PROFESSIONAL ACTING WORKSHOP - AN ACTOR'S PERSPECTIVE BY HOLLY MCLACHLAN


Monday 14th August  -  Acting Workshop with Theatre for Life by Holly McLachlan 

Now, I went into this workshop with a mindset of “you have to smash this!”, “you want to impress them!”, “you need to be great!”, and all I can advise in hindsight is... don’t do this. Just don’t. I come from a background of absolutely zero experience in performance until college, in which I took the Drama and Theatre Studies A-Level purely because I had one slot left to fill, and here I am now studying BA (Hons) Acting at one of the most prestigious arts universities in the UK; Arts University Bournemouth. So naturally, I wanted to go into this workshop and show off a bit... sell myself and my skills that I had learnt over the two years. Represent my university. Now that in itself, is fine, but the Acting workshop with Theatre for Life gave me so much more than just a kick up the bum I needed, it reminded me of my values as an Actor and everything I have learnt so far, in which, surprisingly, I did none of in the workshop.
A workshop is not an audition. You aren’t there to impress or be great or any of the silly things I had locked into my head before I went in. Theatre for Life did a fantastic job creating a safe bubble of creativity where you could freely express yourself... try new things... fail... mess up your lines... and re-evaluate yourself, just as I did. 
The first part of the workshop consisted of working with monologues that we had prepared, with professional working actor Ameer Choudrie, a wonderfully funny and ‘chilled-out’ man who’s energy was greatly appreciated, by not just me but many other young people who were equally, if not more, nervous than I was. Performing is a daunting task, especially when you’re 17 (or younger!) and you’re in a new environment, with new people. Ameer made sure that we were all introduced, all supportive and all feeling comfortable in order to get the very best out of us. 
Now as I said earlier, I flunked this part – but in a good way! Yes, it is possible to do that! I immediately jumped in with what I thought was a good idea and it certainly wasn’t. I forgot my lines multiple times, had too much tension in my body and had no real connection to my text, aside from the emotional capacity. When asked to contextualise it, make it relevant to myself, the words came flowing back... until I became aware of my surroundings again and the fourth wall dropped. Boom, back to blank again. And for some reason, I decided to go in with a preconceived idea of this pleading, pitiful typical Shakespearean woman. This woman was not relatable to me, I had no connection to her and so the context wasn’t there. I was simply performing a monologue, reading the words in a way I thought would sound and look just splendid, darling. One piece of advice from Ameer that proved relatable across many of us at the workshop was to not make it all ‘one level’ – to find the peaks and troughs of the monologues, highs and lows. Very important. I am very grateful for the feedback received by Ameer and Michelle, director of Theatre for Life, and am glad that I messed my monologue up. Sometimes you need to fail in order to learn, or be reminded. 
My advice to anyone preparing a monologue for drama school auditions or for any purpose really, whether that be an audition or a showcase, or simply to perform to your family on Christmas Eve, is this: do not treat it as a performance. A monologue is simply a snippet of the play, a brief glimpse into a period of time that is imperative to the character of the story. You are not just reading a piece of text from memory. This is pure truth. This piece of text has a reason why it is so long, why the character is going into such length to talk. Find that. Work on the truth. Contextualise it and make it relevant and resonant to you. Find the character in yourself, I can’t stress that enough. Do not pick up a piece of text and think “Oh, that’ll be great!” when you have absolutely no connection to the character, to the words or the story. They will know that you are just reading or reciting it. I promise you. The audition panel can see everything. Watching someone actually live through the words, using the text properly and conveying every objective, every need and necessity the character has in that short moment of time is something else. It’s beautiful. But don’t get stuck in one way of performing it, the audition panel will most likely ask you to perform it in a different way – I flunked my East 15 drama school audition in my contemporary monologue but as soon as the audition panel redirected me, it all came back. I got the waiting list too! Messing up is okay!!
In the second half of the workshop, we were introduced to Michael Balogun and Harry Jardine, two RADA graduates as part of the RADA outreach programme. Now if I hadn’t already learnt enough in the morning with Ameer, it was going to be confirmed and confirmed again for me in this session. Since a lot of what we did in the afternoon consisted of activities and exercises I had received in my own training at Arts University Bournemouth, I was able to let go a little and chill the [censored] out. And this is where the best work comes. When you are relaxed, sure of yourself – but not cocky – and able to be in the moment, rather than considering what everyone is thinking of your performance or if you get the next line right or if you are doing enough... bla bla bla, you can really let yourself develop, and development leads to greatness.
Instead of working on text, Michael and Harry established an environment of huge energy and, as I said earlier, offered a few exercises from their drama school training. We also were given Michael Balogun’s astonishing story of discovering how he wanted to be an actor, as a 30-something (sorry Michael!). For obvious reasons, I won’t put this story down here but safe to say if there was anyone who has inspired me more to keep pushing and ‘keep that vision’ it was him. Michael offered me a council that was invaluable. Both sessions enabled me to really look at myself and my development as an actor, see where I want to go and how I want to get there. 
And, most importantly, who am I as an actor? What do I bring? 

“Your reality comes from you. Make it work.” – Michael Balogun 

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