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The Green Room: What should the theatre industry do to make auditioning easier?

Photo: Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​​

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, RSC, in the West End and on the road

Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer

Jenny Talbot, 39, has nearly 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays

Adam Lovett is a 45-year-old actor who has appeared in Oscar-winning film, BAFTA-winning TV, and at the RSC and National Theatre

Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

 

Gary Nothing. Auditions are fine. It’s nice when you get a yes or no regardless, but I think part of a professional actor’s discipline has to be dealing with and accepting auditions for what they are.

Albert Define easier.

JonLess difficult!

Albert Is it hard at the moment? What’s difficult about it?

JonFeel free to use ‘better’ or ‘more efficient’ – whichever definition suits you.

Peter Not sending scripts at the last minute.

Adam I think they should be respectful of lead times to allow line learning. We’re going the American way, where you get seven scenes the night before and you are expected to be off book.

Jenny Encouraging casting directors and creatives to treat actors in a different way from how they treat beggars would be a nice start – I’m talking mainly about commercials. ‘Media types’ are so snooty around actors. It’s as if we’re subhuman.

JonWaiting times at commercial castings are ridiculous. I’ve sometimes walked when I’ve been sitting around for more than an hour. People often have jobs to get back to.

Albert This happens because a lot of actors accept it. They don’t say no to the rude person at the casting. They don’t walk.

Adam There are a million ways to make auditions easier. First, they should commit to letting you know when you haven’t got the job. In these days of emails, it’s unacceptable to leave people waiting indefinitely until you hear someone else has been cast. I think it indicates such disrespect for actors.

Albert A casting director did that to me last week – emailed my agent with a big ‘thanks for coming in’ and ‘well done but we’ve gone another way’. I nearly fell off my chair.

Peter Self-tapes should be a last resort rather than being used all the time. It’s useful for people not based in London or with childcare issues but nothing beats face-to-face contact with the director.

Albert But so often the director is not in the room. I don’t want to go into town just to have an assistant tape me. I’d prefer to self-tape.

Audition advice from director Phil Willmott

Adam There was a director recently who used self-tapes to cast an entire show. I think that’s unforgiveable. They’re going to be working with an actor for six weeks.

JonI think we should probably investigate Skype or FaceTime rather than self-tapes. At least then there’s a connection and you can be given some notes and a chance to try it again.

Adam I’ve had that before and it was great. A Skype conversation with the director for a good 40 minutes where he rehearsed with me and walked me through what he wanted.

Annie It’s good you got the time. To me that is a valid audition. I did that before and got the job. I loved the director.

Peter Reading with another actor is so much better than with a casting director.

Annie Yes, it’s great to have another actor in who is booked to do that audition. They know what they’re doing and you can play off them. Having said that, I’ve had a lot of auditions lately where I’ve been with another actor who tells me they haven’t prepared. I find that really difficult.

Jenny It’s nice when you feel like the creatives are making an effort as well, and showing interest.

JonA bit of individual chat from the director helps, too. “So you’ve just been in…” rather than “So, tell me what you’ve been up to”.

Adam I hate that. Our CV is sat in front of them and they ask what you’ve been up to. I want to reply: “Why don’t you tell me what you’ve been up to?”

Albert I’ve auditioned a lot as a director and that is one question I won’t ask.

Peter Directors who take time to have a chat make you so much more relaxed.

Adam I can’t remember the last time I had a chat with a director. These days if I am lucky enough to have them in the room I just go in, the casting director is friendly, the director is mute, and I read.

Albert Quite often the chat can be the differentiating factor between two actors whose readings are much of a muchness.

Peter A chat is useful for the actor too. Sometimes I’ve decided I don’t want to work with that director. Many inappropriate questions are asked at castings, such as asking your age.

Albert When you’ve had no ‘no’ from a casting, who’s gone back and asked for one?

Dear West End Producer: ‘At what point does rejection stop feeling as though I’ve been punched in the face?’

JonI’ve quite often leaned on my agent to get an answer. I don’t think anyone would mind being told, ‘We have an offer out with someone, but we’re not sure if he’ll say yes. If he turns it down we’ll come to you.’ I’d rather know that than be hanging on in the dark.

Annie Exactly – it’s clear communication.

Albert It is possible to ask. Many young casting directors don’t even seem to realise it’s wrong not to let us know.

Jenny I feel like the old guard have it right and the newbies are trying to do things how they think they should be done but they actually have no clue.

Adam I once went back in and they said, ‘Listen, this is out on offer to a celeb but we think it’s your part so we’ve allocated 45 minutes and we can really work the scenes together and get a good tape.’ And it was like being in rehearsal. Glorious.

Jenny The bottom line is: just be nice.

Albert The bottom line is that it’s a job interview. If they want the best actors, they should create an atmosphere in which we feel we can shine. And let us know more than six hours in advance.

Look for auditions and acting opportunities on The Stage Jobs

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