Sunday, December 13, 2009

Playing With the Big Boys

This month's Insight Adventure has been kept a strict secret from everybody except my very nearest and dearest, who have put up with an obsessive, mumbling, Millbrooker for several weeks as plots were plotted and mumbles were mumbled.

I had to keep everything secret purely from a sense of dread that I'm just being a silly old so-and-so hopelessly chasing a dream, and also from a daft superstition that if I let anyone know what I'm up to, then it wouldn't work.

But, now I've done it. Yesterday was probably the most nerve-wracking thing I've indulged myself in for the last umpteen years.

Mrs The Millbrooker and I spent yesterday travelling to and from Bristol, a total of the better part of five hours on the iron horses of "Fist" Great Western for me to have a fifteen minute audition; I am trying to get into the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School on a two year acting course. This year is chasing the experience of auditioning, next year is the serious business of getting through unscathed and being offered a place (or at least, that's the idea).

Regular readers might have noticed the two recent postings of monologues from The Merchant of Venice and Waiting for Godot; I stuck those up here as an aid to learning the lines. Here's the audition sheet. If it's not legible at this size, it simply lists the two speeches and the unaccompanied song that I had to do.
"Classical English: Shylock's Speech..."To bait fish withal..."
Modern Prose Play: Vladimir's Speech..."Let us not waste our time..."
Unaccompanied song: extract from Long Ago And Far Away..." "

BOVTS is a the very top of the tree, alongside places like RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) and LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts); illustrious alumni abound in the theatre, in film and in every branch of performance. A small sample: Pete Postlethwaite (below)......Daniel Day Lewis, Jeremy Irons, Helen Baxendale, Miranda Richardson...; the full list is not endless, but it is impressive.

Now, I'm under no illusions that I'm in their category, but I do think I that I need to try, even if I'm just a ridiculous old amateur ham clawing his way above his station. There's years and years of buried history to my hopes of working in what its practitioners refer to as The Profession and I'm devoting the next couple of years trying to climb out of that history and tread the boards professionally.

So, back to yesterday's adventure. After a ride on the chuff chuff, mostly spent muttering bits of Willy Shake or Sam Beckett to myself in between losing myself in the Guardian......, Mrs The Millbrooker and I found ourselves at Clifton Down railway station looking for lunch. We explored a little bit up and down Whiteladies Road in the bitter midlands climate, eventually plumping for The Roo Bar in the old station buildings. No beer for me, though. Oh no - I had to be a sober and sharp as possible for the impending ordeal by playwright.Not our usual sort of haunt, but with food being about half the price of the outrageous sums being demanded by some of the other places we looked at, and neither of us wanting to indulge in slurping ale, it did the job admirably. We even liked its novel approach to the perennial condiment delivery problem that plagues so many eateries.Lunch done with and from then on the camera stayed firmly in Mrs The Millbrooker's bag; both of us were too nervous to remember to take any photos until much much later, hence the plethora of shots stolen from the internet below.

We walked the mile or so from The Roo Bar, through the elegant Victoriana of Clifton, to Downside Road and found the BOVTS more or less where we'd expected it to be (ah, the wonders of Google maps). We were VERY early, so at my behest, not wanting to sit and brood on the audition, we took a brief stroll around Clifton Down, risking a splash of mud or two on my all-black-trying-to-look-like-an-actor attire.We returned to the stage door side of the BOVTS, still with far too much time before the appointed hour; another pootle in the chill breezes of Clifton ensued, this time around some of the very attractive residential parts. At a guess, the alumni listed above could afford to live in these places, but not many others could.

Finally it could be postponed no longer. I checked in at the stage door reception and we joined the frighteningly young looking people sitting and waiting to be called. There were only two other people of our approximate ages there and, of course, they were accompanying their daughter. What it is to feel grandfatherly and a tad past one's sell-by date. This waiting room isn't the one we sat in; it's far more salubrious, but I thought a picture at this point might break up the endless outpourings of text.After watching several bright young things being called through to their fifteen minutes (maximum) in which they got their chance to impress the panels with, and I quote,

"A speech from a classical English play (written before 1800 - Elizabethan, Jacobean, Restoration or Eighteenth Century – Shakespeare is always appropriate).

A piece in prose from a modern play (written in the 20th or 21st Centuries).

A short, unaccompanied song – we suggest avoiding contemporary pop songs.

Each piece should last no longer than 2 minutes, if you exceed this time limit you will be stopped. For the song, you may wish to perform a verse and chorus from your chosen piece. "

The audition rooms are not soundproofed from the waiting aspirants, so we all got to hear some of what our predecessors were performing. Goodness me, but the atmosphere was intense.

I was called a few minutes after my booked time - since when did anything like this run exactly to time?

I was led to a bare room. There were two tables pushed together to form a desk at which my panel sat; a woman and a man both of whom were very pleasant and introduced themselves, shook hands - all that sort of thing; neither of whom I could put a name to if I tried. Their faces are forever imprinted on my terrified little brain, but I've not a hope in the proverbial of recalling what they told me their names were.I sat and answered a few questions about what I was going to do and why I thought, at my advanced age, I ought to train to be an actor; how I might feel being twice the age of others in training.

Then it was "on with the show". My Shylock fell apart as I dried on "...fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons..."; I've paced the Millbrooker Towers' sitting room floor a thousand times and I know this speech, but it deserted me as the nerves won out.

My Vladimir went considerably better. My song was perfectly in order (just the one slightly dodgy note caused by a very dry throat).

And then it was all over.

I'll hear whether I'll get recalled for the second part of the process either late this week or early next. I don't expect to be recalled; I really wasn't good enough on the day. But I do know what I have to do when I mount the assault for real next year after this reconnaissance mission.

There will be lots more mumbling of lines, there will be heading off for coaching sessions.

Meanwhile, as with almost all Insight Adventures, this one ended with a well deserved pint. Here's me, last night, holding up my audition sheet and gratefully clutching a tankard of Russell and Mark's finest Otter Ale......and here's the Wizzers of Soz who we met up with on the way back and who's staying with us for the Christmas holidays.For now, onwards to Cardiff and the Royal Welsh Academy of Music and Drama, and the second reconnaissance mission of this season's auditions. I'll keep you posted, oh you lucky people.

1 comment:

Frankenkeith said...

Very good review, are you performing at the Football Club on Boxing Day? Good pictures too, interesting to see the inside workings of the theatre, also to see the inside of a first class carriage on Cross Country Trains!
Hope you do get a recall.