“Safety in numbers!” – Andy Pearson

By April 11, 2017April 18th, 2018News

There is an old saying that there is safety in numbers well that’s not true if your class at ActUpNorth is running a workshop on group scripts!

On initial reading the script handed out on arrival looked easy peasy, a handful of lines scattered over a 3 page scene playing a TV personality Doctor with 3 flirty women! Boy were we in for a shock, the normally straightforward task in a one to one scene of sorting out an objective and analysing where the changes of tactics might be was suddenly a chaotic task as our group read it through desperately trying to work out who or what our character was about. Those early readings were painfully slow and wooden as we all jostled for position and moved around far too much trying to make our part work. We then progressed to us all missing the occasional line and butting in too early as we stopped listening or were too busy reacting to the wrong person. Mmmmm this is tricky!

At last some organisation, Lesley took control and started directing us where and when to stand and sit, phew! Now it’s coming together a bit but still not quite working. Rehearsal time over now for the acid test.

Luckily for us several groups were “on stage” before us so we benefitted from Lee’s critique of others attempts at running this scene from his favourite play, it became apparent that the scene should be all about Catherine (Kelly’s character) so with that in mind it was our turn next.

With a little luck and Lee’s insight we went for it! To our collective surprise it went rather well and for once better than our rehearsal with us all being pretty much in the moment as Catherine teetered around offering drink, drugs and despair to anyone who’d accept them whilst we reacted and tried to remain planted whilst Kelly added her touch of chaos to the scene. Time for our critique! Lee offered his usual forthright review of our performances; overall pretty good, the most pertinent point being we could have all pushed our performances bigger! Always an issue when a scene involves drunkenness and highly emotional content how big should you go?

What did we learn? Well I now appreciate that three or four lines per page in a chaotic group scene is way more difficult than it first appears, you have to be constantly listening and reacting to all that’s going on around to prevent it from being situational awareness overload! Good fun though.


Sue Jones Casting Director visited the Leeds classes on the 3 August to run what we thought would be “another mock casting” session which meant many people were pretty nervous in the waiting area!

Boy were we in for a surprise after initial down to earth introductions we were informed that rather than run it like a formal casting Sue was going to give us a lesson on what Directors/Casting Directors want and perhaps more importantly don’t want to see from an actor.

Thankfully we weren’t treated to the usual “be on time” and “be prepared” advice that is obvious for any interview instead Sue let us in on little secrets like Directors often don’t like directing as they are shy or nervous and that they just want to see the actor give them a good performance that needs little if no intervention from them. Also she couldn’t stress enough how much she wanted actors to come across as relaxed and confident in an audition, now this is a big ask from many of us new and aspiring actors, but it seems is an essential skill we need if we are to put nervous Directors at ease!

For the next part of the lesson we were each scrutinised and cast in half a dozen well used scripts Sue had brought along which had been carefully selected to provide us with traps and pitfalls that many auditionees fall into. We had 15 minutes to read the scripts alone and prepare, now for those that struggle to learn lines we were informed that we would be reading them, a skill in itself!

After our short preparation we were straight into our readings, if people fell into the prepared traps Sue quickly and politely pointed it out and gave us steps to avoid such calamities, if people read well then after any notes or direction the pitfalls of that script were again pointed out and tools offered to avoid them in future auditions.

A final few minutes of questions and answers followed before our all too brief a session with Sue was over, time flies when you’re having fun!