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Paul Clayton: Don’t ask for audition feedback, you either got the job or you didn’t

More than 550 readers voted in The Stage poll on casting. Photo: Sean De Burca/Shutterstock Photo: Shutterstock
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You can’t even complete the simple act of signing for a parcel these days without receiving an email asking for feedback on the courier firm’s performance.

It’s not always electronic, either. That trusty British bastion of the high street, Marks and Sparks, has resorted to asking staff to hand out feedback surveys at the till. Enough!

According to my trusty dictionary, feedback is “an unpleasant noise produced when transmitter and receiver are too close together” and I produce a few of those when asked for my experience with many companies. But how does feedback benefit us as actors?

For us, feedback is a pretty regular occurrence. It comes in the form of notes after rehearsal and performance. Brilliantly helpful when well delivered. Though directors, take note – “Don’t do that” is neither constructive nor useful.

We get feedback in the press as reviews. Easy to take – we can believe the ones we like, and ignore the rest. We might even get feedback from our peers during the rehearsal process. “You’re not actually going to do it like that on the night are you?” is one example that remains in my mind.

Recently, several young actors have told me they don’t get any feedback after auditions. This is a worrying trend.

This is the intrusive email asking you for a response on how you felt when you broke wind at 5:32am this morning. When sitting behind a desk in an audition room, you want the next person who walks in the door to be right, and your attention is mainly focused on the person you have chosen to do the job.

You may be lucky and have gone through a whole day of casting where no one has actually been bad, just not suitable, so giving feedback would be next to impossible.

You’ve had the feedback. You did, or didn’t get the job. That’s all the feedback you should need. If you do feel this is inadequate, then put a process in place to help yourself.

Coming out of an interview, I walk to the next tube station from the one that I want. During that time I ask myself three questions: “What was I happy with?”, “What might I have done differently?”, “ What is my expectation?”.

Then I get on the tube and go home and forget about it. Feedback is only really valuable if it comes from somebody you trust. Getting it from a director you may not know, and who has seen your work for only five or 10 minutes, may not be the best way to develop.

“To thine own self be true”, Polonius tells us in Hamlet. When it comes to auditions, that’s the only feedback you need.