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Dear West End Producer: ‘What exactly is an audition? I seem to have forgotten’

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An audition is an ancient ceremony of torture where a vulnerable virgin (not always the case) is made to sacrifice their talent in front of a group of self-appointed gods. They must be prepared to lose integrity, ball changes and confidence as they are judged on their acting and survival skills. The weak actor loses the fight with the director and is sacrificed to the god of acting (Amanda Holden), but the superior actor is rewarded with the ultimate prize: a two-year Equity minimum school’s tour of The Vagina Monologues.

I jest. Auditions are not all about pain and embarrassment, and in fact can be one of the most rewarding fixtures in an actor’s life. Indeed, they are an essential part of any performer’s journey, as without them an actor never gets the gift of ‘a job’.

That is not to say that auditions are without their challenges.

An audition is a bizarre situation – people with status sit in a room and ask other people to come and impress them

An audition is a bizarre situation – people with status sit in a room and ask other people to come and impress them. Auditions can often be painful – if an actor forgets their lines, or breaks wind singing a high G – but occasionally a star is found in these mating rituals, and actors like Dean Gaffney are propelled to stardom.

The aim of any audition is to find the right person for the job. Believe it or not, the members of the panel always want you to be exactly what they’re looking for – as it means they won’t have to spend another day bored in a cold church off Charing Cross Road.

What do casting directors look for in auditions? Theatre’s hidden talent spotters reveal the secrets of their trade

Often actors leave an audition feeling like they know what the panel was thinking – but this is never the case. Just because a casting director doesn’t look up as you give your greatest ‘To be, or not to be’, doesn’t mean they weren’t interested. It just means they were more interested in texting their 21-year-old boyfriend.

Auditions are getting as rare as good theatre performances by Marti Pellow – so, when you get one, give it your all. Make sure you know what the play is about, what accent you’ll be performing in (avoid European accents as these will soon be banned due to Brexit), and if your character has a false leg (or three).

If you aren’t getting many auditions, then may I make a few suggestions. Firstly, try emailing some of your old contacts. Everyone loves a letter or email (especially if gift vouchers are attached), and your message could end up on their desk at exactly the right time.

Secondly, call your agent and let them know you’re up for anything. Sometimes it can be good to just do any job, even if you’re established in the business – as work inevitably leads to work.

Thirdly, send your showreel to casting directors or producers, to remind them that you’re still alive. Don’t rely solely on your agent – they’ve got another 100 clients (and bottles of gin) to think about.

Finally, don’t worry – everyone goes through a dry patch. Remember your talents, surround yourself with those who support you, and wait. The theatrical world will be knocking soon, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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