As any actor will know, only too well, the business of auditioning for an advert is a completely unpredictable one. Over the years I’ve been required to do the most bizarre things, with varying degrees of success, very few of which have actually resulted in getting the role and appearing in an advert.
I once walked into an audition room to see a large, grey leather sofa, standing upright on its end. Ok, Amanda, said the casting director, this sofa represents one of the many well-known public buildings in Birmingham. We’ve had quite a few people approaching it in a comedic way…we’d like you to behave in a warm and tender manner toward the sofa. Show us how much you love this building, Amanda… and….Action! I snaked my cuddly middle-aged body around the sofa, planting affectionate kisses on its non-too-clean cushions whilst uttering little moans of pleasure. On this occasion, I failed to convince.
Another time I was asked to get down on all fours and frantically clean up an imaginary pile of biscuit wrappers as if my life depended upon it, while the casting director shouted at me through a loud-hailer. One memorable audition required me to be a middle-class white woman, rapping with wide-eyed enthusiasm about a new chewing gum in Jamaican patois. (I almost got that one!)
The photo (taken in 2004 by the lovely Sue Odell) was one of several still shots for a dog-shampoo bill-board advert to be shown in Denmark. “Imagine you’re enjoying yourself, shampooing your Dachsund in the sink,” she said without a trace of innuendo, as she clicked away, expertly capturing my obvious rapture at the very thought. The shampoo marketing people, however, were not impressed.
In an audition earlier this year I was asked to look out of an imaginary window, recognise someone, smile and wave. This is by far the easiest thing I’ve ever been asked to do in an audition. It took 30 seconds to get the take. I got the part.
Last week, I found myself snuggled in bed with a complete stranger, another auditionee I’d only just met, pretending to be asleep (as you do). The advert was supposed to illustrate the complete peace of mind one gets from contacting a new, free government-backed debt-relief service. We lay there snoozing while the director made helpful suggestions. He asked us to move closer, turn over in our sleep, put an arm over our partner, cuddle each other, roll onto our backs. I admit there was a moment where I wondered where this was all going. Let your face go completely soft, intoned the director, like the voiceover on a relaxation tape. You’re having a lovely dream…no, Amanda, it’s a nice dream, not a nightmare. Needless to say, I’ve heard nothing.
I must say, though, it was the most pleasant advert audition I’ve ever done. As we emerged relaxed and refreshed into the waiting room, my partner turned to me, looked at his watch and said, “Same time next week…?”