This next blog post is from one of our cast members Arabella GIbbins. Finding a talented, suitable and affable actor for each role is always integral for the success of any production, but for a show which requires the actor to switch into a character on the roll of a dice, even more so. We auditioned over 60 actors from just under 600 applications and recalled 8 for an intensive workshop audition. Working collaboratively with other actors, switching between roles and maintaining truthful, honest performances was a tough ask. The standard was extremely high and we were hugely impressed with all the actors in the workshop, but ultimately, it was a unanimous decision - we all agreed Bella and Seda were the ones for the roles. They both excelled at the recall audition. They were generous, alive, responsive and flexible. And the rehearsal process has proved how important it is to have a rigorous selection and audition process to get the right cast. Bella has been a joy to work with: dedicated, detailed, flexible and collaborative - exactly what this production needed. She reflects on her experience of the audition process and gives some cracking advice to other actors on approaching auditions:
"I was sat at my desk in London on a Monday morning when my agent called me with some good news. I had been invited up to Manchester to audition for a play called ‘Parallel’: new writing, dark comedy, three parts, all female cast (hurrah!), and a different role each night depending on the role of a dice. Wow! My ears pricked up at ‘dark comedy’ and then when I grasped the dice-roll concept I was totally intrigued. I read the full script that afternoon and chose a short section for each character to present to the auditioning panel in Manchester in two days’ time. In terms of notice it’s fairly common to have just a day or two to prepare for a part – anything more is a luxury! - and it’s just a case of how much you can jiggle your schedule around to give yourself maximum preparation time. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming when you have to familiarise yourself with a brand new script, explore a number of characters sufficiently to present an honest and considered portrayal of a character in an audition scenario in less than 48 hours. At times like these I just remind myself that everyone else will be in the same boat, and the people in the audition room won’t be looking for a polished performance. The most important thing to show is a solid understanding of the story and a connection with the character(s) you’ve explored. I try to make strong character choices where possible rather than giving a ‘general wash’. It’s impossible to know what ‘they’ are looking for, and you’ll just tie yourself in knots trying to second guess, so best to mine the text for clues and then flesh out the character as best you can.
I took the train up to Manchester on Wednesday morning, arriving at the theatre with plenty of time to have a cup of tea, dry myself off and look over the scipt before I was called in. Bearing in mind James and Laura were on their second full day of auditions I knew I was probably the 40th (maybe even 50th) person to come into the room. You’d never have guessed. I was greeted with huge smiles and introduced to Laura (writer/producer), James (director) and Pete (audition assistant) who’d be reading with me. Auditions come in all shapes and sizes and you never know what to expect, so you have to be ready for anything! On this occasion I was immediately put at ease by the warmth and positive energy in the room. Ready. I performed each of the sections I’d prepared, script in hand – one for each character. Laura and James responded really well, they each gave me a few notes to think about and suggested some changes, and I went through them again. I was in there for about 15 minutes and it was one of the most enjoyable auditions I’ve ever done, which was entirely down to the atmosphere created in the room. I felt the team were willing me to do well and really listening to me and considering the choices I’d made. I went back to London with a smile on my face.
On Friday my agent called to say I’ve been offered a recall; I was over the moon. It meant I was down to the last 8 out of around 600 applicants, and that another trip to Manchester was in order. The recall day was scheduled for the following Saturday – a three hour workshop with the other lucky 7. I booked my train and got back to Laura’s script. When you come out of an audition room it’s a good survival technique to put the whole thing out of your mind as quickly and as much as possible. Generally if you’re not recalled there’s no such thing as a rejection letter, you just don’t hear back. The waiting game is probably the most maddening part of the job, and you can drive yourself crazy if you’re waiting for the phone to ring. When I leave an audition I usually treat myself to a coffee and a cake and hide the script at the bottom of my bag. When I heard I could dig the script back out and resume my excavation I was thrilled. This time we were given three specific sections to prepare for the workshop; we didn’t have to be off-book, but we were advised to be as familiar as possible with the lines. Having a whole week to get back into the three characters and spend proper time playing with their physicality and vocal qualities was a joy. I loved the script and the storyline struck a chord with me so I couldn’t wait to get back in the audition room (not something you hear people say very often!). Saturday came round and me and the other hopefuls met at the Royal Exchange Theatre. The workshop consisted of warm ups, games to loosen up and get to know each other and some script-play, culminating in a final hour of pure script work where we performed short scenes to the group whilst being swapped in and out at a rapid pace!
It was a brilliant day. In an audition workshop it’s vital that you see everyone else in the room as an equal and an ally, not competition. As I’ve said it might be an obvious point but you’ll never know what the casting team are looking for. There are so many factors they will be considering aside from your acting ability. All you can do is prepare as best you can before you arrive, bring positive energy into the space, be ready to play and make mistakes (that’s where the magic happens, so go for it) and always be receptive and open. It was a privilege to have three solid hours with the group; so often you’re in an out of an audition room within minutes and decisions are made based on a tiny glimpse. When you’ve had an afternoon together you get a good idea of everyone’s skills, rhythms and the different dynamics created. I finished the day feeling energised, excited and wished Laura well with the project. She told us we’d hear back from her the following day either way, which was a relief. When I heard I’d got a part in this fantastic production I literally jumped out of my train seat and whooped in the middle of the carriage. The Parallel adventure had just begun."
Working in partnership with West Yorkshire Theatre Network we'll be sharing the creative process of our next production, Parallel from start to finish.