The audition introduced me to the strangest people – A middle-aged practicing doctor with a psycho-stare who talked about still seeing patients at the weekend if he got in.
The First Word: Central Flashback
When Sam Peter Jackson was asked to take a trip down memory lane, he couldn't help feeling a little nostalgic. Dance belts, myths and freaky applicants. It all came fooding back.
The phone rings. It's Phil. Somehow this feels strange. We have been friends for eight years since we met as fresh-faced drama students and now he edits a magazine for exactly that demographic. Gosh, have we
really grown up so fast? “You're good at this kind of thing,” he says. “What do you mean?” I reply, knowing damn well what he means, but, hey, this is making me feel old and I need to hear the compliment today. “Well, you know, speaking to people at the beginning of their career journey”. “Hm, right…” He usually uses more flattering words like
‘funny', ‘punchy', ‘intelligent' so I'm a little bit thrown. “Ok so what? You mean like ‘don't do drugs, stay in school, never drink and dial, wear kneepads when you rollerblade, don't make out with your boss'. That
kind of thing?”
There is a long silence. “Erm… I meant more in relation to drama school” … “Oh, drama school right. So don't be embarrassed buying your dancebelt? Don't make out with a techie?”
“I was kind of hoping you could give people an insight into the process,” he interrupts, “auditioning, getting in, what to look out for.”
“Oh right. Like a grown-up piece you mean?” There is a renewed silence. “Yes, like a grown-up piece.”
“Can I swear?”
“Can I namedrop?”
“Oh, come on, like people wouldn't want to know stuff about Peter Mandelson when he was President of Central?!”
“Ok, fine, but not too much. By when can you do it?”
“Call me in a month,” I say and hang up.
It's a month later and I fi sh a big red folder marked ‘BA Acting 2000- 2003' out of a box I haven't touched in over five years. In a strange way I owe it all to Jeremy Irons, I think. I don't really think that, but now the namedropping rule is relaxed, I may as well take advantage of it. Although Mr Irons did say something interesting at a workshop I went to once when I was still auditioning for drama schools. Finding myself behaving very awkwardly and unnaturally in the process, I asked him how I should enter the audition room. “Not too cocky, not too sleepy” he replied and there was something in the simplicity of this instruction which stuck and somehow made things easier. I wrote him a letter afterwards. Poured my heart out. Never got anything back. If you know him, please complain.
The audition process introduced me to the strangest people. A girl that had brought her own table, chair, Restoration period dress and selection of props (including a blood-stained handkerchief) on the train from Birmingham, became somewhat of a celebrity for all of us on the drama school audition circuit. You just knew that at the first conversational pause in the Guildhall waiting room (you know, before you do all that sea-monster stuff) someone would go “Did anyone see that girl with all the crap?” and we would all smirk knowingly. Another favourite was a middle-aged practicing doctor with a psycho-stare who performed the snake-frying speech from ‘A Pitchfork Disney' and talked about still seeing patients at the weekend if he got in.
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