How to… audition for Shakespeare

Lews Hart. Photo: Brandon Bishop
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1. Foundations

Make sure you read the whole play – a synopsis is useful but don’t rely on that alone. You must ensure you have a thorough understanding of every word you speak. It’s the only way to make your interpretation clear and precise. The joy of performing Shakespeare is that, by exploring the text, you’ll unlock devices that you can put to use (alliteration, juxtaposition, double meanings), offering you more to play with in your audition material. When preparing, speaking your character’s text out-loud helps; really get your mouth around it and be as bold as you dare in your choices.

2. Approach

Don’t give yourself the obstacle of being off-book if you only have 24 hours. Always have your lines to hand rather than worrying about struggling through the material. Directors have varied approaches to Shakespearean text. Researching their method and previous productions will assist you. You may have worked on Shakespearean text in a multitude of ways, but when going into an audition I would encourage trying to marry rhythm, textual clues and instinct. Disregard how the role is ‘traditionally done’ – this is a chance to show your interpretation.

3. Notes and choices

Having done the work, you can go into the audition and confidently bring the language to life. While you are unlikely to be asked a series of questions about your process, having some thoughts on the play and why you’ve made the choices you have will serve you well. As will preparing a question or two about the production, in case you’re given the opportunity to ask. Be malleable when you’re redirected. Do not rush; listen, give yourself a few seconds to take it on board and apply the note. It’s far too easy to leave an audition and have the epiphany on the bus-ride home: ‘Oh... that’s what they wanted.’ By preparing solidly and taking confidence from that preparation, you can make sure you do yourself proud.

Lewis Hart coaches for drama school and professional auditions and offers a self-tape studio with Gillian Sakar.

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