As this blog is primarily for those working in theatre production I've resisted writing about auditioning from the point of view of actors. There are hundreds of blogs about how to get a job as an actor. Ludicrous self-important, strings of words that would put any wretched self-help book to shame. I don't want to add to that cacophony of nonsense. Auditions are hard for actors and writing drivel helps nobody.
Having sat in on a lot of auditions over the passed six months I do want to make some observations. These won't necessarily help get you a job. They're unlikely to make the experience any less unpleasant. They might give you an insight into life on the other side of the table.
It is important to remember that as a producer, general manager and sometime casting director, I think being in auditions is a privilege. I genuinely want people to do their best. It makes my life easier (or more difficult if it means choosing between two or more brilliant performers) if everybody who walks in is superb.
Casting though is not just about talent. We're not only looking for the best performer (though it usually helps), we're also looking for specific features (physical, emotional and intellectual) which will support the show. You may give the finest version of the title number of Beauty and the Beast since Dame Angela Lansbury, but if you are called in to be second cover Belle it just isn't going to work out for you. Don't be afraid to tell your agent you don't think you're right for something. I remember going to an audition for Twelve Irish Tenors, only to hear a member of the audition panel whisper 'but he's not a tenor.'
One of my biggest bugbears is auditionees not following the instructions laid out for them by the casting director. If you have been asked to sing in an English accent, why on Earth would you choose to sing in an American accent? You'll only be stopped and asked to revisit it and everybody will be waiting for you to slip back into your Yankee tones. Frankly, as a lifelong fan of musical theatre, I find it extraordinary and a bit insulting that people don't seem to have a repertoire including British songs. It isn't as if Britain has been short of composers. Show some imagination. Surprise us with Chu Chin Chow! Whip out your Honk! Give us your Twang!! If your agent hasn't passed on the right information make sure they know about it. It is in their interest as much as yours to get this right.
Finally, if something goes wrong, don't blame someone in the room. If you crack on a note because the pianist isn't playing the piece as you expected him to play it simply acknowledge that you don't normally crack at that moment. Remember that, next time, it is your job to be clearer about the tempi and feel you require for a number. If you tell off the pianist I'm likely to simply think you're too rude to want to work with.
Someone once asked me if being in auditions was like being on the X-Factor panel. It really isn't. We want people to do well and by and large people really do. There is so much talent in our industry that you just need to make steps to stand out from the crowd. If that means learning The Cobbler's Song then so be it!
Several weeks ago I was invited to University of Leeds to talk on a panel about working in theatre. Unfortunately, I had contracted laryngitis and could barely speak. I valiantly made my appearance and passed on my wisdom.
At the end of the session, the floor was opened to attendees in a question and answer session. The final question, 'what do you dislike most about working in the theatre?', brought out the worst in me. Desperate to make myself heard and show off my rapier sharp wit, I screamed 'actors' as though they were demons from hell. It got a nice laugh, but I immediately realised that some of my fellow panel members had taken me seriously and I couldn't muster any more voice to say that I absolutely didn't mean it!
So, for the purposes of clarity, I want to categorically state to the acting profession, I love you.
Like a low-end masseuse, we're about to deliver a happy ending. We're about to discuss relief. (Erm, really? Ed.)
On 1st September, after many years of lobbying, the government introduced Theatre Tax Relief. The launch of the relief brings the theatre industry into line with the film, television and computer games industries, which have been benefiting from similar tax relief schemes for several years.
Theatre Tax Relief will allow producers to re-claim a percentage of qualifying pre-production expenditure (25% for touring productions and 20% for all other productions). This will have the effect of reducing the amount a production has to recoup and will increase the likelihood of a production breaking even or returning a profit. Certain pre-production expenditure will not be eligible for the relief (most significantly marketing expenditure) and no running expenditure will qualify (although the cost of re-casts and get-outs will attract the relief).
The general view in the industry is that the introduction of the new relief will help encourage more investment in theatre and will enable producers to consider presenting more commercially risky productions.
Being a new initiative, there is likely to be an element of everyone feeling their way over the first few months. HMRC, which had planned to issue notes in August, are still finalising their official guidance.
As with any tax credit, there will be additional paperwork to be completed before a claim can be processed. Here at 1505, we will be working with a number of producers on claims over the coming months, and will be in an excellent position to guide you through the process.
If you'd like to discuss a claim or how the relief could help you and your production, please do contact us.
Producers are not just money men. They don't wear fur coats and homburgs or, usually, smoke fat Cuban cigars (fat cigars from Cuba, Ed.). With a few notable exceptions they don't dive into vats of money like Scrooge McDuck.
Producers produce because they are interested in stories. The impetus to create and share theatre is not restricted to actors, directors or any of the other people who are considered 'artists'.
Like many producers, I entered into the business in a different position. Sonia Friedman and Cameron Mackintosh famously trained in Stage Management. Thelma Holt, Matthew Byam Shaw and Bill Kenwright were actors. I'm from the latter group, though my acting 'career' was mightily less successful than theirs. My first foray into the world of producing were events at the old Theatre Museum. It only took one go and I was hooked. In spite of the trials and tribulations, once the excitement of being allowed to create something from scratch took hold of me, I wanted - possibly needed - to repeat it.
Another triumphant season in Edinburgh has just raced by and amongst the billions (really? Ed) of shows, first time producers will have rubbed shoulders with veterans. I suspect only a tiny proportion of those producers will have only been money men. Many will have produced simply because it is the only way to get their own work on. The ability to create a wonderful piece of theatre, with just a group of friends in a room is a magical thing. It refreshes and revives our industry and means that talent can, with relative speed, explode out of that room and end up in venues across the world. That sort of accelerated growth would test any producer's metal. Don't be afraid to ask for help or, if you want to get back to basics, a general management company like 1505 will be able to take over the practical work, leaving you to consider the art.
1505 want to thank all the actors who applied for As You Like It at Southwark Playhouse.
We had well over 1,000 applications and we looked at everyone. I'm sorry that we can't reply to you all individually, but I do hope you join us for the production. There are £10 tickets available for all previews and it is going to be a thing of wonder!
1505 are delighted to be casting Peter Huntley Productions and W14 Productions forthcoming production of As You Like It, directed by Derek Bond at Southwark Playhouse. We're really pleased to have received an unprecedented number of requests from actors for information on casting. With that in mind we have created a specific email address for applications from actors: AsYouLikeItcasting@weare1505.co.uk. Please do not phone our office about casting opportunities. Due to the volume of responses we are unable to reply to you unless we need to see you for an audition.
Agents should continue to submit actors via Spotlight breakdowns which will be sent out again later today.
We have been casting As You Like It since the beginning of July and therefore several roles are either on offer or already cast. Please understand that we cannot give out any information regarding who has been cast until a formal press release is sent out.
The production includes doubling across several roles. Please consider if you are suitable for the complete track rather than just one role. Doubling includes:
- Duke Frederick / Duke Senior
- Le Beau / Silvius
- Adam / Corin
- Charles the Wrestler / Amiens
Please only apply for the production if you are available for all dates:
Rehearsals commence 18 August
Production opens 18 September
Production closes 18 October
The production will have a new score for actor musicians by acclaimed composer Jude Obermüller. We are particularly focusing on actors with excellent instrument and voice skills.
All company members must be excellent verse speakers and have experience of performing Shakespeare.
Auditions will be held in the coming weeks and you will need to be available to attend: we cannot accept auditions on 'tape' or via 'Skype'.
Finally, a personal plea, if you email us please do make sure you have considered all the points above and make sure you address it to 1505 casting.
Theatre is a funny old game. Like Bruce Forsyth throughout the 1970s, in theatre, one never knows what is going to land on one's lap.
This week's blog is about keeping one's options open. About making sure that when Bruce tells you that you are going to be shooting arrows at a load of rubber ducks in a pond, you have the quivers to make it possible.
One of the great things about theatre is that is demands so many skills. Each project has its own challenges and we're always meeting people from outside our world and trying our hand at their business. I recently met a director who had worked on a piece at drama school. The show was set in a hotel kitchen, so she and her students, had spent a shift being kitchen assistants. We're incredibly lucky that other professions are so open to our processes.
I originally trained as a dramaturg. As a training it stood me in good stead for producing, it has given me an excellent grounding in text and enabled me to talk (occasionally intelligently) about plays and musicals. This week I've been using my dramaturgical background across several projects.
No two weeks are the same in theatre and, that, as far as I am concerned is the ultimate Brucie bonus.
As Stephen Sondheim has noted, getting the first five minutes of your show right is crucial to its success. Here's a terrific example of why he's right.
In the week that Sir Cameron Mackintosh, opened Miss Saigon (and the production reached recoupment), the UK's first theatrical billionaire has also expanded his London theatre holdings by buying the Ambassadors and Victoria Palace theatres.
I, personally, am delighted (and not only because Sir Cameron is my producer crush), but because he has proven time after time, that he wants to invest in the future of British theatre and its stock of ageing playhouses. The Guardian estimates he has spent around £50,000,000 restoring, reviving and revitalising his buildings - theatres which are now some of the most sought after venues in London. That amount cannot have been provided by the Restoration Levy, so it is clear how much of his own money Sir Cameron has ploughed into this project. His Foundation has also ploughed money into theatre and other good causes.
In his plans for the Ambassadors though, Sir Cameron has taken another major step in supporting emerging talent. Assuming planning permission is granted, the newly named Sondheim will be a major boon to producers. It has obviously been in his mind for a long time and it, alongside Nica Burn's equally ambitious plan for the Nimax, will, I have no doubt, be a massive help in rebalancing London's theatre ecology and allow producers to take bigger risks.
Of course, all Knights of the Realm, need someone to burnish their armour and that man, for Sir Cameron, is Scotland's answer to Elaine Paige, Billy Differ. Witty, debonair and passionate about theatre, Differ appears to be personally hosting every audience member at a private party. His attention to detail is apparent in the maintenance of the theatre's he oversees.
Delfont Mackintosh staff clearly take pride in their work and their surroundings and with bosses like Sir Cameron and Billy Differ, who wouldn't?
For my next blog, I promise not to write about Cameron Mackintosh. Pinky swear.
Like the Queen, 1505 has two birthdays! Today is our official birthday. What will you be doing to celebrate?
At a recent drama school production, (whilst giving my thoughts to the director who I could tell really wanted my opinion), I suggested that a suitable note for the cast would be 'don't play the walrus when you could play the hare.' I was desperately trying to find something which sounded profound, but meant nothing at all.
As it happened, I stumbled on something which sounded idiotic, but can be used in many situations. My new catchphrase has since developed a life of its own (well within the three people who were around for its premier) and I wanted to explain what I meant by it, on the record, before I gift it to the world.
Firstly, I should say I was not passing judgement on either walruses or hares. Both have their place. Both are charming. I was also not being rude about anybody in the company. I was suggesting the company should pick up cues faster. I'm not condoning gabbling, but I do think the audience (unless faced with an acting genius) tend to want to get out of the theatre in time for a pint at the bar.
Having invented the phrase, I stand by it. I believe that it has wider relevance to the theatrical community: we constantly need to be fleet of foot and reinvent ourselves. To be successful we can't solely rely on tried and tested techniques. In performance, writing and in business, to thrive we have to adapt. Theatre is actually very good at this and as Lyn Gardner says in this piece about recent high-profile West End flops from Radio 4's You and Yours on 5 May (starting about 16 mins 20 seconds in) 'has a huge ability to renew itself.'
As Sir Cameron Mackintosh joins an elite list of British billionaires, it is clear that even our most established commercial producers do adapt to change. Sir Cameron's recent surge in wealth, of course, is down to major concerts of his musicals, revised versions of his shows and a very successful venture into the movie business. You may think he's a theatrical walrus, but clearly hare brained isn't an insult when it comes to the great and the good of theatreland.