If you ever want to make it as an actor, then you’re going to have to get pretty hecking good at auditions. In the run up to The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices, Steve Winter auditioned over 500 actors in less than a week. So, if anyone knows what makes a good audition monologue it’s him. Here are his top tips…
Your monologue should be the best example of what you do well.
Monologue auditions are not the time to try out new things. If someone is asking you to audition with a monologue then they should be able to tell you what kind of part you are auditioning for. Get as much information about what the panel are looking for as possible. Then you have to decide if what they’re after is what you do well.
Tone: Intense monologues are sometimes quite hard to pull off. You’ve only got two minutes, so it can be hard to build up to that dramatic moment.
Picking the monologue: Reading the play is essential. Those monologue books are a great jumping-off point to discover playwrights, but you can’t rely on them. We often get lots of people doing the same monologues because they’re in those books. There is nothing wrong with reading a monologue in one of those books, loving it, going off and reading that playwright’s other work and then picking a monologue from another one of their plays. The best monologues are self-contained stories.
Play your age: There are some amazing plays written by The Royal Court, by and for young people. At your age, you’re probably going to connect with that much more than a piece of Chekhov.
Shakespeare: Shakespeare is actually rather good. A lot of his speeches tell a story and, often, it shows the panel the intelligence of the actor, because it is quite hard to get that meter right. Although sometimes those monologues can end up being quite mannered and “Shakespearean” with a capital S.
Swearing: It just jars. A well placed f**k is fine, but six f**ks and a c-word is violent on the ears. That’s why Mark Ravenhill and Steven Berkoff don’t work for me.
Taking your clothes off: You’ve got to ask yourself, “What does that show the panel?” If you’re trying to show them bravery and freedom, then there are other ways to do that. Great speeches and opening yourself up as an actor are much more effective than standing there in your bra and pants. It’s too shocking, too much and all it does is make you remember them as the person who stood there in their bra and knickers.
If your piece genuinely requires someone to strip, then it’s up to you to make that choice, but you are making a definite statement.
Length: Just because a piece is long, it doesn’t mean it’s good. It’s absolutely fine to edit a monologue so your two minutes are wonderful. Don’t give yourself too much to do and give yourself some room to allow those pauses and that expression.
Accents: I would say, in general, no to accents. It’s just another thing that could go wrong. If you’re having a bad day then it’s another pressure that you probably don’t need.
Theatricality: Intimate monologues can be wonderful, but you’ve got to prove that you have stage presence and that you can fill that space. It’s got to have a certain amount of theatricality.
Delivering a monologue is very hard. But in the end, the only way to find the right monologue is to read, read, read. Find a couple of playwrights you really love, read all their plays and find a monologue that speaks to you.
Remember, it’s about showcasing you as an actor.
Steve was talking to Nell Frizzell.
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