During my professional experience I have taught at many Drama Schools in London and internationally. I have also been heavily involved in the Drama School audition process at a top London Drama School, performing a leading role at all stages.
Places at Drama Schools in the UK are highly prized, and thousands of candidates apply each year for a limited number of places, so it’s important to ensure that you’re thoroughly prepared. It is my goal to remove a lot of the headache and guess work associated with your Drama School auditions by creating a step-by-step plan to take full control of the audition process.
Here is a brief guide to drama school audition preparation.
1.Choosing your speeches.
As a general rule most drama school auditions require the performer to memorise and perform several speeches to demonstrate their ability to learn, understand and entertainingly interpret material. My advice is to take the total number of recommended speeches and to learn significantly more. This may seem excessive but there are several benefits to this approach.
Firstly, each speech you work on will develop at a different rate; the speech which seemed best in week one may feel a little stale in week three, and the speech which you were struggling with for the first few weeks may come alive in week four. By learning more than you are required to you greatly increase the chance that you have some material that seems fresh and exciting in your mind, and thus the greater the chance that you will impress!
Secondly, if you are fortunate enough to be recalled to successive rounds, it may be advantageous to offer the audition panel a wide variety of speeches with which they can assess and test your abilities. Some Drama Schools will have a policy of only working with those you have selected for audition, but it will show that you are hard working and enthusiastic if you have prepared significantly more than the minimum.
Don’t restrict yourself by limiting your choices to characters who fall too strictly within your age range. Most Drama Schools won’t want to see a twenty year old actor playing a seventy year old character because the attempt to portray this kind of age difference may mask the truth and honesty of your performance, or hide some of your natural physical qualities But it will be perfectly acceptable for a twenty year old actor to play someone in their mid thirtees. Many of the best female characters in Shakespeare’s cannon may be assumed to be older than most Drama School applicants but if it isn’t clearly stated in the text that a character is in their fifties, we can make a choice that they are in their twenties or thirtees. For example, I’ve heard many applicants say that Lady Macbeth is ‘too old’ for them to play, but the text doesn’t state her age, so it is plausible that she is in her mid to late twenties. King Lear would be an example of a character who is clearly well past middle age; choosing one of his speeches for a Drama School audition would not aid your application.
Be wary of playing characters who are in an extreme state of mental decline; for example, Ophelia’s final appearance in Hamlet, or Lady Macbeth’s final appearance. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but these are very challenging situations within which to find truth, especially for a young or novice actor.
2.Preparing Your speeches for your drama school audition.
Learn your text as information with meaning. What I mean by this is that the interpretation should remain flexible. I’ve worked with many clients who come with a speech where the intonation and stresses are learnt, along with the words and meaning. This means that any suggestions I make, or an audition panel at recall makes, will be extremely difficult to implement.
Your performance needs to be alive, you need to be exploring the specific situation of the character in the circumstances afresh, every time you run the speech. The words and meaning may stay the same but your character’s response to the situation should be allowed to change as you see the circumstance change. In this way the speech will evolve with every performance because you will be open to all possibilities that may arise.
I have seen many first round auditions which show great potential, only to see them rejected at the first recall due to a lack of flexibility in response to other actors or to suggested direction from the panel.
If you arrive with the sole intention of getting into Drama School your audition may reek of desperation or anxiety. The goal should be to entertain the panel with your truthful interpretation of a character in a specific situation, if you can do that successfully you are far more likely to succeed.
If you are trying to impress the panel, trying to be what you think they want to see in a candidate, you will not be focussed on what your character is trying to achieve within the scene.
Don’t try to second guess what they’re looking for; focus on your character’s aims and the way that the person or people your character is talking to are responding to your words and actions.
We act because we enjoy it. Your Drama School audition will be one of the most highly charged performances of your life. The panel will be focussed intently on every aspect of your performance, they will want you to do well; so enjoy the experience!
5.Don’t give up
If you don’t get in first time, try again! You can spend the year between auditions gaining life experience and improving your skills doing Fringe work, student films and going to classes. An audition panel will give you the respect you deserve if it’s your third or fourth year of applying. A professional actor will often receive many rejections between jobs; it’s a fundamental part of the job!
This is just a very brief guide to Drama School auditions; there is of course much more to making a successful application, but I hope I’ve covered the most common issues.
Good luck to you all!