"Nightmare audition is great theatre"
by Elizabeth Eyre for remotegoat on 07/02/13

The Audition, is a battle of wills that keeps you guessing throughout. This pacey two-hander is an inspired choice for the intimate Baron's Court Theatre: watching it at such close quarters makes the atmosphere all the more intense.

The set up for the Audition is what it says on the tin- that nerve wracking scenario familiar to actors and X-Factor viewers the world over, but the play is essentially a no-holds-barred struggle between two people, exploring the dynamics of power.

From the outset it is clear that this is the nightmare audition where anything can and does happen - having ignored her throughout her speech, enigmatic director, Stella demands that nervous Lauren repeats it upside down, shortly before probing her with personal questions and testing her with a game of chance played with vodka shots. This is only a small taste of things to come….I don't want to give everything away, but is a tribute to director Kit Thacker and both actresses (Olga Leon and Victoria Tyrrell) that instead of running out of steam the tension builds and builds and this intense production keeps on surprising you to the very end.

Victoria Tyrrell is excellent as Lauren, she embodies that naïve vulnerability of a young woman out of her depth yet desperate to prove herself. There is a telling moment where Stella, having told Lauren to stand still and close her eyes, kisses her and Lauren, flustered, apologises! It's a perfectly played moment where your heart goes out to Lauren. But Tyrrell wisely doesn't simplify Lauren into being merely a victim. 'You want me to alienate myself…from myself?' Lauren asks with playful incredulity allowing her bolshy sense of humour to come through.
As the play goes on Lauren's strength comes out as she tries to tip the power balance and after all she's been through you feel like cheering her on. Lauren is really put through the wringer and Victoria Tyrrell's performance is up to the challenge- detailed utterly believable and compelling throughout.

Olga Leon looks the part as the strange and mysterious Stella, and she succeeds in keeping the audience guessing about Stella's motivations. Is she really, as she puts it, eyes gleaming, just 'unorthodox' and searching for an extraordinary actress? Is she a sadist on a power trip? Is this some sort of bizarre seduction? There are times when she trips up a little over lines, breaking the tension, but I saw the show on opening night and I imagine that these minor glitches will vanish as the run continues. For the most part Olga Leon's performance is fluent and confident with lovely moments of detail, so that for all her mystery, we do get to know Stella a little. When grilling Lauren she asks her if she wants to act or perform, Lauren asks 'Is there a difference?' and Olga Leon's eyes widen into the ultimate unimpressed expression that no actor wants to see on a director's face. She has a wonderful way with one-liners too delivering such gems as 'Don't worry Lauren, we won't be having sex' and 'Men. They come, they go' with an intriguing mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Hugely enjoyable and well worth watching The Audition is on this week only at Barons Court Theatre, it's a roller-coaster ride, laced with dark humour.

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