Brian Viner: 'It's a weird experience watching actresses audition to be your wife'

Share
Related Topics

There are probably experiences weirder than sitting in a rehearsal room just off Tottenham Court Road watching actresses read for the part of your wife while the high-spirited singing of what sounds like a group of munchkins carries through from the room next door, but it was hard to think what they might be.

I had dropped in to the Drill Hall in Chenies Street at the invitation of Orla O'Loughlin, of the Pentabus Theatre Company. Orla is directing Tales of the Country, the new play based on my book of the same name, which in turn was based on the column of the same name (the forerunner of "Home and Away"), about our move out of the metropolis eight years ago in search of the elusive rural idyll. The play is due to open in Shrewsbury in April, then tours for seven weeks, mainly in the Welsh Marches. The tour ends up in London, with a run at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington. And after that, who knows? The Palladium? La Scala? A Peter Jackson film trilogy?

I've had no creative input into the project apart from having written the book, which has been adapted – brilliantly – by Nick Warburton. Nick is a hugely experienced writer for stage, screen and radio whose credits include episodes of EastEnders. That proves what a versatile fellow he is: murder, rape, abortion, adultery, armed robbery, incest, and now cowpats.

Anyway, back to the Drill Hall. In the casting process, Orla and her associate director, Kate, have had to whittle 600 CVs down to around 50, and on Tuesday they were looking for someone to play Jane, my wife, and one actor to play 16 assorted characters, including all three of our children. I'd never been to an audition before, and never leafed through actors' CVs either. They make absorbing reading. Most of them specify 'voice character' and 'voice quality' – which got me wondering how I'd define my own voice.

One of the actresses who read for Jane had "assured" vocal character and "clear" vocal quality, but that seemed a little dull next to the woman who claimed "earthy" and "velvety". I know Jane would like to be earthily and velvetily represented on stage. In the event, of course, I had nothing to do with the casting decisions, but just sat there relishing the weirdness of the situation, which got weirder when the munch- kins started up next door (although Orla told me they'd had an aria to contend with the day before). For a non-theatrical, it was fascinating to see how these things work, not least because several of the actresses auditioning for Jane had just come out of panto, and were still ever so slightly in thigh-slapping mode.

There followed a succession of eager young men trying out for the multiple-character part. Orla got each of them to read the scene in which my daughter Eleanor begs me for a puppy, and it was interesting to see how differently they did it: one of them made her like Violet Elizabeth Bott, one made her like Lolita, and one made her borderline autistic. The same actors also had to play a scene in which a policeman stops a motorist for speeding.

From the CV of one of them I noticed that his range of accents included: "Birmingham, Black Country, Bristol, Cockney, Geordie, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Yorkshire, American (West Coast), American (New York) and American (Deep South)" and impressively there were traces of most of these contained in the highly idiosyncratic accent of his Herefordshire copper. Still, at least he seemed like a reasonably benign copper. Another interpreted the character more like a Stasi officer with toothache – and you'd be very unlucky to come across one of those on the A44.

But I really don't mean to belittle their efforts, which on the whole were excellent, and heaven knows it must be a hard and often unrewarding business to go through these auditions. Eleanor, who is now 16, is currently thinking of pursuing an acting career, and yesterday's experience makes me wonder whether to discourage her. Either that or I'll send her down to the Drill Hall. She knows better than anyone how she asked for that puppy.

Meanwhile, the search goes on for a Brian. They thought they had one, but he's landed more lucrative telly work instead. So back in London next week they're seeing 25 Brians. I might give that session a miss.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager - Enterprise, M2M & IOT Hardware

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Food Production / Operations Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a large and well ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is requir...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson (left) with party leader Nigel Farage  

Hey, Nigel Farage and Kerry Smith – my family are East Enders too and never use that word

Victoria Richards
A screenshot from the trailer for Hatred  

I love violent video games, but you'll never catch me playing Hatred

Alex White
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas