My First GMT Audition

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Rachel Thomson has performed in 7 GMT shows. She produced The Threepenny Opera, was Assistant Director for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and she directed GMT's inaugural cabaret night at the Classic Grand. She tells us about the first time she auditioned and what GMT means to her.

If I’m totally honest, immediately before I auditioned for GMT I’d almost entirely put my performing past out of my head. Over the years I’d had some pretty bad experiences with various ‘theatre-types’ – in inverted commas because if you know what I mean, you’ll know exactly what kind of person I’m talking about – which resulted in some serious knocks to my self-confidence and belief in my own skills, and when I left musical theatre behind me at the end of high school I thought it was for good. Having spent the subsequent two years studying Medicine and working pretty solidly on passing exams and keeping up some semblance of a social life, I didn’t really have much time for other hobbies, which suited me fine.

That changed when my mum noticed a small article in our local paper advertising auditions for an amateur production of West Side Story, with a pre-audition evening a few weeks from then. She cut it out and kept it for me, as my mother is wont to do with so many things she thinks I’ll find ‘interesting’, and as I do with most of them I looked at it, made the appropriate appreciative noises, and promptly forgot about it. A few days later though, I was having a change of heart. The idea of getting on a stage again, of doing some real singing and dancing for the first time since school with a completely new set of people, sounded a little bit intriguing. After mulling it over, I decided to go along that Wednesday night to see what it was all about. I took a friend with me though, because I’m not actually that brave.

If you’ve never been to a GMT pre-audition evening, let me tell you it can be pretty intimidating at first. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t two hours of proper vocal warm up, challenging singing, and the doling out of lengthy audition monologues. It was a little bit terrifying, but I distinctly remember being impressed by just how organised and distinctly not amateur these people seemed: that was probably the main thing that motivated me to sign up for an audition slot. For someone who hadn’t even sung in front of people for a long time, the prospect of a three hour group audition where I was going to be expected to sing, act and dance in front of ten complete strangers was just a teensy bit daunting. Needless to say there was a lot of embarrassing singing along to the recordings in my room and talking to my wall, the likes of which my parents hadn’t been witness to for some time. It didn’t hugely help, and by the time the audition rolled around I felt hideously unprepared, terrified and like I was setting myself up to fail. This wasn’t helped when we got completely lost on the way to the auditions at Dance Glasgow. Turns out my sense of direction is inversely proportional to my anxiety, even with Google Maps as an aid.

Once we got there though, things started to look up. The dance audition was far more fun than it was scary and, once we got started, it was really easy to forget about the fact we were being judged and get on with it as if it were just a dance class. Given that I hadn’t properly danced in about two and a half years, it was amazing to me how fast I felt things I’d learned come back to me, and I found myself wondering how I’d gone so long without that feeling. Similarly, the singing was simple: once we started, it was just like being at the pre-audition evening, and there wasn’t any pressure to sing on your own if you didn’t want to be considered for a principal role. The acting scenes were informal, and we did them in small groups; again, I was made to feel comfortable, relaxed and at ease. By the time we left Dance Glasgow, I felt like I’d just had attended some sort of fun musical theatre workshop. I think it was about that point I realised that I really, really wanted to be a part of this.

We’d been told that we’d hear whether we were needed for callbacks in the next couple of days, so I waited with baited breath. And waited. By the next weekend, I’d managed to convince myself that I’d been totally crap. Of course they didn’t want me. Everything I’d ever thought about my own performing ability was right and I shouldn’t have even thought about trying to get back into it. This was all, of course, right about when Amy (the director) phoned me up and offered me the part of Pauline. A Jet Girl. I was going to be a Jet Girl!

I accepted somewhat sheepishly, and since then I haven’t looked back: I’ve auditioned for (and been cast in) every subsequent GMT show. I've even produced for the company now. GMT hasn’t just boosted my self-confidence and pushed me back on stage, I’d go so far as to say it’s made me a significantly better performer than I was before, and I’ve actually enjoyed myself doing it, which at one point I didn’t think was possible any more. It’s more than I could’ve ever hoped for when I signed up, and sadly I don’t think my mother is ever going to let me forget that it was all her doing.

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West Side Story Jet Girls: (from left) Kirsty Grant, Amy Fieldhouse, Charlie Bell, Kirsty Nicholson, Hannah McCormack and Rachel Thomson

#origins #rachelthomson #westsidestory

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