Often, when applying to drama school, the most daunting piece to prepare can be the classical monologue. If that's how you feel, then rest assured you're not alone, writes Josh Boyd-Rochford.
Many professional actors admit to being frightened of Shakespeare, to feeling adrift with the language, to a nagging sensation of not being clever enough. But all of us have to overcome that fear sooner or later.
If you're preparing a Shakespeare monologue, or indeed any classical monologue and feeling adrift with the language, then worry not; you're not the only one.
Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, writes in his wonderful book Will & Me “Stupefaction…I couldn't understand a blind word anyone was saying…Then I looked around and saw that a large percentage of the adults in the audience were as stupefied as I was.”
Once you've recognised you're not alone, then tackling the text itself is actually a relatively easy matter. Let's assume you've chosen your monologue, and you're happy that it fits your personality and appearance. It's worth pointing out, that although Shakespeare is probably the one that leaps to mind first, there are many wonderful monologues from Marlowe, Shaw, Middleton, Chekhov. These tend to be less commonly performed at auditions. Don't choose one of those just to shy away from Shakespeare though – face your fear!.
There are many ways to begin unpicking the text; you may find some of these suggestions don't work for you, or don't work in the order I've suggested. That's fine, take what does work, and put the rest aside. I try to understand how a piece of text is written first, and then find the emotional journey through it. You may prefer to approach it with heart first and head later.
I once had the pleasure of working with Prunella Scales and Timothy West on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. These giants of British theatre spent many hours working with a group of neophyte actors, distilling their knowledge of classical text. I've found their advice invaluable, not just in classical work, but also applied to modern text.
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