Part 1 - An ill-fated audition
I remember the first time I delivered a speech, not only in front of the tutors of a well established drama school, but also the students of the year above, who’d been invited to sit in and watch me dry up from the inside like a worm injected with salt. I hadn’t any previous acting experience but thought I had enough charisma and self-confidence to wing it into a 3-year acting course.
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the room were the faces. Eager and curious. Some smiling. Some simply enjoying the break from their studies. One or two with a raised eyebrow must have sensed by my body language I was out of my depth. My hands were trembling as I folded my speech paper in half and put it into my pocket. The only problem was I couldn’t remember the first line of either the Shakespeare or the contemporary. That had never happened before. A plug hole opened in my stomach and all charisma and confidence began draining out of my body.
I was told to begin by the middle-aged, grey-haired tutor, whose voice was classically English, and at that moment, terrifying. Having no concept of the method, I couldn’t get into that place I’d been when I’d practiced on my own in my room. I tried to feel an emotion. The practice of which was even more ridiculous than it sounds. I put one hand in my pocket and scratched my head with the other. I took out my speech and read the first line. I put my speech back into my pocket and began to recite like a five-year old child in a nativity play, going at the same exaggerated pace as the droplets of sweat which ran down my cheeks to leap in suicidal relief onto the stage floor. All my saliva had gone. Rough craters appeared on my tongue, the back of which kept sticking to the roof of my mouth, making me sound as if I’d just been to the dentist to have some teeth removed.
As my body flushed in red, it also began picking up the general vibration of the room, feeding it into my brain as a kind of heightened sense. Pity, disgust, and the type of embarrassment which makes eyes screw up and mouths widen to show teeth, hit me like an invisible force field. And there was more… something else… yes… abject pleasure from that smiling swine with the glasses. I noticed three girls with their heads in their hands. Snakes squirmed in my stomach as I stumbled through an ill chosen Shakespearean monologue which incurred a two person slow clap and a nod from the tutor who told me to start my contemporary speech without further ado. This monologue happened to be from the film “Jaws”. I was now the wild and eccentric Captain Quint. What in God’s name was I thinking? I was twenty-two years old and had never caught a fish in my life. In a confused jumble of words, I missed lines and finished early. I was given a seething silence from the audience and a, “Yes, well… thank you for that,” from the tutor who’d already folded his arms and crossed his legs and dipped his head to stare into his notes and then rubbed his temple in despair with two fingers. Yes, I was watching. I saw them all during my torture, because I was as far from Captain Quint as a hawk from the moon. Dismissed. Sent home, never to be seen or heard of by anyone there again.