Auditions and Interviews
How to perform a monologue
'No one can speak a monologue for long alone - another voice will always make itself heard; every monologue sooner or later becomes a discussion.'
Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter
A monologue is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a 'long speech by one actor in a play or film, or as part of a theatrical or broadcast programme'. It has its roots in the Greek 'monologos', which means 'speaking alone'.
The world of theatre is rich with the monologue, and it's likely you'll be required to perform one at some point in your career, perhaps for an audition, to meet entrance requirements to a course or during your first real-world production.
On the stage, monologues can be everything: funny, poignant, dark, manic. But they should always be memorable. If you’re preparing to deliver a monologue for the first time, here are some things to think about.
Pick one that speaks to you
Shakespeare's canon is packed with beautiful monologues, but don't just reach for the first one you see. Nor should you necessarily google 'theatre monologues' and see what comes up. Is there something you've read that really speaks to you? Why not go with that – you're bound to deliver it with meaning.
Know where the monologue sits in the context of the play
If you simply rip a monologue out of a play without reading the rest of it, you won't gain a full appreciation of its meaning.
Make sure you immerse yourself in the full text of the play, understanding the monologue within the overarching narrative. This will help you pick out nuances you would otherwise have missed.
Think about other voices
A monologue involves speaking alone but, as the quote at the top of this piece shows, it always involves other voices too. Ask yourself:
- Who am I speaking to?
- How will what I am about to say make them feel?
- How will this affect me during the rest of the play?
This blog post was based on an interview with the Director of Birmingham School of Acting, Stephen Simms.