At drama school they made it seem like auditions would be like the films. They set up these fake scenarios where you had to wait in a corridor with two other people. You got called in, you sang a song, you did a speech for the ‘panel’ and you got feedback. In our case, the panel consisted of the Head of Acting – “Good work, really truthful,” some bored teenager on work experience, “I didn’t like it” and a past-her-use-by actress who’d once been in The Bill. “Darling, that was just fabulous.” Then we listened to some speech by the Principal about how we should dress as if it was a job interview, be polite to everyone, even the old biddy cleaning out the toilet “Because you never know who she might be”, and some guff about “Never letting it matter too much”. And that was it. We were prepared, ready for the world of auditions, for a dazzling career founded on the back of being nice to a toilet cleaner who turned out to be the grandmother of a major Broadway producer.
What we weren’t prepared for is a trek to the end of the District Line to find every other out of work actor in the country there at the same time.
Nor are you prepared for the audition prep “Bring a CD backing track and a speech you’ve written yourself”. There’s no queue, just a mass of people crowding round some spotty kid with a clipboard who is trying to collect names and accommodate scheduling conflicts. Everyone is trying to be heard over everyone else – I guess this is what projection lessons were for. There’s a skinny girl in pink lycra with her Mum who is explaining to Spotty that “Tiffany can only stay for half an hour, because she’s got an audition for Grease, but we can come back, as long as we’re gone by three because we’ve got a meeting with Dan Hubbard.”
Frankly, if you’ve got an audition for a West End musical and a meeting with Dan Hubbard, then why are you at a cattle call for TIE in Twickenham? With your mum?
Spotty takes my name and tells me the wait is an hour, so I settle in a corner and check out my competition. Which doesn’t take long. There’s a few stupidly handsome blokes trying to look cool, which is difficult to do in Miss Adele’s School of Dance (11-14 years) in Twickenham and some fit girls in leggings and leotards doing stretches. I perve on them for a bit until I realise they might not be here for the audition, but might be members of Miss Adele’s school, in which case they are seriously underage, so I nip to the loo for a crafty fag; warm-up of champions. There’s no cleaner to be nice to though, which is a shame. Not least because the toilets are blocked.
After a couple of hours, I get fed up listening to the same stories, “Yeah, I just graduated. I got offered a film with Bob Hoskins on the back of showcase, but I think TIE is where you really learn your craft,” and I find Spotty for an update.
“We called your name and you weren’t here”, he claims, even though I haven’t moved. “I can put you back on the list, but the wait time is about two hours.” And because I’ve got bugger all to do until this evening, like a muppet I wait.
Finally I’m in the room. Some scraggy Northern bird asks me about my interest in TIE. I bullshit about TIE being where you really learn your craft, sing the opening word of my song, and then I’m out.
Back on the District Line, heading to civilisation and I call Gerald, my agent. “Love, that sounds horrible,” he says when I tell him about it. “I’m sorry you had to go through that. They promised me a private. I’m going to ring them and tell them they can stuff it. I won’t have any client of mine treated like this. I’ll report them to Equity.”
Five minutes later, Gerald calls me back. “They love, love, loved you,” he croons. “Contract is coming through now. Three shows a day, touring primary schools in Yorkshire. No subsistence, weekends off. Some driving. Congratulations love, your first job.”
And stupidly, I feel a little bit thrilled, and start to thank Gerald. But he’s hung up. So I ride the District Line back into town, and head into Leicester Square to my Front-of-House job. I’m well excited to tell everyone, but that Welsh girl from the Kiosk has just landed second cover in a major West End musical, so I keep shtum. Doesn’t she know it’s TIE where you really learn your craft?