Tips for Performing Your Best Monologue

Monologue tips from Guildford School of Acting audition panellist Joe Richardson

At Spotlight’s recent Open House events, Joe Richardson led a wonderful session on auditioning for drama school. We went along to hear all his great advice on how to get your monologue into the best shape possible, and nail that audition!

Avoid fidgeting beforehand

Make sure you’re aware of how you are behaving before you even get started. “We notice how people present themselves,” says Joe, so make sure you’re ready and appearing as professional as possible.

Don’t stare down the panel - pick a specific point for delivery!

Decide who you are directing the monologue to - is it someone in the audience, is it a spot on the wall? Wherever you need to direct it, keep it consistent. “You’re only ever talking to one of four things: yourself, the audience, another character or god - be clear who you are speaking to,” Joe says. He also warns: “Don’t eyeball me!” Your panellists will want to make notes, so staring them down may make them a little uncomfortable, “[Looking] above the panel’s eye-line is fine.”

Pick from a play

Don’t do a song or recite a poem, or do anything else that is not a play, unless that’s what has been asked for. A scene from your favourite film is also probably inappropriate. Stick to the brief!

Introduce or look for levels

Think about the levels of emotion in the piece; where does the character start? Where do they end up? It’s vital to really break down and think about the way the piece flows, how emotions are changing or what is being realised, discovered or dissected in the language. As Joe says, “Make it seem like the first time the piece has been spoken, every time.” That’s the big challenge for all actors - so it should be your focus! Take the time to discuss the piece with somebody else if you can and compare interpretations.

Don't go over time

Seems very obvious, but it is essential. Make sure you time yourself before you get to the audition. Do not go over! You might very well be stopped before you have a chance to finish. Remember: there are likely a lot of other people being seen on the same day, so make your first impression a professional and respectful one. Only take the time you’ve been allocated.

Try to find something unique

Be aware of picking well worn speeches - it can help to differentiate you if you pick something less obvious! While some of the classic monologues in Shakespeare are classics for a reason, it can be risky to take on something that many others in your age range/casting category are also likely to attempt. Think long and hard about what it is that suits you as a person, and whether there’s something out there that can represent you and set you apart.

Do your research

Monologues set in different times and places (or even contemporary pieces!) will often include some contextual details, like names or places. Do your research and really think about what aspects of the monologue are needed to deliver in a natural and authentic way. If your character mentioned their hometown, for instance, and you can’t pronounce it, that’s definitely going to seem odd! If there are place names mentioned, get on Google: make sure you know how to correctly pronounce them!

Show your personality

Try to show something that reflects you as a person, something that suits you. Ideally, you’d look for something in your accent, that reflects your context - that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stretch yourself and your acting talents. But it does mean that if you’ve grown up in rural Scotland, a speech that is very much catered to a valley girl of California is going to be a bit odd. Chances are the references will be a little strained, the cadence might be a bit off. Think carefully about your type, your personality and the kinds of characters you are really drawn to.

Take on any direction

Often, a panel will offer you some direction or ask you to repeat sections. Don’t deliver the monologue the same way again - show that you have taken comments on board and are working to adapt or show new sides of the material. Your adaptability and willingness to try is more important than whether you deliver the new direction perfectly.

Don't worry about mistakes

Mistakes are fine, just as long as you keep working through them! The ability to pick yourself up and keep going, or quickly get back into the zone, are helpful for your audition and will show you in a favourable light. So don’t let a slip up stop you - everyone makes mistakes! The ability to be resilient is very important and an attractive quality in any drama school candidate.

Thank you to Joe for the fantastic session. Take at our other advice on perfecting your monologue online.