Last weekend a quiet corner of south-west London was transformed into one of the most nerve-wracking, adrenaline-pumped spots in the country, as it played host to The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices audition weekend. Over two days, 102 applicants were cut down to just seven producers, seven writers, seven directors and 30-35 actors. IdeasMap reports back…
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the main audition hall was just how well everyone seemed to be getting on.
As OVNV staff bustled around in their branded t-shirts and the participants got down to business, there was no crying, no fighting, no bitching: just lots of young creative people working hard, thinking on their feet and helping each other to create something special.
The writers were taken upstairs and given two-and-a-half hours to write a five-to-10-page script, while the rest of the group were split into their different disciplines to work on their own briefs. Then, after lunch, once the scripts had been printed off, the producers, writers and directors had a sort of bidding war over which one they wanted to work on. Once everyone had buddied up and each script had been assigned, the actors were called in, and the hour-and-a-half rehearsal could begin.
So, in an hour and a half the directors, writers, producers and actors had to turn up to 10 pages of freshly written script into something good enough to be performed in front of the group. Never has the phrase “rather them than me” rung so loudly in my head.
But enough about me, let’s hear from the participants themselves how they found the day.
“It’s really fun, but it is incredibly scary,” said director Tinuke Craig. “You’re being asked to do big things in a very small space of time, with people that you haven’t necessarily met. But they’ve set up an environment where it’s as comfortable as possible. As a director you never have to direct a play that you read at the same time as the actors, so it’s the fastest you ever have to think.”
For actor James Corscadden the audition weekend was actually less intimidating than the first round of auditions: “I said to myself that if I get through the first round – which was really scary – then I’m just going to have fun on the recall day. They’re really good at facilitating it and the briefs we got were really imaginative, simple and easy to work with.”
“I didn’t realise that the writers were actually going to write plays today for us to perform this afternoon,” said actor Holly Elmes. They’re definitely throwing us in at the deep end – but sometimes that’s when you get the best results.”
“I was reading on the bus yesterday about 24 slaves that they’ve found hidden in a caravan site,” said writer Karis Halsall. “So I sort of ended up writing about that. I didn’t know if I was going to use it when I got here, but that’s how it ended up.”
“I thought I’d get some divine inspiration when I sat down,” said writer Lola Stephenson, “because the time pressure would make something amazing happen, but I don’t know if that quite happened. You just have to get to the end.”
“I was worried about coming in with an idea because I didn’t want to shoehorn that in, especially when you might be working with different people,” said Rosa Connor. “We did some warm ups and did a speed-dating thing, so we got to meet a lot of the actors. A lot of what I wrote was inspired by those improvisations. I suppose this whole process is about making decisions, because you’ve got so little time.”
The final company for The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices will be announced at the end of this week.
Image by Lucy Glover