1,800 actors for 20 places: Nobody said The 24 Hour Plays auditions would be easy. But, then again, nobody said they’d be fun either. Our theatre editor, Nell Frizzell, reports back from the action…
Standing in a circle. Chanting. Beating your chest. Screaming.
Staring into the eyes of a stranger. Reciting odd, dislocated sentences. Lying on the floor with your eyes closed as a man gives you instructions: a stranger walking into the 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices actors’ auditions could be forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled upon a new, Clapham-based cult.
In fact, the audition workshop I tagged along to was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve had for months. There was high energy dance music, a hall full of young, talented actors, intriguing exercises, hilarious speeches and at least one bear anus gag.
The session started with a physical warm up, led by Old Vic New Voices’ Director Steve Winter. Cue jumping, slapping, breathing and possibly even some sweating. The whole crowd was then encouraged to find a partner and tell them everything they could about themselves, before Steve blew the whistle and they had to do it all over again with a new stranger.
If the words “speed date” start ringing in your ears, then this might be a good time to point out that The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices has, so far, produced one marriage and at least two long-term relationships.
As the participants bounced around the room, talking and gesturing below the pumping sounds of Rizzle Kicks, I could see Steve and OVNV’s Shaka Bunsie watching how everyone took instructions, interacted with each other and kept their energy. That’s the funny thing about The 24 Hour Plays – it’s not casting for a play, it’s finding collaborators for a theatrical experiment. As OVNV's Shaka Bunsie put it, "We’re looking for people who can fill the space, but be truthful when they do it. Also, how they work as a team, work with one another and understand the speeches.”
After those first introductions had been made, everyone was encouraged to think of, and hook up with, a person they particularly wanted to work with. Someone they clicked with or were intrigued by. In these pairs, each actor went through their monologue, giving feedback to each other. As one auditionee put it, "You make nice links with people. You end up sticking together. It’s been such a good workshop, it’s almost hard to remember that there’s an end goal.”
Steve did a very interesting thing – got the pairs to join with another pair; and then that four to join with another four, making the auditionees refine their monologue in front of a growing group of peers. He even got everyone to cut their entire monologue down to just one line, which was then – hopefully – imbued with all the intention and direction of a whole speech.
Finally, all of these lines were put together, turning eight disparate quotes into some semblance of a scene, to then be performed in front of the whole group.
It was great to see so many people so enthusiastic about an audition and to see how well the actors adapted and improved in that setting. Of course, in the end, there can only be so many that go through to the final stage and, as one of the participants put it, "You don’t know what they want so you just go in and give you. You either fit or you don’t."
Hey, it was fun while it lasted.
Successful actors will be informed within 24 hours of their audition.
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