It was such a pleasure to get to chat with Vicky. Even more so because it was the first episode of the podcast and that little extra bit of safety I got from interviewing a friend really helped.
We covered so much ground during our chat, a great deal of which ended up on the cutting room floor. I’m fully expecting us to revisit many of the topics at some point, but for now, here’s a snapshot of what you can expect when you get a chance to listen.
“If it’s not fun, don’t do it!” (Her words not mine)
It's clear that Vicky is very pragmatic about her allocation of energy and time when it comes to theatre. She’s also very keen to make sure others are aware of both the commitment required but also the need to protect themselves from some of the more adverse effects of performing. There's a line that she seems to have drawn that ensures people aren’t giving away more of themselves than they can afford to and that they deserve at least a proportional amount of growth and development back in return for their efforts (my words not hers!).
Vicky's ability to step back, access, and then refocus was present throughout our conversation. It feels like a very relevant skill for a young actor to try and co-opt given the nature of the business. For those that do read this and then listen to the episode, keep in mind how relevant those skills (stepping back, accessing, and refocusing) are when it comes to each element we discussed.
Vicky offered up some very straightforward prep advice when it comes to auditions;
Firstly try and read the play you're auditioning for. At least that way you get a feel for the major themes and where each character sits in the piece.
Secondly, select a character that you like. Whether that be the lead or a supporting role, focus in on that part and try and find a monologue that best represents them (it doesn’t need to be from the play itself).
Thirdly, prepare so you’re comfortable but not inflexible. Get yourself to a point where you feel comfortable with your choices about the piece, but haven’t allowed yourself to focus too heavily on the specific character in the play or the part you're auditioning for. Instead, find the words on the page that live within you specifically. Push to have what you’re saying be the truth that you feel. Your absolute truth. After that, the director will see you can deliver a human truth and should be able to see a way of shaping that into the character they want.
Our discussion around rehearsals also covered a great deal of interesting ground. I’ve highlighted many of the points Vicky raised below, but it’s worth going back and having a listen yourself, to pick up the nuances.
Prior to arriving make sure you understand what the play is about. The best way to do this? Watch the movie and read a synopsis. Then read the play again (hopefully you read it before the audition).
From here on out the character you’ve been cast as should be central to your understanding of the play. You now need to find the truth in the character that resonates with you, to begin to ask questions like those listed below:
Who is my character?
What are the important relationships they have throughout the play?
What part of their personality lives within me?
Where in my sub-personalities does this character sit?
Why am I saying what I’m saying? And why are they saying what they’re saying?
Vicky also presents a collection of things she likes/needs in order to feel comfortable in the rehearsal room. This is one for the directors out there to pay attention to:
I need to be moving early.
I need to know where I’m going to stand and why.
I want a framework within which I can play. The director needs to give me context and setting for each piece of the action to define this.
I need to hear it said out loud.
I need to understand what story is being told and where my character sits in that story.
Give me the safety I need to explore - time and space to try things will help this.
Once all this is in place it offers the optimal environment for actors to be vulnerable and this is the final and hardest piece of the puzzle to unlock.
As an amateur, you must make yourself aware of your potential roadblock. Knowing in advance will help you spot them when they arise. Not knowing means you may not understand when you hit them and this can cause stress and anxiety.
To overcome them and breakthrough Vicky offers up three easy tricks.
Do it (the line, the scene, or even a specific interaction you’re struggling with) as yourself.
Do it in a funny accent.
Go away and rediscover what story you’re meant to be telling in each scene. Look back at the script and your notes and piece together your motivations.
Again Vicky offers a raft of ideas about dealing with and preventing conflict. From my point of view, the key is that we all accept and appreciate the ideas listed below to avoid point 6.
Respect the process. It won’t always be about you all of the time.
Respect your fellow actors.
Respect the sacrifices people have made to allow you to be in this space.
Take things seriously, but…
Don’t take it so seriously you become the arsehole.
Don’t be an arsehole.
Finally, never allow your respect for the people and process to blind you to someone taking advantage. You also need to be respected and respect yourself.
"You’ve made an unbelievable commitment. You’ve given your time and energy to get here so now's the time to reap the benefits. You just need to...
Make sure you’ve used your rehearsal time effectively (see above)
Make sure you’ve learnt your lines and continue to revisit them.
Make sure you have the character embedded in your body to allow for the most natural presentation of their thoughts, feelings, and emotions when on stage.
Make sure you have asked all the questions you need to ask. Don’t be shy.
Remember you have been vulnerable in rehearsals, you have committed to producing your best work. Now you are seeking to hold the tension between reproducing that work every night while also not investing your full sense of worth in the result. So enjoy it and have fun out there."
Possible further reading:
Stanislavski: An Introduction - link
Brecht - link
Love is Where it Falls - Simon Callow - link
Emma Thompson - link