Alex had come over from Amsterdam just before Christmas when I was in middle of all my building chaos because he'd got an audition for the show. This was a first round audition which I think is fairly easy to get. Auditions were held at various locations around the UK and he'd picked Manchester so he could combine it with a visit to see me. The audition went well and soon afterwards he was called and told he'd got through to the second round. This was before Christmas. He'd not heard anything more so had kind of written it off, but then he was called again on Wednesday and told he needed to be in Manchester on Sunday. A quickly booked flight and a phone call to me and before he knew it, he was on his way over again. He arrived on Saturday and I met him in Manchester after my NUT meeting.
|Early breakfast in my kitchen|
Sunday morning we were up at 6am. I made sandwiches whilst he did his make-up. By 7.45 we were on the road to the Lowry in Salford Quays ready for the 8.30 appointment. He'd gone to the first audition alone, but as the second round is televised the auditionees (is that a word?) are asked to bring friends and family members with them to make up the audience and provide 'background crowd' for the interviews. I was quite interested in going and wanted to be there to give moral support, but hesitated when he was warned that we'd probably be there for 12 hours.
In the end I decided to go as I'll probably never get another chance to do something like this and I might pick up tips for making films myself or tips to help me as a drama teacher (this is what I spend a large chunk of my time teaching even though I know nothing about the subject and have no dramatic ability myself).
We sat for a few minutes with a few other contestants in the foyer before being called to the registration area upstairs. Registration involved sitting around for a while and then all lining up in front of the registration desk. One by one the contestants went forward to register and be filmed for the first time. The friends, family and other contestants made up the crowd scene backdrop.
Once registered we were taken to another building across the way. Before we could get out of the doors however, Alex was whisked away to do the first of many interviews and I was escorted alone to the other building. People were just starting to filter in and the crew were buzzing around setting up lights and cameras. One of the crew members 'Lilly' spoke to us all and asked us to take coats and scarves off. As the show will be aired in May we needed to look a bit more summery. She also reminded us that cameras were running all the time and so we should look cheerful and alert and definitely not look as though we'd got up at 6am on a Sunday morning!
|The holding room|
Alex was brought over, but didn't have much time to tell me about his interview before he was called for another one. This was filmed in the main holding room (see how I know the lingo?) and so I stood alongside and watched. The interviewer was asking questions from a clipboard which obviously held all the information from the long questionnaire he'd had to complete before Christmas. He was coached into answering in full sentences, encompassing the question as he answered. For example, if asked what his favourite colour was, rather than answering 'blue', he would have to answer 'my favourite colour is blue'. Presumably this interview will be edited into a monologue.
Throughout the day Alex was repeatedly taken away by different people to do interviews or to be filmed walking about (including walking slowly round the holding room) or to have stills taken. Each time he was gone, I either sat reading or stared around me. The room had filled up and it was interesting to try to guess what the different acts entailed. Some of the costumes looked great: a dance troupe with black and gold costumes and make-up looked sophisticated and exciting; the dance troupe in the American flag dresses less so. On the whole, the people who were wearing costumes of one type or another looked good, whereas the people who just looked 'dressed up' seemed quite tacky: wrong shoes; wrong skirt lengths and styles for their legs: frizzy hair and make-up that looked as though it had been drawn on with crayons.
Finally, late on into the afternoon Alex was called over to the theatre to do his audition. I couldn't go with him, but was told to wait and I'd be taken over just before he went on stage. It was quite a long wait and I did wonder if I'd been forgotten. I was waiting with and talking to a woman who was there supporting her husband and we'd seen them on and off all day. Her husband had been taken over at the same time as Alex.
Eventually we were led across to the theatre and told to wait outside. A few minutes later we were ushered in and instructed to sit in aisle seats close to the stage. The audience was quite large, presumably with people who'd applied for audience tickets. Just as we got inside the judges (minus Simon Cowell who'd called in with a sickie) decided to take a break. We sat for quite while with not very much happening. The odd person would walk across the stage and move something, but that was it. Then someone came to us and said the running order had been changed and we'd have to go back to the holding room. Not to worry, we'd be brought over again when the auditionees we were supporting were due to go on.
|The stage and the empty judges' chairs|
So we sat, we chatted, we looked at our watches, we waited. Then I saw Alex walk in. He came straight over: 'Where were you? Why weren't you in the audience?'
Turns out he'd been on and I hadn't been there.
He said he'd barely got into the first line of his song when he was buzzed off. They'd said he was singing out of tune. Being a fair sort of bloke he said he had to believe them as he couldn't hear himself to know if it was true or not. Many of the other acts had been allowed to do a sound check, but he hadn't, so when he got on stage this was the first time he'd heard the volume at which his backing track was played.
When speaking to him after rejecting him the judges made a big deal about something quite minor he'd mentioned in his application. Throughout the day this had been referred to in interviews as well. He found it quite strange and more than a little annoying that this was what they'd fixated on rather than the many other much more relevant details he'd provided. They'd also asked him if there was anyone in the audience who supported him and thought he should have a second chance. Of course, no-one said anything and so he'd said 'Anne, where are you?' but of course I wasn't there.
We couldn't go home straight away as he still needed to do another interview and so we needed to wait around for that. As we discussed what had happened, it did seem like a bit of a set-up. Why hadn't he been allowed to do a sound check? Why had I been taken out of the audience just before his audition? Why had they fixated on this one particular detail from his questionnaire?
Talking about it afterwards, I got the impression that he was glad to have had the experience of taking part and of having got to the second round, but was disappointed to have fallen foul of what seems to have been some hidden agenda.
As for me, it was a boring day but interesting at the same time. It's not something I'd want to do again, but I am glad I decided to go along today and have the behind-the-scenes experience.