The journey continues.. (Part 2)

The next day I set off from my very generous friends couch and make my way to East London for the casting. I’ve been sent the address and I’ve put it in my iPhone to search for directions. I’m walking to save money. But I’ve got my bag with me, so I don’t want to get lost.

I eventually find the right building. There is an A4 piece of paper with “MUSIC VIDEO CASTING” scrawled across it in permanent marker pen. Good start. The building is covered in graffiti. Not unusual for this part of London, but what does make me question my choice is the fact that the door with the makeshift sign opens onto a doorway that’s blocked by a large palette of Toilet rolls. The only alternative entry point is ducking under a metal grate that has been pulled down over the vehicle entrance.  On the other side I am faced with a couch. Upon which two ‘arty types’ are chuffing away on a roll up cigarette and behind them a large window displaying a minimalist art gallery in the making.  The Art Gallery gives me the confidence the sign and the toilet rolls failed to, so I continue on my quest. Round the corner and past some wheely bins there is a small alley way with a black sheet pinned across it.  On a bench positioned in front there is a small Asian girl writing frantically in a notepad. She looks up, flustered. “Are you here for the music video casting?”

“Yes” Flashing her my winning smile.

“Name?”

“Paul”

She looks down at a scrap of paper, and her face returns to look at me with an equally dazzling smile. “I’ll see if they’re ready to see you” OK, this is getting much more positive. She disappears behind the black sheet and I hear some mumbling. She returns with the smile still upon her face. “They’re ready if you’d like to go through.”

I take the same route she did behind the sheet, only to bump straight into a girl with big curly red hair. “Hi. Oh sorry! I’m Paul” The smile again.  This time I’m not so lucky in the response. There is a blank look on her face. We’re stood in the end of an alley way, about 150cm squared in area, sharing it with all sorts of delivery items, blocked off to the real world by a black sheet.  I’ve just been told they’re ready for me. What’s going on? I then realise, a bit late, that there are two doors, one is open, the other has the same scrawl written on a piece of paper in black marker.  It becomes evident that this girl is from the wrong door. “Sorry” I smile again as I squeeze past her and through the signposted door. Great, now I’m walking into this casting with a red face and my minds not in it. Deep breath.

The room is small but bright, white walls and light coloured laminate flooring. It’s empty, but for a table with a guy and a girl sitting behind it, and a camera on a tripod with another girl sat next to that.  It’s the guy who grabs my attention first. Good looking, bit of a beard going on, nice kind eyes. He stands up and offers me his hand. “Tom” he says. I take his hand. “Paul, nice to meet you.” It’s the girls turn next, a petite, pretty girl with a round face, her dark hair scraped back in a pony tail. “Erin” She smiles and I smile back.  This is going well I think. Last but not least, the camera girl, almost Swedish looking, long blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. “Jen” she says, without an accent.

“Please take a seat.” Tom gestured to a chair against the wall that I hadn’t yet seen.

“Thanks” I move towards the chair. “I do have out door clothing in my bag, it was just too warm to wear it.”

“Clothing for what?” Erin this time. Crap, did I misinterpret yet another email??

“I was told to come unshaven and with outdoor clothing.”

Tom chuckles “you brought a costume? That’s a first, no one else has bothered.” The girls laugh.  I’m not quite sure if this is a good or a bad thing so I just laugh along with them, all the while thinking that I can’t believe I’ve had to cart a heavy bag around London all morning and have to carry it with me for the rest of the day, for nothing!

“Oh, well I won’t bother changing then” Smile.

I sit down. Tom starts. “What we’d like you to do is look into the camera and state your name”

I do as instructed.

“Great, now if you could tell us a bit about yourself” OK, this should be easy enough.

Since Graduating 4 years ago I have been travelling round the world. I’ve been round the world three times…alone.” My 30 second pitch for that stupid reality TV show springs into my head. Why do I always have to insist on putting that particular fact out there? …and in such a pretentious, arrogant way as if I deserve a medal! “I got back at the start of this year and have been working in a school since then. Recently I decided that Acting was something I wanted to pursue, so now I’m looking to get exposure and material for a showreel.” God I sound like a twat. I really must script this introduction thing to make it sound better in the future.

“OK, thanks Paul” They’re judging me; I can feel it in the air. “The way we are filming this is partially real footage and partly animation. What we’d like to see you perform first for the camera is you simply walking across the room, but at quarter speed.” What? “What we aim to do is have you walking in slow motion, and then speed it up in real time so that it looks natural” He must see the confusion on my face because he continues to explain. “This will make it easier to animate” Goodness knows why they can’t film at normal speed and slow it down for animation purposes. But who am I to argue.

I go to the opposite corner of the room to the camera and face it. What am I doing? “I’ll take my flip flops off first, to help with balance” I’m stalling. I kick my flip flops against the wall and face the camera again and start to walk in slow motion. About two steps in I’m interrupted. “Could you try and make it as natural as possible? Don’t swing your hips, keep them straight on.” Swing my hips? What’s he trying to say? I stop. Gather my composure, and start again, thinking constantly, stop swinging hips, stop swinging hips. It works. But too much. “Sorry Paul can I stop you again? You’ve gone rigid, can you try walking at normal speed to get a feel for how you walk?” A feel for how I walk? I’ve walked pretty much every day of my life since I was 2 and a half years old (I was a late starter) I think I know how I walk! But I oblige silently. Walking across the room. “Great. Now that, but at quarter speed. Think about the way your arms were moving, it has to look natural.” Who would have thought walking was so complicated? But it actually is. I can feel myself wobbling every time I put my bare foot on the floor. I must look like such a tool.

“OK, forget that” Hmmm, sounds like I’ve done well so far. “Thanks” Smile. “What we’d now like you to do is to improvise around a few scenarios we have come up with for the video.  It will obviously be a non-speaking role, so the story has to be shown through your actions and facial expressions.”

“At normal speed?”

They all laugh. “Yes, at normal speed this time” Tom assures me. “First off, I’d like you to imagine you are walking on a mountain side. You have a map with you. You are trying to figure out where you are going. The wind picks up. It takes your map. You run after it, but it goes over the edge of a cliff. You are stuck without a map.” Wow. “In your own time” How am I going to do this one? I’m in a small room at the end of an alley way in East London, I couldn’t be further from a windy mountain side. I guess if I asked that question I would be told “you’re the actor, shouldn’t you be able to do that? Oh well, ain’t nothing to it, but to do it. “Can I use a piece of paper as a prop?” I pick one off the table. I’m stalling again.

“Sure go ahead” Tom smiles

I go back to my corner and pretend I am walking with a map. I stop. Look confused. Stare at the back of the piece of paper I have in my hand. Look around. Then, in the campest fashion ever, I throw the piece of paper in the air. I fill my face with dread and horror as I follow it down the edge of the imaginary cliff. I stop. Sigh, and continue to look around.

Silence follows.

“OK, thanks for that”

“Sorry, would you like it more dramatic?” I say, hoping they’ll give me SOMETHING more to go on.

“Erm, no” is Toms short response. “A little…less melodramatic if you can.” OUCH! I said dramatic, not melodramatic! “Can you try and make it a bit more naturalistic?” NATURALISTIC? Yeah, maybe if I actually WAS on a windy mountain side, but reacting to wind that isn’t there and scenery that isn’t there? The only way to act that is stylised!?! Now my confidence is utterly shattered. They must have had some good actors in this morning if they’ve managed to pull some good stuff out of this bag, even if they didn’t bring a change of costume. “Try again for us? Imagine there are mountains all around you, picture the scenery, imagine you are there”

I bend down to pick up my paper. Crap. I see the front of it. “I’m so sorry, I’ve just realised I’ve picked up another actors Résumé, and that’s me throwing it on the floor!”

Tom Laughs “Don’t worry, he’s late, he never turned up. That’s what you get for not turning up when you say you will.” Wow. Tough crowd.

I return to my corner. Think big mountains and beautiful scenery. And being naturalistic. I walk forward, gazing around me. All I see around me is white walls. No! All I see around me are rolling mountains and trees, and nature. I look down at my Résumé…come map. And I thank the guy on it for not coming. People not turning up might be my only hope of getting this gig. Remember it’s a map. And the confused face is back. Then I try and consciously tone it down for the camera. Oh. Here comes the wind. I fail miserably, and if possible, this loss of map attempt has turned out even camper. I may as well fly over to the fantasy cliff edge with my fairy wings and try a look of remorse. Another sigh. Less dramatic this time. And a small smile? That’s what I’d do if I lost a map over the edge of a cliff.

“OK. Thanks Paul. Next scenario is as follows.” He glances at his little note pad. “We’d like you to imagine you are lost now, in a forest” A mountain to a forest? I’d never get that lost! “It’s dark. You’re cold. You’ve been there for hours. You’re huddled up under a makeshift shelter you’ve made for yourself at the base of a tree.” Ok I can do this. “You notice a piece of string tied to your little finger.” What? “You don’t know where it’s come from. You can’t see what the other end is attached to. You get up. You follow it. You still don’t know where it’s leading to, but it gets warmer as you do. You gain some hope.” Right. This’ll be a fun one. And this is supposed to be naturalistic?

I resume my place in the corner. It’s starting to feel quite homely now. I think for a second about how I’m going to play this one. I sit down with my legs crossed and hug them. I try to look cold, but really there is just token rubbing of the legs and heavy breathing. I already know how false it looks without even being able to see it. I look down at my little finger. The look of confusion is back. I look around me as if there is pending doom. I try to turn confusion into curiosity with the intensity of my frown. I try and fail to lift one eyebrow. Probably just as well. Wouldn’t want to be ‘melodramatic’. I hold the imaginary string with my left hand. I start to stand up to follow where it’s going. But I fall over. Embarrassing. The show must go on. I pretend nothings happened and struggle to my feet, all the while holding my little finger out in wonderment. I walk a few steps pulling myself along on this pretend string. Then I catch Erin’s eye. She’s holding back a laugh. Tom looks like he’s ready to send me home there and then. Realising I’ve stopped my farce, Jen has busied herself in pretending to press buttons on the video camera. I stand upright with a confident smile on my face. Or at least what I hope looks like confidence.

“Right” says Tom, slightly too high pitched for my liking. Sounds like he’s hiding a laugh. “Last one then.” Thank goodness for that. The humiliation does have an end. I start hoping that the next scenario is seeing a light at the end of a tunnel, because I could sure as hell act that out realistically right now. “You see a girl you used to date. You still have strong feelings for her. She is stood in a clearing. You don’t know if it is real or a dream.  You walk towards her. You stretch your arm out to touch her. Then you freeze in that position.”

OK. Last chance Paul. This is your shot. I imagine a girl. One that I’ve loved. I’ve never loved a girl. Pretend! I see her in a clearing. I try to smile, but make the smile falter. The confusion is back on my face. If they don’t like my confusion face then I don’t have a chance it’s played a major part in every scenario so far. I hold up my hand. I pretend to look into this fictional, imaginary girl’s eyes. I try to convey 101 emotions on my face at once. I think the final product must make me look like I’m constipated. This thought makes me laugh inside. Damn. A snigger has popped out. I’m supposed to be frozen in this pose of anguish, but now I’ve got a half grin on show. My god, how long are they going to make me pose like this? My face starts to hurt. I wobble a bit. My arm gets tired. Eventually Tom clears his throat and puts me out of my misery. “Right. That’s all we need from you. Thanks very much for your time.” Crap, that doesn’t sound good. He gets up to shake my hand again. I grasp it. Trying not to show my blatant desperation for acceptance. I search his eyes for it. But it’s not there. Erin and Jen don’t get up, but they do smile and accept my offer of a handshake. I go to pick up my bag. They’ve taken to rearranging things awkwardly on the table awaiting my departure.

“So, do you have my contact details and everything?” What I really want to say is, ‘so you’ll call me then? I shouldn’t call you?’ but I realise how clichéd it sounds. And I’m scared of the answer.

“Yes, we do. And you are available on the filming dates?”

“Yes” a glimmer of hope? “I am totally free on all three days.” Damn! He follows it up with a half arsed smile, it was obviously just a token gesture to try and make me feel better.

I look at my phone as I leave. Train fare: £20. Transport in London: £10. Obligatory dinner and drinks with friends last night: £30. 2 days worth of coffee: £8. Making a tit of myself during a 9 minute casting: Overall, fricking expensive!

Once more I leave an audition feeling dejected. Kicking myself for not being more prepared. And wondering if I’m cut out for acting on camera. Maybe stage acting, or ‘overacting’ as it now seems to be seen, is too ingrained in me. A week later I see the advert reposted. Someone with additional dance or movement experience required it now says. At least I wasn’t the only bad one they didn’t see.

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The Journey continues….

I wake up and jolt upright, two people are staring at me with a mixture of confusion, disgust and despair plastered across their faces.  One is an Indian gentleman, the other, a pale girl with electric blue hair, a piercing through her bottom lip and a tattoo of a star on her neck.

Where am I? And why are these two strangers staring at me?

I look around in a daze and realise I’m on a train, shortly after, I realise I must have been snoring.  I try to look nonchalant, smile slightly, and turn to look out of the window. This is a mistake. Staring back at me in the reflection is the source of their disgust. I have a red crease down one side of my face, and there is dribble. Dribble! I was dribbling? Oh, the shame! I try to rub it from the left side of my mouth with my sleeve, on the off chance my co-travellers didn’t see it. But I can tell by their look that I’m not fooling anybody.

I remember now. I’m on my way to London for a Music Video casting.

The audition came up on two of the casting sites I’ve signed up to, so it was well advertised. I hadn’t really thought of acting in Music videos, but I guess it is something else on the Résumé, and it gets my face out there.  Unfortunately it’s not paid, and I did go onto Myspace to check the song out. It wasn’t great…and it only had 813 hits.  I have more friends than that on Facebook!  But nonetheless, I have paid the £20 train fare for a return to London so that I can go to the casting.

They’ve asked for a weather beaten man who looks strong, yet has the ability to show emotion. I’m not quite sure what they mean, but I’m sure I can fill their criteria somehow. It has, however, meant that I have not shaved in a few days and have not washed my hair, so I guess that adds to the horrific look I’m sporting right now.  On the plus side, I’m wearing a Blue Polo shirt that doesn’t show sweat; otherwise they probably wouldn’t have sat down next to me in the first place. The casting email also said to turn up in outdoor clothing. This I also didn’t understand, so in my overnight bag, that I have to cart round London this evening until I find somewhere to stay for the night, and tomorrow before the casting at 1pm, and all day after that before the cheapest train home at 9pm, are my brothers work boots, a messy pair of jeans, a smart pair of jeans, a jumper, a wind breaker and a jacket.  Needless to say, it’s heavy. The things I do for art!

I try to figure out, from the time, where we might be. But its one of those cheap trains that stops at every station, and takes 3h15m to do a 1h20m journey, so I haven’t got a clue. We’re only about 2 hours in so far. I should have stayed asleep! I close my eyes. As I do, I feel the train slowing down. I open them again to see the station name. The train conductor’s voice comes over the speaker. “We are now approaching Nuneaton station, slightly after our scheduled time. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you are leaving the train at Nuneaton, please check around and make sure you take all of your belongings with you. Other passengers, we will be having a short break at Nuneaton while we switch drivers. If you do leave the train, please be aware that we will not be staying for more than 5 minutes due to our delayed arrival time.”

There is a rumble of disagreement from passengers around me. Evidently this has indeed caused some inconvenience.  It doesn’t bother me. I’m in no rush to carry my extremely heavy bag around whilst begging friends that I haven’t talked to in months via text message for a last minute couch for the night. There is a larger than life Scouse couple who are being particularly vocal. The guy stands up and I can see him over the top of the Blue haired girl’s chair. He must be in his 40’s, tall, skinhead, but visibly balding anyway. He is wearing a Liverpool football shirt, and is holding a can of Carlsberg. “What’s this about? We’re already late! Couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery this fucking train lot” Well that’s nice language considering there are children in the carriage. Obnoxious people like this really annoy me. Somehow, I feel I’m not alone in this. “GIVE US MORE INFORMATION” he shouts at the speaker. I’m not sure why he’s so upset. It’s not that much of a delay. But the source of his anger becomes apparent as we pull into Nuneaton station. “I’m going for a fag on the platform, I don’t care if its non-smoking. 5 minutes isn’t a long enough a break to get out and back in”.

“I’ll hold the door for you.”

It’s his wife. Same accent, same can of Carlsberg in her hand, but she’s a lot shorter than him, and fatter. She’s wearing a vest top that doesn’t leave half as much to the imagination as the design intended. Her bra straps are visibly askew and she’s red and blotchy, I’m not sure if it’s patchy sunburn or just redness from the booze.

The man jumps off the train as soon as the doors open and sparks up on the platform, right in front of all the passengers trying to get off the train. Within seconds an official has run down the platform shouting that it’s illegal to smoke on the premises. And with a reaction speed that belies his drunken state, he flicks the cigarette down onto the track below and jumps back into the train F’ing and blinding.

I try to shut it out by closing my eyes again and resting my head back. I start to drift. Then I hear loud annoying voices pulling me back to consciousness. The Train manager has been back on the speaker, again apologising for the delay and any convenience, but he doesn’t have any more information at this time. The scouse man and his wife have taken it upon themselves to be the spokespeople for the whole carriage and are up in arms again. Shouting for more information, with no one but the rest of us poor travellers to listen to them. I look at my phone to check the time. It seems a 5 minute max break has turned into 20 minutes. A few more minutes of painful ranting passes and eventually we here the dulcet tones of the Train manager. “More apologies Ladies and gentlemen. It would appear the train driver has misplaced his keys, and we will be unable to resume the service at this point. I will let you know any more information as soon as it’s relayed to me” There is a collective groan in the carriage. Everyone in my eye line seems to reach for their mobiles, no doubt to call loved ones and mutter profanities about the incompetence of the British transport services. Secretly I think everyone’s a little bit chuffed. We love a chance to complain in this country. Two people who most definitely aren’t chuffed, however, are the drunken Liver birds. Not content with disrupting our carriage, the two of them are now hanging out the doors shouting things and gesticulating at the station staff on the platform, who are frantically running about talking on walkie-talkies. Trying, no doubt, to ignore the abuse they’re getting from these two idiots. “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have now been informed that the driver has found his keys, but due to a separate incident, namely the theft of some cables further down this particular track, we will have to terminate this service here.” Another collective groan. “There is another service heading to London Euston in 20 minutes that you can get from the other platform, your tickets will be valid on this service. This is a more direct and so should not bring you into Euston much later than the original arrival time of this service. Please make your way to Platform 2 for this service. Other passengers heading elsewhere, please see station staff on the platform for replacement bus and train services.”

Well that’s it. Mr and Mr Liverpool FC have reached their limit. They’re calling the Train driver all the names under the sun, proclaiming to the carriage that this stolen cables stuff is nothing more than “bollocks” to save us suing for the incompetence of the driver.

I slip out of my chair and head in the other direction to get off at the back of the carriage.

On Platform 2 there is some poor sod in reflective gear handing out complaints forms to all of the inconvenienced passengers. I take one with a smile. It’s not his fault after all. I take a look at the complaint form. It turns out that they offer compensation for services that are delayed. I have a look at the arrival time of my new train and its half an hour after I was supposed to arrive. No big deal. I look at the compensation scale. I get 50% back for 30 minutes-1hr delay to original arrival time. Brilliant. I fill it out right then and there on the platform. Only faltering once when filling out “original ticket price”. £8. I’m an out of work actor! I’ll look forward to my £4 cheque in the post!

The rest of the journey goes without a flaw.

It all started here (Part 4) ….

I have a sincere dislike for eccentrics. I think, like most things, it stems from a childhood fear.  When I was 11 years old I was on a school trip to London with students that were all older than I was. I, therefore, had to be supervised 24-7.  The lady that was supervising me was a nice older lady who had a motherly nature, so, as a shy child, I spent the day following her blindly through the streets of London clinging on to her coat tails for dear life.  The incident I refer to now happened in Covent Garden. A regular hot spot for the perpetrators of my fair story. These evil men and women pray on young children to satisfy their needs. They lure you in with promise of happiness and nicety. We, as children, naïve to their ways, come under their spell and blindly follow their instructions, until they move on and dispose of us, sans dignity. They are; I’m sure you have guessed…Street entertainers!

Not having been to London before, I had never come across this particular species before.  There were clowns on TV of course, but there was always a safe panel of glass between me and them and so I never felt threatened. At the end of the programme I was still quite happily in my living room.  Sure, they made fools of themselves, but I was still safe from humiliation. This day was to change my life, and tolerance of certain human beings, forever.  We were walking through Covent garden minding our own business. Norma, my motherly babysitter, was deciding on whether to visit Hamleys toy store (which got my vote) or have a sit down and a coffee (not quite so exciting for an 11 yr old). All of a sudden we spotted on of these ‘homeless people’. I had been warned not to speak to or look at them.  He had a big travelling chest. I averted my eyes in fear of being told off for not following instructions, but to my horror, Norma started pulling my hand and dragging me towards this bearded man. “Oooh, come on, lets go have a look at this street performer.” Street performer? We got closer and there was a crowd forming in response to the continuous stream of words tumbling from this shabby man’s mouth.  He didn’t seem too bad, he was unpacking his big chest and making jokes at the expense of the people in his constantly increasing audience.  This was obviously a London tradition. It must be like Theatre, but in the street. I must remember to tell my mum and dad, they like the theatre, and they don’t like spending money, so this free show, I think to myself, would be their kind of thing. I became more confident. Creeping round from behind Norma, laughing along with my fellow audience members to jokes that went way over my head, I watched on in awe. This man had created so much attention in such a short space of time, just by talking. I love attention. Maybe I can be like him when I’m older? I was transfixed. I let go of Norma’s coat tail for the first time that day and my hand dropped to my side.

And that’s when he struck!

“You boy, I need an assistant to come up and help.”

I couldn’t breathe. I turned round to look for Norma, I suddenly felt the need to be attached to her anorak again, but she was no longer beside me, someone had pushed between us. I panicked. Looking round all I can see is smiling faces.

“Come on, we haven’t got all day”

He’s coming towards me, Oh my god, where’s Norma? I feel a hand on my back. It must be her. I put mine over my shoulder to grab her wrist. But it’s not hers. It’s someone else. They are laughing and pushing me. I’m going to be sick. My knees go weak and I stumble with the force of the enthusiastic audience members jostling me out into the empty space in front of me.  The so called entertainer has a manic smile on his face. He grabs my shoulders and spins me round to face the crowd, screaming “Give a big round of applause for my little helper”. I spot Norma at once, but she’s laughing and clapping too. I’m lost. I have no allies anymore. My only option: to give in and accept my fate. Whatever it may be.

It turns out my fate wasn’t that bad.  I had to wait quietly during some spiel about the wonders and delights his audience were about to see. Then he turned his attention to me. Got me to fill my mouth with water, but not swallow it. Got me to stand on one leg on his travellers chest with my index finger pointing up to the sky.  He then span a basketball on my finger, all the while telling the audience this long drawn out story, building the tension. Finally, he got to the punch line and I had to squirt the water out of my mouth.  I was a fairy fountain. I was mortified. But the crowd erupted with applause and laughter, and I was handed an old scabby bag of skittles for my troubles.  Altogether a scary experience that evolved into a weird one that I quite didn’t understand. But one, nonetheless, that now makes me take a 10 minute detour to avoid walking past a street entertainer, and has given me a sincere dislike towards these eccentric people who force others to laugh at them with their rubbish jokes or slapstick humour. But then that’s just me.

Anyway, here’s this guy shouting the odds at the top of his voice, and I can’t wait for one of the witches of Eastwick at the back of the room to get up and shout at him for interrupting the SILENT ROOM!!  But it doesn’t come quick enough. They seem to be busy enrolling a group of people who have entered the room together. I find myself wondering what far flung corner of the country these applicants have come from. But I don’t get to hear over the noise of the clown.  “I DON’T KNOW HOW THEY EXPECT TO GET THE RIGHT IMPRESSION OF PEOPLE IN SUCH A FORCED AND CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENT. I’D BE GREAT ON TELLY, I’M CRAZY! I’D HAVE THEIR RATINGS THROUGH THE ROOF. BUT THEY CANT TELL THAT FROM A CV, OR FROM CAGING ME IN A ROOM LIKE THIS. I’M A FREE SPIRIT. THEY PROBABLY WON’T BE ABLE TO HANDLE ME. I’LL BE TOO MUCH OF A SHOCK TO ALL OF THEM.” What a narcissistic tool. I will whole-heartedly admit that I am an attention seeker. But this? This is sick? Why do people let this happen? The woman next to him is just smiling and nodding at him. Don’t encourage him! There’s always one. I should have expected it. I just need to ignore him. Before I launch my shoe at him. Ignore. Ignore.

I focus in again on the girl in front of me. She’s managed to engage both old fatty and the stud muffin in a conversation about her online shop. I tune in just in time to see the old business card trick.  Both seem to be in unrelated businesses but are trying desperately to tenuously link it to something she could use. She takes them and acts genuinely interested. But I don’t get to see who finally wins, because she’s back. Little Miss Power Hungry. I hope the big grin I flash her as she passes me belies my true feelings of distain.

“Can I remind everyone that this room is supposed to be a silent room. It is very important to the whole process that candidates do not communicate with each other.” The fake smile is back again. They should have just had a recording and she could have saved her breath. For all the good saying it seems to be doing! “Can the following people please make their way up here and collect their applications from me. Silently.”

“A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE WANTING TO BE ON TV AND YOU WANT THEM TO BE QUIET! HA! NOT LIKELY!”

It’s my nemesis. The vile canary in the outdated suit has commented during the sacrosanct silent time. Please let this be enough to get him chucked out. It’s not of course. All he gets is a stern look and a single word muttered through gritted teeth. “everyone.”

“Paul Sloss” Yes! It’s me! I stand up and Goth Girl wheels round to face me. She does not look impressed at all, I smile sweetly. “Good Luck” I whisper. She returns my sickly smile.

I walk up to the front, conscious of eyes following me. I become conscious of my sweat patches again. The nerves start to kick in as I collect my application. The grin intended for Goth Girl still plastered insincerely across my face.  I feel exceptionally unprepared. I realise that I’ve spent the whole time in this room silently bitching about people.  Enforced silence in a warm room of people really brings out the worst in me.  I decide as I take up my place in front centre, that it’s time to take a deep breath again and mentally prepare for what’s ahead. Back into ‘nice mode’ at least!

Before I know it nine more auditionees are stood either side of me, I know we all have the exact same nervous smile I was so critical of earlier, failing to hide our true emotions, and with horror I realise my application is actually the only one visibly shaking with nerves.

“Please follow me in single file.” The girl with the clipboard says.  She doesn’t seem as nasty now. I want her as an ally, a friend. I try to catch her eye as she walks by us all to lead us out of the door. She looks. She smiles. But she’s a pro, that’s all I’m getting.

We are lead out into the hotel corridor, along a narrow hallway and into another function room.  One wall, directly opposite the door we have walked through, is entirely mirrored. In front of its adjacent wall, opposite the blank wall we are now walking along side, there is a small table with two men sat down behind it. On the left of the odd couple is an older, balding, man, on the right, a younger guy with a goatee. He looks like the type of guy who will still be wearing skate shoes and a zip up hoodie well into his fifties. It’s him that’s now talking to us. My head’s not exactly in the game, but I hear him welcoming us and telling us to stand in front of a number.  It’s then that I realise there is a row of A4 sheets of paper with large numbers printed on them, one through ten, starting with 1 by the mirrored wall and 10 by the door. We all stand behind our corresponding number, facing the table.

“We have had a lot of people auditioning this year, congratulations on getting to this stage. This part of the process is further screening before you go on to group work and assessment centre style interviews and activities. We are tight on time and are behind on schedule, so we would like to process you as quick as possible.”

I start to look down the line at the people I am stood with. It feels like a police line up. To my right there is a short stubby guy, a similar age to me with a shock of blonde tight curls resting atop his head. It reminds me of a birds nest. Next to him there is a taller guy who looks very serious, dark suit, dark hair, combed perfectly in to a Hitler style side-parting. To the right of him there is a short dumpy lady with lank hair, sporting bad roots, she looks exhausted, I’m guessing she’s one of those that’s ‘travelled far to get here’. Standing at number 1 is a slim nice looking chap with a bit of stubble, a fashionable suit cut, and an even more fashionable hair cut. I glance to my left and see a guy about as tall as me and he’s looking nervous, he’s not taking his eyes off the two gentlemen sitting before us, and he’s lost his fake smile, its been replaced with trembling lips. To his left there is a small Indian woman, followed by the large peroxide blonde that Sean had sat down next to in the waiting room. If I lean back slightly and look down the row, the only thing protruding out is her enormous bosom, and her even more enormous stomach, held in with a button on her power suit that looks fit to pop. Next to her is an average looking guy wearing fairly casual looking get up, a checked shirt and jeans, and finally at number 10 we somewhat ironically have a prime ministerial looking gent in his 50’s looking very old fashioned but immaculately turned out.

“We are basing our judgements today on competencies that we’d like you to back up with previous experience. We’re giving everyone the opportunity to sell themselves to us in no more than 30 seconds, please tell us as much relevant information in that time.” Bollocks, I wish I’d spent my time waiting preparing for something like this. It’s such an obvious thing to ask us to do. What can I say?

“The order we call you in will be at random.  Number 5, would you please start us off”

My god, what am I going to say? My mind goes blank? OK, think logically, what relevant experience do I have? What competencies are they looking for? Why is noone speaking yet? SHIT! I’m number 5!!!

I realise about 4 or 5 seconds must already have passed, people are looking at me, I stare blankly and the skater boy at the desk. Shit! Shit! Shit! I stumble one step forward.

“Erm, Hi.” Great start wonder boy! “My name is Paul” What an opener, I must be 10 seconds in already! “Erm, I should be the, erm, business partner, erm, the next business partner…of…erm, Lord…erm…Lord” Crap, what’s his name? I can’t remember his name. Move on! move on! For the love of Christ move on! I must be at least 15 seconds in now, that’s half my time gone and I’ve said nothing! “…on the show” Good save. Idiot! “Because, I’ve been to University” They’re writing something on their clipboards now, what are they writing? Make it sound good, make it sound relevant! “I studied Management” AARGGH! “And so I have knowledge of businesses” You’re sinking Paul, get out of this rut now before it’s too late “And experience…I have experience in lots of different jobs, and industries, and life skills too, I’ve travelled around the world…on my own” Is this relevant? God, I must have hardly any time left on the clock, say something they will remember, stand out from the crowd “AND I USED TO BE A LIFE MODEL!” I almost shout this last bit and immediately regret it as in the pending silence I see both pens lifted to paper and drawing two lines in unison that resemble, in my minds eye, a big cross through the number 5.

“Thank you. Number 3 please”

Tall Hitler steps forward.

“Hello, My name is Gregory Sutton and I could win this competition for what I have identified as 3 main reasons.” Damn, the smart arse has come prepared with a structured speech “First of all, I Left school at 18 to set up my own online business selling consumer based products, 2 years later I sold the business to my brother making a 300% return on my the initial investment. I then went on to set up two subsidiary businesses that are now in their 4th year of operation and are in the process of being sold on to two conglomerate investors, I am also on the Board of Directors for two charities and another successful family business. Secondly, whilst doing this I have studied an Open University Course in Law, specialising in Company Law, that I have funded myself through the profit of my businesses. Third, and finally, I have, through these experiences and the voluntary work that I take on in my spare time, developed a number of transferable skills that have made me a good learner in fast paced working environments, I am very competitive and always work exceptionally hard to get what I want. Thank you”

Nodding from the table. A deep sigh from the rest of us. Well Hitler’s pissed all over my parade.

The rest of my fellow auditionees follow in a similar vein and I start to lose the will to live, each 30 second announcement seems to get longer and longer. Nothing of note until the last guy. Number 6. Mr Nervous, on my left. His breathing, I notice, has become more and more heavy as the candidates have been processed one by one. I also notice more about his appearance. He has a small gold stud in his right ear. He has a fairly up to date hair cut that resembles, in my eyes, a mullet. He is wearing quite a metrosexual suit. But he’s tougher than that, a bit of a thug. I realise now, it wasn’t nerves I was seeing; it was seething anger.

“Number 6 please.”

He steps forward.

“I’m not like these others standing here with me today!” What an opening line. “They all just want to get on TV” Way to be a team member mate. “Not me. I NEED THIS JOB” Oh no, he’s using the desperation card. “I’ve been made redundant twice this year because of cut backs, but I’m good at my job. I work so hard and don’t let anybody get in my way. I don’t just want this opportunity, I NEED it! And what I can do with £250,000, you wouldn’t believe.  That prize money would be so well spent.  Don’t waste it on these other mugs.” Charming. “I’m the one you want” It doesn’t look like it judging by their faces. Quit now. “I may not have a fancy degree from any University” Or not then, just keep digging. “But who really needs it. Students just drink their way through life anyway. You need someone like me, with real life experience, not something learnt from a book, but learnt from actually doing it. Take a chance. Pick me” Manic look. “PICK ME!”

He steps back. Panting. There is a brief silence.

“Thank you all very much for your time and for coming along today. Would number 3 and 9 please step forward, take this sheet and follow Samantha there. The rest of you, unfortunately will not be required in this process any more. Have a safe journey home.”

I’m not surprised. Or all that bothered. What I am though; is scared. The guy next to me is fuming now, red faced and mumbling expletives under his breath. Peroxide blonde is bitching to the small Indian lady about how much time we had to wait to speak to these people who obviously didn’t know talent when it kicked them in the teeth. The others seem to have made a hasty retreat, but I feel myself transfixed on the angry man before me, I think he might hit them, he hasn’t moved. It’s like driving past a car crash on the motorway, it’s horrible to look, but you can’t help yourself. Luckily his furious haze is broken.

“Please vacate the room so we can bring in the next group of candidates.”

With a grunt he storms out, and I follow, keeping my distance.

A somewhat wasted day I feel. The only saving grace as I enter the lift is that I no longer seem to have sweat patches. Onwards and upwards.

It all started here (Part 3)…

I wonder if they have hidden cameras in here, seeing who talks and who doesn’t. Maybe this is the first round of the audition, who can sit for and hour and a half in silence? Who can follow simple instructions? Who can still perform after so much waiting around? Or maybe, they are just badly organised and are running over by one and a half hours.  I guess I’ll never know.

I turn my attention to the letter I was told to pick up before I sat down.  It reads as follows:

‘Dear Applicant,

Thank you for taking the time to come here today’

Good start.  You’re welcome. I smile at myself for making a joke, even if it is in my head.

‘We have had a very high number of applications for the show this year’ no shit. ‘and the standard has been very impressive.’ A warm feeling is spreading in my belly ‘So Congratulations for making it to this stage of the application process’ you mean there were more people who got turned away? ‘We will try to see you as promptly as possible.’ An hour and a half delay? Obviously promptness has been bumped further down the priority list since the printing of this letter. ‘However, if unforeseen delays occur, you may have a longer wait’ Unforeseen circumstances?? What unforeseen circumstances could delay the process for an hour and a half? They’re on the bloody 8th series or something daft, have they not learnt to do the audition process on time? ‘and we would be grateful for your patience during our busy periods.’

“I WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU ALL THAT THIS IS A SILENT ROOM. NOT A WHISPERING OR A MURMURING ROOM. A SILENT ROOM. STOP TALKING!!” I jump again at the shock of this irregular outburst from the back of the room. How are we supposed to stay patient during this busy time if they are rubbing our nerves against a cheese grater with impromptu, shrill interjections like that from some ugly cow that’s obviously got some sort of power complex?

I look back down at the now slightly crumpled letter clenched in my fists, ‘We appreciate that many of you have travelled long distances to get here today,’ Like fricking Ireland for instance!! ‘but we would like to remind you that you may only be seen very briefly,’ What the…? Remind me? That’s the first time I’ve heard about that! ‘as part of a group with other applicants’ I remember now that I never picked up on something that black dress girl from Belfast had mentioned earlier, even though it had caught my attention. I was going to be auditioning in a group? ‘before being asked to go home’ Great! Travelled for over half an hour and spent a tenner on parking and a fiver on photos, to be potentially sent home following a brief group audition? Why am I bothering? Ok, maybe not as bad a day as Belfast girl will be having if she gets sent home that quickly too.

‘You will be notified on Friday if you have been selected to come to a second and final round of interviews. Due to the huge volume of applicants, we will be unable to contact unsuccessful candidates, so if you have not heard from us by the end of Friday, this means you have not been selected to go further.

The final interviews will take place in London on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week.

Good Luck,

The Production Team.’

Maybe I should look at train tickets for next week if I’m going to have to go to London for the final interviews. Am I allowed to take my iPhone out in here? Or is that against regulations, along side talking, whispering and, no doubt, breathing? I look around, no-one has got their phones out, but more conversations seem to have sprung up about me as more applicants have arrived. I hear a girl’s voice behind me “Any idea what the process is?” she sounds cute, good looking, petite.  It’s amazing what you can get from a voice. But I daren’t look round to confirm my suspicions, for fear of being shouted at for suspected talking. “No idea.” Another voice, male this time, sounds southern, a bit effeminate, I’m thinking pretty boy. “Have you travelled far today?” Wow, I guess I wasn’t too original in my line of questioning earlier. “Drove up from Bournemouth this morning. I’m pretty shattered to be honest. Have to drive back tonight to be home in time for work tomorrow, had to take a days holiday.” My God! Bournemouth?? That must have taken at least 8 hours to drive. “About 6 hours drive both ways because of the traffic” OK, 6 hours, but still, that’s effort. I can’t believe people are taking this so seriously. “That’s commitment” the cute girl responds with a small giggle. Oh my godfather! She’s flirting with him! Get a group of men and women in a room and before long the sexual tension will obviously just be too much for them to handle. My longing to put faces to the voices is now overpowering, and luckily I spot a mirror to my left. If I position myself just right I can see them.

I’m right, pretty boy with fake tan and some ridiculously large fake diamond in his ear…did he say Bournemouth? Or Essex? She’s not bad looking either, I was right about her too, god I’m good, she’s very petite and wearing a skirt suit that’s a bit big for her, possibly borrowed it from an older sister, friend, or mum? Fail on the fashion front I’m afraid. But this guy seems to be lapping it up.  Maybe the long drive has starved him of attention. Or Oxygen! Certainly the real colour of his skin, under all that orange, looks pale and tired. And how much gel has he got in his hair? He looks like he’s straight out of a VO5 advert.

I must be bored. I’m critiquing peoples fashion choices. Time to concentrate. No phones out, I’d best not look at mine. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I wonder what they do when they take the 10 people from the room. Maybe it’s like an assessment centre, maybe we have to show teamwork. Good. I’m good at teamwork. Maybe we have to pitch ourselves. What would I say? How am I going to stand out from the others? My thoughts are interrupted. A hush has come over the room. I open my eyes. A girl with a clip board has walked down the aisle and is standing at the front of the room.

“Can I remind everyone that this room is supposed to be a silent room. It is very important to the whole process that candidates do not communicate with each other.” She smiles a fake smile and continues. “Can the following people please make their way up here and collect their applications from me. Silently.” Eyes up to survey the room. This girl seems to have some sort of power complex too.  I’ve seen it all before, when I was doing extra work on TV shows.  The production person in charge of the extras is the lowest in the production team pecking order, so they take it out on the extras, lording it about over them and making them feel worthless. Hey, let them have their moment of power in their miserable little lives, that’s what I say. “Sean Rupnar” WHAT? SEAN? How has he managed to be called so quickly? God I hate his smug smile. Don’t catch his eye. Don’t catch his eye. Don’t…Damn it! Why didn’t I look away? I smile back. A sickly sweet smile, probably makes me look like I’m in pain! “Bethany Saltcote” Pause, while an extraordinarily tall, gangly, skinny girl with long blond hair stands up, stumbles over the people sitting next to her and takes her bandy legs up the aisle to collect her application. “Frederico Sanchez, James Saunders” At least it seems to be going in alphabetic order. “Annabel Scavvo, Jessica Scriven, Ashley Servaton” God almighty! He looks like a rat! “Carly Shields, Harmandeep Shinde and Jackie Silva” There is silence as the line up awkwardly and nervously grasp their applications, trying to show off an air of confidence, and failing miserably. They aren’t fooling anybody. “Would you all please follow me? The rest of you, please wait in SILENCE until I come back” She’d do well as a Dutch Dominatrix with the obvious lust for power and control she has. Bitch.

It doesn’t take long for the conversations to start popping up. Pretty boy and shrunken girl behind me have resumed their musings over the days proceedings. Irish Goth girl next to me has resumed an earlier conversation with the girl on the opposite side of her. It’s clear I’m not being invited into that one. I notice a girl in front of me.  She’s stood up to get something out of her mammoth vintage handbag. She’s stunning. Tall, but not too tall, curvy, but not fat, made up, but not over the top. She’s wearing a navy blue skirt, cream coloured silk blouse, and has a large navy blue silk bow around her neck, where a tie would normally go.  Something I would normally have laughed at the concept of, but somehow she’s pulling it off. She’s wearing bright red lipstick which matches perfectly with her shoes. The whole look strikes me as almost nautical, and 50’s in style. I then notice that I’m not the only person she’s caught the eye of. The fat bloke next to her who must be in his mid to late 40’s, and possibly the only person in the room that’s more sweaty than I am, is visibly salivating over her.  The younger, better looking, better built, better sweat managing, hunk on the other side of her also seems to have taken a shine to her.  She’s enchanting to all by the looks of it.  She looks up and smiles at me as she closes her bag and swiftly turns back round to sit down.  As she does so, I get a whiff of her scent. It’s almost as beautiful as she is.  The competition is on; she’s going to do well.  It’s the old fatty who tries his luck first. The stud muffin choosing to bide his time and lie in wait for the first failed attempt and then will no doubt swoop in to look even more ridiculously good by comparison. “Have you come far?”  Is this really the best we can all do? I make a mental note never to start a conversation with this lame question ever again. The stunner snorts. Snorts!? What?? “Not really, no, ma mate give us a lift down from Leeds” Oh mother of Christ! She has a deep northern accent that completely belies her angelic looks.  Old fatty isn’t deterred, in fact in stark contrast to the slight falter in stud muffins intent stare, old fatty seems to be even more enthralled now. “I used to work in model management, and I have to say, your whole style and get up is really fantastic, you must work in fashion, right? Or modelling? If not, you should.  You have the looks, and obviously a keen eye for the…well, the whole look” Hahahahahahaha! He finishes the line with the campest wave of his hand like he’s some sort of Black-American woman with attitude. I cannot be hearing this! Do people really use cheesy lines like that? I thought that was just in really badly written sitcoms or vomit worthy romantic comedy’s, and even then its normally the cocky con-man that would come out with it, ‘that guy’ never gets the girl! It’s evident in stud muffins eyes, now, that he’s not even going to have to try.  But then, for the second time in less than a minute we are both shocked by what comes out of the stunner’s mouth. She seems quite happy with Old Fattys line of questioning. “Actually, yeah, I work in fashion. I run ma own business in vintage clothing, its online at the moment, I set it up last year and am doing pretty well out of it.”  Bugger! I’m out of my depth.

Luckily I’m distracted by some loudmouth arriving somewhere behind me on the other side of the aisle. “JUST HAD A QUICK COSTUME CHANGE! HAHA! FELT LIKE SPIDERMAN IN HIS TELEPHONE BOX, CHANGING IN THAT CUBICLE” Spiderman? It’s Superman that changes in a telephone box you big douche! I turn round, peering in the general direction, nonchalantly, to see who this new offensive character is.  He’s sitting about four rows back and three seats in from the aisle. He’s wearing a bright yellow tie, on a light yellow shirt, with a navy blue double breasted suit. I’ve got him numbered as soon as I spot him.  He’s one of those… An eccentric.

It all started here (part 2)….

I take the maze of corridors swiftly, following the signs, staying a pace or two in front of my new friend Sean, and all the while conscious of patches of wet under each arm. When I get to the room, there are people waiting in chairs outside, about 5 of them. Hmmm, I knew there’d be a few people, but there must be a bit of a backlog going on as it’s only 15 minutes until my allotted time.

“Go ahead, we’ve already registered” a good looking lad says from the closest, Damn it, I’m not going to get through on good looks alone then, and why is he not as sweaty as me?  I turn the handle on the door and walk in.  Directly in front of me there is a registration table with 3 girls manning it, staff badges hanging round their necks.  To my left, there are approximately 150 people dressed in business attire in rows of chairs facing a blank wall. Most of them sitting in silence.  Odd, I think, I wonder if they have been accepted and are waiting for some sort of presentation. I head towards the girls and smile.  They smile back.

“Have you got your application?” a particularly pretty one says from under some hideously over the top eyelashes.

I do my best to look confident and business like. “Yes, here it is.”

“And your photo ID?”

Thank god I brought my drivers licence! I was tempted to leave my wallet in the car. I have no money to spend anyway, and having the cards on my person just makes it more tempting.

“And your CV?”

Crap! “I didn’t realise I needed my CV, the email just said the Application form and the Release form” I start to turn red, the sweat’s appearing on my forehead in bead form now, I can feel it popping out of my pores as I remember reading somewhere that I needed a copy of my CV too.

“Never mind, if you get through to the next round you can bring it then.” PHEW! “Can I have your photo please?”

“Photo??”

“Yes, the email also specified you needed a passport photo to accompany your application”

Bollocks! I remember that too now. How can I have come to two auditions, one after the other, so unprepared and disorganised.  The beads have started to join and are rolling to the tip of my nose, I can feel them tickling me and there’s ringing in my ears.

“Don’t worry” A light at the end of the tunnel! “You aren’t the first. There is a Post office on the main high street, you won’t miss your time slot as there is a bit of a delay” she points to the room full of people, my eyes widen, she ignores this and carries on, “just bring a photo back and we can register you”.

I leave the room in a state of panic and confusion.  Good old Sean, all organised with his briefcase, CV and bloody passport photo, managed to waddle down the aisle in the middle of the waiting crowd, with his smug smile in tow, and plonk himself down adjacent to an equally plus sized, bleached blonde, middle aged woman in a navy blue power suit, before I’d even managed to watch in horror as the beads of sweat on my face dropped off the end of my nose and landed right in the centre of the pretty girl’s spreadsheet.

I’m on a bigger mission now, my concern over the growing pit stains is a thing of the past, all I need now is a passport photo and all will be right with the world. I descend in the lift and leap across the lobby, out the doors and into the street. Shit. Where’s the high street? I have a 50% chance, I choose to go right, I run. There’s a chef having a cigarette next to a fire door.

“Any idea where I could find the closest Post Office?” I pant

“No pal” his broad Glaswegian accent responds “I dinnae ken the area well.” Just great. “Ya ken wit a mean?”

“OK, no problem, thanks anyway” Who really works somewhere and doesn’t know where the nearest Post Office is? It’s a posh hotel, in the centre of Manchester, what are they thinking of; employing ignorant chefs? The Scottish term NED (non-educated-delinquent) springs into my head, but I’m digressing, I must find the Post office.

Realising that I’m now at the back of the hotel I come to terms with the fact that despite the even odds, I’ve messed up, time to re-track.  I’m losing precious minutes here and the drip, drip of sweat from my forehead is now more likely to be compared to a torrential downpour.

I’m on a main road, I ask some porters outside yet another posh hotel and they direct me correctly. I’m at the post office, wet through, and thanking god for the second time in 10 minutes that I didn’t leave my wallet in the car.  But cursing him at the same time for allowing me to arrive less than a minute after some dithery old lady who manages to reach the counter just ahead of me.

“How many Children is it she has?” The Post office lady inquires. Who cares? I need to get money out on my card.

“This is the fourth now” The lady in front of me says. I wonder if I can get away with kicking her. Speed up you old fool!

“Four, my goodness, she’s a glutton for punishment!” I smile at the lady behind the counter and chortle at her comment in the hope that she will notice I’m in a rush.  No such luck.

“Yes, they’re all young ones as well, I don’t know how she does it, and she works.” Oh my god, don’t go down the ‘In my day’ route please!! Or you’ll get more than a blooming kick you old bitch.

At last they rap up the conversation with a slow motion counting out of the change.  My heart is beating so hard and fast I swear if the old biddy had her hearing aid turned to full volume she’d have sworn there was a machine gun firing at her.  It’s certainly not far from what I want to do to her right now.  But more pressing issues are at hand, I need money, and the lady behind the counter obliges with some change, £5 for the photo booth. Five pounds?? WHAT??? Five fricking pounds for a passport photo??? They’re on to a winner here. I’m wondering if the pretty girl on the registration desk hasn’t got some sort of commission going on with this post office. 

I swear the counter lady has a glint in her eye, reminiscent of Tubbs from ‘The League of Gentlemen’, as she says:

“Quite a few wanting that photo machine today, mmmm?”

I stumble across the Post Office floor with five pound coins stuffed into my fist and a fiver shoved unceremoniously into my pocket.  A note to self: that has to go back into the bank later, I’m already in my overdraft, but it was a £10 minimum withdrawal!

I sit in the booth and quickly accept the first photo.  I’m hunched down because it was taking too long to wind the seat down, but it’s a photo, and that’s all I need. It prints, I grab it and run.

I’ve made it back to the Hotel just minutes after my original allotted audition time. I leap back across the lobby and into the lift.  The silence in the lift is only broken by my heavy breathing.  My lift partner this time seems to be much more interesting.  His Badge says ‘Series Producer’.  I consider introducing myself, getting myself ahead of the competition.  But then talk myself out of it. I might not do myself any favours by bugging him on his way back from a fag break.  I settle for allowing him out of the doors before me accompanied by a big grin, in the feeble hope that he might remember me later.

I smile at the pretty girl again. She’s forgotten me already.  Or maybe she just doesn’t recognise me now that my face is a deep shade of purple, almost blending in with the new colour of my once pink shirt, which is now sticking to my body uncomfortably.

I’m processed like an order form that just needs to be stamped and moved on. 

“Leave your Application and release forms with me, and your photo, thanks.  Now take a letter from the pile, take a seat and wait for your name to be called.”

I glance down at the letter and look back up to smile, say thank you, and try to make an impression on her, having failed with her boss only minutes before.  But she’s already moved on to someone else.

I now turn my attention for the first time, properly, to the room full of people facing the blank wall.  I realise that they are not waiting for a presentation at all, they are waiting to audition.  I walk half way down the aisle looking for a spare seat that won’t mean me having to climb over someone to get to it, no doubt dripping sweat on them as I pass.  I spot one and take it swiftly.  At this point I am aware that the room is not as silent as I first thought, now that the ringing has gone from my ears, I hear a slow murmur of voices. It seems like people are not wanting to be heard. What secrets might they be telling? Does everyone here know something I don’t?

I turn to the girl next to me.  She is a nice looking girl with a friendly, round face. I don’t let the fact that she is dressed all in black, with black eye make up and black finger nails, put me off.  “Hi”

“CAN I REMIND EVERYONE THAT THERE IS TO BE NO TALKING IN THIS ROOM, THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT PART OF THE PROCESS!!”

I nearly jump out of my skin. I turn round in my chair to see one of the three production assistants standing behind the back row of seats glaring at us all. It’s not the pretty one.

“They keep saying that, but two minutes later everyone’s chatting away again.” The girl dressed all in black whispers to me with a beautifully soft Irish accent. “We’re not supposed to be talking, but they can’t expect us all to stay in this room for an hour and a half and not speak!” An hour and a half? What? It seems the people in the room do know more than me. A lot more!

She smiles at the look of horror on my face.  “That’s how long the delay is, every 15 minutes someone comes in and calls 10 names and takes them from the room.”

“Its warm isn’t it.” I manage to muster up.

“Yes” She looks down at my shirt and realisation dawns in her eyes.  She knows this shirt used to be a light shade of pink. She starts to turn back to the girl on the opposite side of her. I’m losing her.  My one Ally! I can’t afford to lose her over a sweaty shirt. What can I say? Idle chit chat. Come on.

“Did you travel far to get here?”

She’s back in the game. She turns to face me again, glad, I think, that I’ve changed the subject. “I flew over from Belfast this morning.” Belfast? Bloody hell! Just for this? What a loser.

“Wow, Belfast? Did they not have auditions there?”

“No, Manchester auditions cater for the whole of the North, all the applicants from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Newcastle, all over, are here”. Shit! I think I might have underestimated this gig. “Have you come far?”

“Not really, just half an hour up the motorway”. I add a cheeky smile to the end of it when I see her disappointment, but I think I’m losing her again. “Cost of parking probably adds up to the same as your flight though”. I try to get back in with a joke. It’s failed. I’ve lost her for good now; with what can only be described as a sarcastic smile she’s turned her back and facing the other way. Sod it; I’ll get her back on side later, if I need her. I’d better stay quiet anyway, talking might count against me.

It all started here….

Two of my friends have put me forward for a TV show. It’s quite a well known one, which, in the past, has had a number of candidates compete for a place in one of the many companies owned by a particular business man who puts the applicants through their paces. The winner also receives a monetary prize. This year the set up is a bit different though, the end result is not working for this guy, but becoming his business partner, with a quarter of a million pounds worth of start up capital to set up your own business. They’ve put me forward as a joke.

I haven’t really got any business experience. Or any interest in business to be perfectly honest. And I’m not entirely sure why this guy is so rich, or why he has been made a “Lord”, or what his many businesses really do. Or even who he actually is. But I want to be on television. So I’m going along with it.

The Application was an online. That’s how these things normally start for me, online. I’m on quite a few sites: starnow.com, shootingpeople.com, beonscreen.com, castingcallpro.com, spotlight.com and mandy.com; to name but a few. It wasn’t a difficult application, just asked the regular questions: Had I been on TV before? Why am I better than the other candidates? What was my most successful moment in business? OK, that one was a little bit more difficult to answer.

At any rate, here I am. I’ve been invited along to the first round of auditions. It’s my second one this week. Yesterday, I auditioned for a Radio play, it was an unpaid gig, but I’m looking for exposure, not money, at the moment. It was in the basement of a Manchester pub, alarm bells should have been ringing at this point, but I went on in to give it my best shot. I had printed out the script excerpts and brought them with me so I thought I was on to a winner. The two men greeted me from behind a small table in the middle of the room, which was filled with old tables and chairs and what looked like a set of broken DJ decks gathering dust.

“You must have been here before” The slightly large, overweight of the two commented looking me up and down, his yellow teeth beautifully offset by the dingy surroundings.

“Canal Street? Yes, once or twice” I said nervously, shaking his hand. Does he think I’m gay? I haven’t really said anything to him yet, why would he think that of me? I’m not dressed gayly? Am I walking really camply? Are my trousers too tight? Is it my hair? Are gayly and camply even words?

“I meant the room, it’s often used for auditions” he replied, looking confused. Damn, what a good start.

“Of course, yes, well, erm, no, I haven’t…I’m actually quite new to all this. Ha!” Ha? Why am I laughing? OK, I’m making more of a deal out of this than I should, I should move on. Oh shit, they’ve already moved on, what are they saying? Something about BBC 2? Smile and nod time, smile and nod. God, what name droppers, they really think they’re something, if they’re so god damned good, why are they writing and producing an unpaid play for community radio?

“Shall we start?” The shorter, weedier Scottish Producer interrupts my thoughts. What’s his name again? John? Andrew? James? Never Mind.

I read the part I have come to audition for. He’s a gay bartender from Canal Street who becomes a self appointed carer for one of the regulars. I read it out loud for them, in my own voice, with my own accent and into a crappy little Dictaphone on the table. All the while wondering what kind of two-bit operation is this, and how have I found myself in this situation?

The writer of the piece, the tubbier one, asks me if I can read another part as well so they can hear the variation in my voice, it’s a 15 yr old chav from a state school in Manchester.

“Yes, of course I can” I smile.

I read the part, again with my own voice, and my own accent. They smile politely and look at each other. The cheeky bastards, they don’t think I’m any good. How dare they think they’re better than me? I’m good.

I get asked to read a different part now, the part of a school teacher. This should be easy. I think of a type of voice in my head that I think sound’s ‘Teachery’ and mentally get into character. I read the part. What comes out is my own voice, with my own accent. Damn, I should have practiced before I came.

All of a sudden there has been a paradigm shift in power, 5 minutes ago I wanted nothing to do with the two of them; they were auditioning people in the basement of a gay bar, recording the audition onto an old Dictaphone, for a non-paid community radio drama. Now, as I stand and hear them politely rejecting me, I started pleading with them in my head. Give me a second chance; I can do different voices, I’m a really good actor, you just can’t see it, I can do better. Of course, they can’t hear my pleas, all they hear is me grinning “OK, well thanks for the opportunity, all the best”. . .Wankers!

So, anyway, I have arrived at this TV Audition. It’s in quite a posh hotel in the Centre of Manchester, I’ve definitely moved up in the world since yesterday. I got here 15 minutes before my allotted interview time with little knowledge of what to expect. I’m in the lift going up to the 4th floor, its warm, I’m glad I haven’t worn a suit jacket. Regretting the pink shirt option at the moment though, I’m certain I can feel sweat patches growing under my arm pits, but I can’t look to see because I’m joined by a slightly overweight Indian gentleman all suited and booted.

“Fourth floor. Oh, I see you’re going there already. Are you here for the…” He trails off.

“Interview?” I save him just in time for him not to embarrass himself; evidently neither of us wants to admit we are here for a reality TV audition. “Yes I am, my name’s Paul” I put my hand out.

“Sean” He replies, smiling awkwardly and placing his podgy hand in my sweaty palm to complete the uncomfortable moment. At this point I manage to complete my own internal mission too, and catch a glimpse of my armpit in the mirrored wall of the lift. Alas, there is a dark pink stain expanding at a rate of knots, must remember to sit still while I’m waiting, thank goodness I’m 15 minutes early. On the plus side if this overeater represents the competition, maybe I’m in with a chance!