Theatre and film actor Kevin Leslie tells John Byrne about his first job playing Dick Whittington during panto season at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne
My first audition, which led to my first paid job, was for panto season at the Tivoli Theatre in Wimborne playing Dick Whittington. I was invited to audition at the theatre alongside a few of my classmates after local theatre companies came to see our graduation showcase. It was an unusual experience because it felt familiar as I was auditioning alongside some faces I knew from drama school, and all the other auditionees were in the theatre watching while I auditioned. I felt a real mix of nerves, but had a sense of doing what I knew. It was nothing compared to the nerves I had when I first went into the intimate space of a more traditional casting room – then it is just you, a chair and the casting team.
My advice to my younger self would be to be present in the room, be open to direction and leave your personal life at the door – that includes any anxiety towards the upcoming audition. It’s easier said than done, but you shouldn’t be worrying in advance about how your audition is going to go or whether you’re doing enough to impress. The audition hasn’t happened yet and when it does, all you can do is, be yourself and do the best you can. Don’t let an audition run away from you because of nerves or anything else. If you make a slip, breathe, have a sip of water and ask to go again if you feel you could do better. A lot of the time as actors we feel we have no control in these situations, but we do.
Once you have finished, you have to leave everything in the audition room – there’s no point leaving feeling as though you wish you had done this or wondering why you didn’t try that. The audition is your opportunity to show what you can do. Everything else is out of your control. I’m still trying to master that advice myself. My first audition mostly taught me that it was the first and last time I’d ever be cast for my singing ability, but, joking aside, even though you’re going up against your peers, they’re not your competition. Your biggest competition is yourself. You’ve put all the hard work in, so you owe it to yourself to do your best.
Training: Arts University Bournemouth
Theatre includes: Blue Stockings (Shakespeare’s Globe), Eternal Love (English Touring Theatre/Globe Touring Theatre)
Film includes: Rise of the Krays, I Am Vengeance, Fall of the Krays, The Code (actor and producer); Karma (actor and executive producer)
Agent: Currently un-represented