Sunday, 17 February 2013

Actors as a Breed - come in for your close-up!

I am currently reading The Diaries of a Fleet Street Fox, a fascinating insight into the world of a tabloid journalist.  Many of the pages are spent dissecting and discussing their breed; qualities, stereotypes and surroundings of a “journo” are shown to the reader who has probably never stepped foot onto Fleet Street and you feel as if you begin to understand them. 
What would he find if he peered into our world?
As I turned each page I began to wonder whether we actors are a unique breed with hidden depths and stereotypes to be studied.  What would national treasure Sir David Attenborough make of our sort if the BBC commissioned a six-part series?
Where better to study “the Actor” than in their natural habitat – the audition room.  The first surprise to the viewer; there are no glamorous green rooms as seen on The Jonathan Ross Show full of booze and smiling celebs nor a colourful couch and free mug a la Loose Women.  You are more likely to spot the actor in a church hall with a ‘soundscape’ of dripping taps and the distant whirl of a fan heater.
Here, you would find many specimens of auditionee huddled around battling for warmth dressed in “funky summer” attire for a Mamma Mia! casting despite it being bitterly cold February outside.  What is interesting about this gathering is that they won’t strive for the good of the herd but for the individual, despite the squawks to the contrary of “Hiya babes” and “You look amazing!”  Don’t let the song of the actor fool you; like a pack of hungry wolves surrounding a coyote they will fight for a job until the death.
The graduate - wide-eyed with fabulous legs!

There are many breeds of performer under the classification of “Actor” and if you are patient any number of them will enter the audition room.  First comes the “graduate”; this type of actor has not quite reached maturity and is often visiting the watering hole from a far off land known as drama school.  The “graduate” bears no resemblance to Dustin Hoffman but may have similar characteristics such as wide-eyed optimism and a tendency to use the methods of Stanislavski.  They are often the first to appear because they are keen to give a good impression and have yet to learn that sitting around makes your nerves worse thus increasing visits to the toilet.
Next to appear is the “unashamed” actor; you will recognise them from the siren of sound that precedes their entrance from the stairwell.  The trill-ing, coo-ing and la-la-la-ing of the “unashamed” varies in pitch and is often accompanied by lunging against a wall or lying in semi-supine.  The “unashamed” has clearly forgotten to warm up in the shower or perhaps enjoys this vocal display as some kind of passive aggressive war-cry; rather like a peacock displaying its feather or Roebuck flashing it’s antlers.  This type of actor is to be ignored at all costs and mustn’t put you off your stride.
Shut uuuuuuup!
Another noisy type is the “conversation starter” – David Attenborough has yet to verify whether this chatter is another passive aggressive attempt to distract fellow auditionees or a genuine desire to talk because they have no friends.  A “conversation starter” will attempt contact in a number of ways; the most common being “Aren’t the tubes a nightmare this morning?” and “What song are you singing?” Do engage in chatter but don’t be surprised if your name is suddenly called and you have been too pre-occupied to get your folder out or swig water.  You have been warned!
Oh my God Oh my God you guys!
The clique nicknamed “Babes” can be frightening as they often have gorgeous plumage and come as a group.  They all seem to know each other from previous acting jobs and will fill the room with a cacophony of gossip and in-jokes.  But do not be intimidated for they only call each other “Babes” because they can’t for the life of them remember what each-other’s names really are and are only friends in the Facebook sense.
In the quieter corners of an audition room you will find the “old-timer” and the “bouncer.”  “Old-timer” has done all this before and will arrive with just enough time to take off their coats, pop in a Vocalzone and head straight in.  No stress or drama will accompany this type of actor as they are probably too busy planning childcare or getting back for their matinee.  “Old-timer” will probably end up getting the job because they are well-known and respected by those scary folk on the other side of the doors.  The “bouncer” is the guard for those doors, the stage-manager ticking folk in and out “if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting in.”  They are often found consoling a wailing actor who tries to make a run for the doors begging for a second chance.  You should always be nice to the “bouncer” but never ask them a question as they have been drilled by the scary folk through the doors to lie.  They read out lists of names for recalls and will always preface this with “Now this isn’t a no, we may want to see you at a later date,” THIS IS A LIE!  Don’t believe them and leave for the nearest wine bar with your head held high.
You may think that a trip to an audition room is not adventurous enough for Attenborough’s cameramen who are used to tracking mating Rhinos or territorial bull giraffes, but have you ever approached a premenstrual dancer who hasn’t eaten for 2 days in order to fit into her Chicago style uni-tard? 

This kind of TV analysis may seem an absurd analogy but think back to the countless Saturday nights we have spent watching footage of this breed as they queue up for X-Factor/The Voice/Find me a Jesus, pace waiting-rooms and warble to camera.  Attenborough’s animals are filmed unwittingly in their habitat but actors sign disclaimers and shout out in harmony “Come and judge me warts and all!”  Which is the more immoral?
Actors are certainly an interesting breed but it takes all sorts to make this globe of ours go round so I am quite pleased to be one of them, whatever my classification!

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