On 12 May 2009, people from many diverse backgrounds headed to London's newest and most vibrant audition venue, I. N. C. Space, in Covent Garden, for a party to celebrate the launch of the book.
Renowned photographer, Ethel Davies, was on hand to capture the evening, which, as you will see, was filled with lots of fun and laughter. You can also read the speech Richard made below.
Thank you all for coming tonight – it’s wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues from such a diversity of backgrounds.
This evening marks the end of a four year journey for me, which I have found tremendously exciting and has been a huge learning curve. I wrote this book not only to help people start a career in our very overcrowded industry, but also, having seen a great many established and experienced performers repeatedly making the same mistakes, and losing job after job, I wanted to share the information to enable them to improve and succeed. As well as increasing their success rate, I hope it will also make life easier for those responsible for casting.
People are now asking me what my next book will be… a novel perhaps or juicy autobiography? Well, being a casting director, I am reputed to have no imagination, so anything fictional is out of the question, and as for an autobiography, my lawyers are encouraging this one, as they'd be kept very busy in these hard times!
My journey and the resulting book would not have been possible without the support, help and belief of many people, some of whom I’d now like to thank: Talia Rogers, my publisher, has not only championed the project but wholeheartedly shared my vision in wanting to make the book accessible to all and keep its informal style. Thanks also to everyone at Routledge for their expertise and being so helpful and supportive – Tom Church for so excellently organising tonight's launch, Ben Piggott, Alfred Lea, Emma Usherwood, Nick Perry and his sales team, Paula Coales, Stacey Carter and everyone else who has helped make the book a reality. Also to Catherine Foley, who gave excellent editorial input, but had to leave before the project was completed due to ill-health. Thanks also to Maggie Lindsay-Jones and her brilliant team at Keystroke for their skill and patience while copyediting and typesetting; Ethel Davies for photographically capturing tonight's event; and to Chris Manoe, Melanie Tate and all the team here at I.N.C Space for hosting tonight's launch in their fantastic new audition venue. If you haven't yet looked around this incredible space, I urge you to do so.
I’m told it’s customary on these occasions for the author to read a passage from their work. This is especially daunting with so many outstanding actors in the room, but here goes… this is a snippet which will be close to many of your hearts… about auditioning for a place at drama school.
Knowledge is power, even at the competitive pre-training stage and when I have sat on audition panels as an outside eye, I am amazed how little people actually know about the profession they wish to enter – somewhat like an apprentice builder not knowing what cement is. Swot up on as much background information as you can, no matter how basic it may seem. I’ll never forget the girl who twice told me she was doing a piece from William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempits’, or the boy who, after giving us a weedy English rendition of ‘Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’’ from Oklahoma! (exactly reprising the same performance when asked to try it again, relishing the new day as an American cowman) was asked who wrote the show. ‘Oh I know this one,’ he announced proudly, ‘It was Cameron Mackintosh.’ Sir Cameron had actually transferred the National Theatre’s 1998 revival, which the candidate in question had seen – twice. The biscuit was taken for me, however, by the musical theatre hopeful who had come all the way from his native Norway to audition. After his two songs, which were adequate if uninspiring, delivered more in cabaret style than musical theatre, as they were written, our Norwegian friend proceeded to tell us that he would be doing his acting speech from Chicago, playing the role of Roxie Hart. ‘So if I am talking about my husband,’ he continued, ‘It will not be my husband, because I am a man and of course I do not have a husband – it will be Roxie’s husband.’ At this point a broad grin broke out on my face and I dared not catch my fellow panellist’s eye. Having given us his Mrs Hart, his explanation for his transgendered speech was simple: ‘We do not have any people in Norway who write serious plays with good parts for men,’ he earnestly stated. ‘Have you heard of Henrik Ibsen?’ I asked, somewhat shocked that one of the foremost European playwrights, and doubtless the most famous of his countrymen, had been overlooked. ‘No, should I have?’ was his response.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg, and while nerves may play some part in forgetfulness or gaffes, try to be as focused and prepared as you can, so you look and feel natural and knowledgeable when delivering facts, rather than as though they have been learnt by rote.
Of course, along with the bad, there are also the good – very good in some cases. There have been two people who I have approached to come in for professional auditions on the spot, based on what I’ve seen for drama school. One got his first job in the theatre from that (and he is still working today without any formal training, so it can be done). ‘What’s his secret?’ I hear you ask, ‘And how can I be like him?’ I wish I knew. He was a one in a million case and his, and others’, magic has been so individualistic that it is virtually impossible to pin down. Besides, that is only my subjective viewpoint.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll wrap up now. Thanks again to all of you for joining us tonight. Do please spread the word about the book, especially to those who might find it useful. Anything you can do will be greatly appreciated.
As it is the theme of the book, and this evening, please join me now in raising your glasses to… SUCCESS!