Sunday, 19 February 2012


Oh, I know, it seems simple. Learn your lines, turn up (on time), be good and go home. List of things not to do: be late, argue, insult anyone, be bad, overstay your welcome. I know this and yet...

All the tricks your psyche plays to help prop up your fragile ego, manifest when an audition looms. Think they're looking for a sexy girl for the part and don't believe you're up to it? Put on a big jumper and feign outrage at any suggestion to remove it. Think the part requires too little of your intelligence? Do some research and tell the director the script is historically inaccurate. Worried you might get the part and not be able to do it well? Sabotage the entire meeting with a character assassination of the producer's best friend. All this I have done and more. So many meetings, so few callbacks.

Of course, a lot of the time, you might not be right for the part and there is not much you can do about that. But quite often, with all the preparation involved in casting, the actors auditioning are both physically suitable and perfectly capable of doing the part. It is that something extra that the director is looking for and the process can be odd. You might have to improvise with the assistant director. Or perform the most intimate moments with an actor already cast. Or learn a two-page speech and sit outside the casting room while all the other actors perform it ahead of you, audibly. You might be shouted at for over preparation or under preparation. You might get the casting director on a bad day when she cries through the meeting, or pets her many cats, or takes a phone call and indicates you should carry on with the deathbed scene. The director might want your life story or they might not shake hands with you for fear of germs. They might mouth all your dialogue as they watch you through the monitor or put their head on the table and offer a running commentary. You just never know what is going to happen after you have rung that doorbell.

It is a trailer for coming attractions; a small slice of what life would be on set or stage with any of the above. If they're not shaking hands with you before you even start working together, it's unlikely you'll be on speaking terms by lunch on the first day. This may not matter to you, the project might be more important than the niceties of human connection and some of the best films come from the angriest sets. But it's worth bearing in mind at a casting, especially when you leave empty-handed. As long as the bastards weren't nice to you; that's no comfort at all.


  1. Ah, the madness that is auditioning. Just for curiosity's sake, next time you walk into an audition, Sophie, you might say to yourself, 'I don't know anything. We are all just pretending we know what's going on' and then with pages in hand give it all away with no thought to what comes next. Maybe nothing will happen for the people sitting there, but something of significance will happen for the actress. And I can almost guarantee you so-and-so will stop petting her cats!

  2. Being on stage or screen is just an act anyway. Relax, be positive, and use your body language to your full advantage. You don't have to flatter the director, just flirt with them, man or woman, they can't resist (even if you want to vomit afterwards!)
    When you ring that doorbell be flamboyant; wear your shades, fling your arms open and say, 'I'm here darlings - you can send everyone else home. Now...when would you like me to start?'
    Failing that, imagine them all sitting there with no clothes on, that's guaranteed to make you smile.
    But above all else...believe in yourself.
    Ellen Dean

  3. I can understand the anxiety when auditioning. I have done a few in my life, but prefer working back stage as a technician. A lot less stress and I still get to enjoy working in theater.

    You make the audition process sound so scary. I wish you all the best and hope you get all the parts you audition for.

  4. Good luck with the auditions, Sophie! I`m sure you`ll do great ;-)

  5. Sophie, I would rather work with quarrelsome actors than cooperative ones. Cheerful arguments are a good sign because no one can see everything. Perceptive actors keep playwrights (and directors!) on their toes. I don't always make the changes they ask for, but if they make a good case for it, I will. Often (and I can only admit this privately:) it does improve the text in one way or another. I've learned that those who argue, even over a single line, are the hardest working and the most invested. In the end they become my best teachers.
    I hope all is going well. . .

  6. Good grief ... !

    What have I done (or said) for you to stop putting up my messages ... ?

    "Publish and be damned," you said.

    What did I do?! I cannot - honestly - think what it might have been; but I never thought I'd be subject to Stalinist-like censorship on an acting blog!


  7. That's interesting, Jan. Collaboration is often helpful, I know. And if you are passionate about your work then there bound to be heated discussions. But being argumentitive for its own sake is not to be recommended! I should know.
    Joe, I certainly don't want to be censorious, but I cannot publish posts about other actors even (perhaps especially) if I am related to them, sorry.
    Thank you for your positive feedback folk. I will endeavour to take the sound advice on board!

  8. Well, I can understand to some extent, I suppose; but it's not as though I was slagging anyone off, least of all your relative. If I was turning the screw on anyone it was the producers of the show, whom I didn't name - and that's no more than you've done in your opening post regarding producers and directors! And under the 'Manchester' blog stace180 refers to an audience being fond of Shane Richie - well, I only referred to The Times' 'fondness' of your relative's performance (and mine for that relative's abilities and past work) ...

    Anyway, I also direct, and the last thing I want in an actor is sycophancy. I generally do everything in my power to keep a healthy distance between the actors and the producer(s) to allow them the figurative 'space' to concentrate on the job at hand, rather than having to think of pleasing their paymaster(s). An actor's (or any person's) character is far more important than their learned social manipulation techniques! In an actor, it indicates that they have something worthwhile to bring to a role, and that they are less likely to tailor the role to their perception of what the director or a particular audience wants, which leads on to more truthful performances.

    Thanks for bothering to explain anyway.

    Best wishes,


  9. Just for the won't have to audition for a part in my film, there is a part waiting for you, in fact...I can see your name on the credits. And you can chose the character you would like to play. I think maybe the part of Lou Scott would be would like to play Hyacinth of course! Everybody loves to hate Hyacinth lol!!!

  10. Would love to keep in touch ! Followed your work since The Gatehouse I am a teacher and would like to share your work with my students x x Annie ne Anne Duncan x x Have tried to reply since you replied to me last year but my google account never works ! Trying again x x

    1. Hello there. Good to hear from you. Hope your email works now : )

  11. Dear Sophie,

    I would like to ask if you have a copy of a film that you were in “A better class of person”

    I was an extra in the film whilst I was a school boy at Bembridge in 1985

    I am happy to pay for it (long shot I know ;o)

    Many thanks, Conrad

    1. Hi there, Conrad. I'm really sorry but I don't have a copy of the programme. Have you tried Amazon?