the same things and has the same experience of learning, however at various points they break off and specialise in slightly different areas of acting. I'm sure that there are numerous differences, but in the simplest way it is like this:
'Collaborative and Devised Theatre' has a focus on creation. Making your own work, and having the industry skills to build your own artistic platform (e.g. your own theatre company) to perform from. 'Acting for Stage and Screen' is a more conventional approach with a focus on all methods of acting, especially for the screen.
When you first audition they can tell which strand you may be suited for, (who knows how?) I was recalled for both strands, and so was invited to attend two separate 'Final Recall Mornings'. This seemed like a bonus- because a larger number of places were potentially still available
The first recall was for Acting for Stage and Screen. Roughly thirty students gathered in the foyer, half boys and half girls. Your typical bright eyed and bushy tailed folks. When the time came we were ushered into a large rehearsal room and were taken for a voice and a movement warm up. Standard exercises to loosen up and get centred.
Then came some drama work – group improvisations. We split in half and had a few minutes to plan a group improv. – one group set in an airport waiting room, the other in an Emergency Room. Certain events had to get ticked off, for example, two strangers had to realise that they shared a connection and at the end someone got some news on the phone that effected the whole group.
The scene played out. I adopted a character that was a little too forced- a man in great pain with little patience. I believe that this was an exercise in subtlety- to be there and exist naturally, but not to show any acting.
The meat of the audition was getting each person up on stage to work with the panel through their speeches. Everyone else observed from chairs lining the two sides of the room. This was a time consuming business with a lot of people to get through. To keep everyone involved the panel called people up to play out various roles to try to elicit a certain response from the person being primarily observed. (This method also allowed the panel to observe the actors in a supporting role).
I eagerly volunteered to help out whenever help was needed and did my best to focus on the direction given and on existing in the moment of the action being played. For my turn I did my Monticelso ‘Shall I expound whore’ speech. To assist me the head of the panel got a number of women up to pose erotically to provide me with focus for my scorn of whores. It was very fun to do!
At the end of the session we were asked to write a play review, which I duly did and handed it in. Job done. I was out by 1pm, having got there at 9.
Two days later was the 'Collaborative and Devised Theatre' morning recall. Same number of people (only one girl from the previous recall day) and we were led to the same room. The panel was different of course. Another opening with some exercise- fun and light hearted – like a skipping rope, which we all jumped through – easy enough – if you have a good sense of timing! I felt comfortable with this panel and had a good time with their exercises. Once warmed up we each took turns to present our ‘Two minute self-devised showing, based on one of three images that we had all been emailed.
I had never prepared such a piece before and took advice from a couple of friends accordingly. It went to plan when I presented it. The brief was as follows: ; ‘You are encouraged to use movement and voice and to work in a dynamic and expressive way. Use this exercise to introduce us to your individual creative choices – we want to see how you express yourself through your work.’
The pieces were wonderfully creative and varied – it was great to see the talent on show and the unusual responses that people had made to such a task. Afterwards we were individually called in to show the panel some speech work and present a review of a play – either spoken or written. Overall I felt that the audition went well.
The results: a week or so later I got news that I was not going to be offered a place for either strand. This was disappointing as I sensed that I had come far to get to those final stages. I wrote requesting feedback and got these following responses.
For Acting for Stage and Screen:
It was generally felt that your work was interesting, and you were discussed at length. In the end the panel were concerned about your tendency to perform the moment rather than experiencing it - a slightly presentational quality which we felt would be difficult to shift. Actor training is a lot about returning to basics, and much of what we look for in audition is 'heart', vulnerability and the willingness to work from self, rather than something polished or well-presented. We also look for clear ability to shift through directorial notes, and to be prepared to throw everything away and start again.
And for Collaborative and Devised:
You did some lovely work in the audition. We like more mature applicants and felt that you were well prepared. Your devised piece was well constructed and you made bold and appropriate choices. The panel felt you had had good focus and really worked from the painting. However, physically you seem a bit tense and locked and this doesn't help your expressive ability. In the improvisation work you were open but we noted a tendency to force rather than letting things arrive - so you were externally engaged physically but weren't connecting the inner feelings with the outer expression. Your pieces were well prepared but were a little rigid / fixed. You didn't demonstrate a great ability to shift and we questioned your ability to access vulnerability. This goes back to the question of emotional truth - which wasn't really accessed in your work. Sometimes when a candidate has had a certain amount of training or experience elsewhere their work can become a little rigid and a panel will question whether you can benefit from further training or whether we will be able to unlock your patterns: this is what we felt in your case. In addition, you seemed more suited to the stage and screen pathway.
So…some invaluable, if a little scary feedback. I feel happy to have my flaws so concisely identified (as some were in both letters!) This allows me to have clear goals when improving my technique. Plenty of food for thought.