Thinking of applying to drama school but a bit short on practical advice? Enter Andy Johnson’s really practical, witty The Excellent Audition Guide . If anything can make you feel clued up and confident, this will. It’s like being led through the process by a trusted and knowledgeable friend.
Johnson knows his stuff. Former stand-up comedian, he’s an actor, writer, director and drama teacher who has taught at East 15, Mountview, Middlesex University and the University of Nevada. As a coach and mentor he has helped over 300 students gain places at schools such as RADA, LAMDA, Bristol Old Vic, GSMD and many more. So anything he says is worth listening to given that top schools typically get, literally, thousands of applications for a tiny handful of places.
Topics he works through include researching drama schools, writing personal statements and CVs, choosing and working on songs and speeches, brushing up technical and vocal skills and how to do the best you can in the audition itself along with what goes down well in interviews and what doesn’t.
He counsels, for example, against wordy gush (good advice for most life situations actually) in written or spoken statements telling readers that it’s better to be direct, accurate and concise – and truthful. When it comes to preparing Shakespeare I love the idea of the punctuation functioning like an emoticon in a modern text message. Brilliant teaching idea – English and drama teachers, please note.
He has some refreshing thoughts about choosing speeches too suggesting that a lot of swearing and shouting can quickly bore the panel so consider offering something more low-key and thoughtful. I hope graduating students and the people who direct their showcases are listening because, they sorely need this advice too. A showcase monologue is, after all, in a sense just another form of audition.
Do some research before your audition and think about the sorts of questions you are likely to be asked, If you’re asked what plays you’ve seen recently make sure you can name them and say briefly what you thought of them. Make sure you’ve read the school’s prospectus carefully. Have you got an answer to the question ‘Why do you want to come here?’
And so it goes on. It really is a most useful book which anyone about to start on the application process should read. Getting into drama school is a minefield and more competitive than applying for Oxford or Cambridge but you’ll stand a better chance with this book than without it, in my view.