What happens in the Final Recall Day of the BA Hons Acting at Central ? (by Nick Moseley)

(Featured Image : Nick Moseley is the former Head of the BA Hons Acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.)

Hey Audition Hackers ! In this drama schools auditions post, I have interviewed Nick Moseley who used to preside the audition panel at the last round of Central. You will learn everything about the last round. He will share with us some precious drama school audition advice.

Could you introduce yourself for those who do not know you?

My Name is Nick Moseley, I am the head of the BA Hons Acting here. I’ve been here for about 13 years and prior to that I was in a similar position at the Italia Conti Academy on their BA Hons Acting and prior to that I was teaching drama. Before that I was acting, which was in the 80s, so obviously I’ve got a very long association with Drama but actually the majority of my career is now being served in drama schools. 

What is your role in the audition process?

Central gets approximately four to five thousand applicants each year and of course what that means is that if we’re going to offer an audition to every person on the list which we do then we can’t have our full Time Team see everybody on that list. We have to have panels that look at the large numbers of people who come through the door and just whittle them down to the last hundred that we, in the Full Time Team, are then able to look at in final recalls. I am then solely standing on the panel for the Final Recall Day.

Could you run me through the structure of the final Recall Day?

The structure of the final round changed, and I would say that the final day is actually 3 different rounds. We invite all of the selected people for the morning and in the morning, we look at putting them through various tasks, a sort of warm up workshop where they do an improvisation task and then we get them to do pieces and we redirect them in their pieces. It usually is Shakespeare in the morning. At the end of the morning we then work out who from those people we would like to stay for the afternoon. In the afternoon we then usually look at their contemporary pieces and we put them through an even more challenging process where we will throw more surprising things at them and see how they respond. We’re trying always to see if their imagination is open and flexible and if they can take on ideas and work with them without too many barriers. Then the people who get through that part go to an interview. In the interview we are essentially looking at aspects of temperament, we are looking to see people who are real, who are not trying to somehow project fake image of themselves. They are not using social techniques to make us like them or to present themselves in a certain way.

What are you looking for in the improvisation part?

In the improvisation part, we are mostly looking for the candidates to be present with each other. And by that we mean people who are physically present, who are affected physically. The body is receiving a lot of different information in the situation that was set up and the body has to process this information. The question we ask ourselves when we see people is: can the body be alive when receiving that information? When as humans we receive information, it informs us with a stream of physical and emotional responses. The higher the stakes are, and the more present the person needs to be in order to deal with the situation. Now we could deal with a situation by closing down. But the moment a human being closes down within a situation, they cannot achieve their objective. It is a need for something that keeps us alive and open in any given moment. When watching, we see actors working solely with the head. We see some actors that are well in character, but their body is shut, it is closed. I’ll give you an example: If you go to see a counsellor, and you have the feeling that this counsellor is listening with their head, but not with their body, we would shut down on them.

So, when we are watching people on the improvisation, we are looking for the ability to be open and processing with all of you, as opposed to part of you. And sometimes, it is the opposite. People will be an emotional mess, but not listening. They are not present, not in the moment. The moment is defined by being present.

How do you redirect actors in the final recall day and what are you looking for?

Redirect is actually the wrong word. What we are doing is throwing new stimuli at the actor whether to see if they are processing as people or whether they are delivering a set piece. And I mean most people come in and their monologue is like their security blanket. You’ve learned it, you do it a certain way but the problem with that of course is that the monologue is not only a monologue. It is a series of thoughts that a character has within a situation. Then something must stimulate each new thought and it could be something external or internal, but each new thought has a new energy and each new thought becomes a new moment of existence. It has its own feeling, it has its own shape, it has its own form. If an actor comes into a space and they play the whole speech as one thought, just one kind of feeling or one vocal tone, then it is not alive. We want to see that person digest the meaning of what they are saying. In their brain we want to see that something else is born, a new thought, a new idea based on what they just said or based on something that just happened. It energises them into something different.

Now if we didn’t see that happen then our job is to throw things at them whether it be another person in the space or unexpected things. If we throw something like that, then they start to be alive even for a few minutes we can get intrigued by that person. But if all we can see going on in their head is “what am I supposed to do here?” then we have somebody who does not understands what acting is. Acting is the lived moment; it is being present in the lived moment. The panel doesn’t matter, they don’t matter at all. You listen to the panel for the instruction but after that you have to forget about it. Your imagination takes you into a new world. In that world there are people. There are things that were not happening before. The speech is still a speech, but each moment of that speech is being spoken for different reasons.

What happens in the second round of the final day in more detail? Any Drama School audition advice for those ?

In that final round we very often are looking the sheer deepening of the active comprehension of this imagined world they are living in. If we can deepen that world a little bit by giving it a bit more texture or it a bit more human reality then very often, we could get from them different emotions. When they are open to that, quite a few times and nevermore than in the last year, in the very final stage of working with people you have seen “the thing” dropping. You’ve seen the actor have a moment of emotional realisation and then it’s what they do with it. So, some actors will just let a new element inform everything then let it flow through and then suddenly everything will change. Some other actors will kill it dead, frightened of the moment because it takes away their control of the progress of the speech.

Do you have any examples?

It’s tricky because I don’t want to give anybody’s secret but there was a moment where some young woman did a speech about an abusive partner. She was just doing it standing in the space and eventually we decided to get her to do it as though she were a hairdresser doing someone’s hair and talking to this person about it. But halfway through she realised that she hurt the person’s hair because she was so much into her speech. A moment really happened there, and she realised what she had done and it just kind of collided with her speech. That created a huge emotional moment for her but all the time she was still in, still trying to fight through it in order to be her professional self. We just said to her to keep on with the speech, and she kept going. It took her to something completely different, different realms of truth and comprehension of what the things she was saying meant to her.

What are you looking for, specifically in the interview part?

Discovering temperament. We are looking for people who are genuinely open to learning and changing. People for whom new information and criticism is not a threat so the two things are the same thing. If somebody gets criticism, it’s just new information and if at the age of 18 or 19 find criticism problematic then where do you go from there? Me, at the age of 57 I have to be open to constant criticism and to change otherwise I will get stuck. So, if you’re 18 and not open to those things then you are in trouble. Maybe what happened is that you haven’t discovered your capacity for change but if you haven’t discovered that, you’re not ready to take on a drama school training. We look at other things like:

  •  Do you like to do things thoroughly or are you lazy?
  • Are you the kind of person who will take pleasure in the success of others as well as your own success?
  • Are you the kind of person who has an inbuilt personal discipline that will just push you through the difficult moments?”
  • Will you arrive on time and will you get through any difficulty?

So, these are the aspects of temperament, there are many more but if you don’t have the right temperament then you’re not going to succeed on the training, you are going to suffer. We don’t want you to suffer.

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