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Dear West End Producer: ‘What makes an actor stand out for you?’

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There is no one thing that makes actors stand out to me. It’s usually a combination of different qualities, and depending on the situation, can vary hugely. If we’re talking about an audition, then I’m impressed if you’re prepared, wearing suitable clothing, look nice, and don’t resemble a blow-up doll.

We see so many actors that it’s easy to stand out for the wrong reasons. This is to be avoided at all costs, as it results in naughty pictures being drawn all over your headshot.

The temptation to stand out can actually have a negative effect on an actor – it should only be about performing well at audition. By doing this, you’ll be remembered. The last thing we want is someone ‘standing out’ by being wildly over the top, singing something unsuitable, challenging the director, and wearing hot pants (on second thoughts, some casting directors love this, dear).

Actors in auditions are remembered if they’re professional, dress appropriately, have made choices on the character, know what they’re talking about, don’t dribble, and seem like they’d fit in with the company. It’s useful not to appear too desperate for the job, as we can smell fear a mile away (it strangely resembles Lynx), and don’t talk too much. It’s amazing how many actors manage to talk themselves out of jobs (avoid over-sharing – we really don’t need to know where you lost your virginity, especially if it was backstage in one of our theatres).

There’s no point doing an Australian accent if the play is based in Croydon. So be realistic – Australians live in Shepherd’s Bush

We like people who make bold choices. And when I say bold I don’t mean ludicrous. There’s no point doing an Australian accent if the play is based in Croydon. So be realistic – Australians live in Shepherd’s Bush.

On stage, the actors who stand out are the ones with charisma – and not necessarily the leads. Now charisma is a hard one to define – actors either have it or they don’t. It’s that quality that makes someone totally watchable, so that whenever they’re on stage you can’t keep your eyes off them.

I’ll throw a spanner in the works now, but I also like actors who don’t just talk about themselves. In the chat after the casting, I approve of people who have other interests, and know what’s going on in the world.

While it’s good to be passionate about theatre, the best performers have other interests too. And these people tend to be the happier, and more ‘stable’ performers – they seem more content and assured, because acting isn’t the only thing going for them. So, yes, read a paper and come in with something interesting to talk about.

And, to that end, I’ll admit that sometimes we do have a look at a performer’s social media accounts. What makes someone stand out on this front? Mainly when actors’ accounts aren’t full of them posing, pouting, and generally showing off. It’s much more interesting when someone seems to care about what’s happening in the world, or nature, or a cause, or even goats – instead of the size of their lips, tits and pecs. And don’t get me started on the hashtag #actorslife… it makes me nauseous even thinking about it.

So, yes – charisma, preparation, professionalism, an interest in something other than yourself, and no hot pants (unless they’re festive ones, dear).

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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