Chariots of Fire – Audition

Chariots of Fire

Stage adaptation by Mike Bartlett

Based on the Enigma Productions Limited motion picture

By arrangement with Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation And Allied Stars S.A. Panama

Screenplay by Colin Welland

Dates: 12-16 March 2019

Venue: Oxford Playhouse

Director: Simon Tavener

About the Production

Chariots of Fire is one of the great modern British films. It tells the story of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell an their quest for success at the 1924 Paris Olympics. It is story of faith, commitment, overcoming prejudice and about exceeding expectations in the face of personal and professional challenges. It is inspiring and moving in equal measure.

And as a mark of respect to a great Oxford athlete and scholar, the production will be dedicated to the memory of Roger Bannister – a true great of British athletics and supporter of Oxford Playhouse.

Our production will transform the Oxford Playhouse into an athletics arena and will challenge us to tell this incredible story by way of acting, movement, music and real races round the theatre. We will be using choreography and physical theatre techniques to help recreate the athletic moments as well as actually asking cast members to run as a fast as possible around the auditorium! We will be using a revolve on stage to help with creating these effects as well as building special ramps to connect the stage and auditorium. There will also be on-stage seating for the audience so that they surround the action just like they would in a sports arena.

There are more than 60 speaking roles and over 70 ensemble characters who help bring the story to life through movement, song and much more. We will have a cast of at least 25 made up of the principal characters and ensemble. The aim is to have as balanced a cast as possible in terms of male and female actors. This will involve some cast members playing their own gender and some playing the opposite. This will be done with sensitivity to the text and with the aim of providing every cast members with opportunities to shine. The focus will always be on great acting and great storytelling.

The production features many OTG firsts and will require a lot of commitment from everyone involved. But we have the talent to rise to the challenges set by the script.

Important Dates

Launch event:

Sun 14 October, 6.30pm-8pm, HMG rehearsal space (126 High Street, Oxford)

First round auditions:

Wed 24 October, 8pm-10pm, Summertown URC

Sat 27 October, 11am-1pm, East Oxford Community Centre

Mon 29 October, 7.30pm-9.30pm, Summertown URC

Recalls (by invitation only):

Sunday 4 Nov, 6pm-10pm, HMG rehearsal space (126 High Street, Oxford)

Map to the URC

Synopsis

In 1919, Harold Abrahams enters the University of Cambridge, where he experiences anti-Semitism from the staff, but enjoys participating in the Gilbert and Sullivan club. He becomes the first person to ever complete the Trinity Great Court Run, running around the college courtyard in the time it takes for the clock to strike 12, and achieves an undefeated string of victories in various national running competitions. Although focused on his running, he falls in love with a leading Gilbert and Sullivan soprano, Sybil.


Eric Liddell, born in China of Scottish missionary parents, is in Scotland. His devout sister Jennie disapproves of Liddell's plans to pursue competitive running, but Liddell sees running as a way of glorifying God before returning to China to work as a missionary.

When they first race against each other, Liddell beats Abrahams. Abrahams takes it poorly, but Sam Mussabini, a professional trainer whom he had approached earlier, offers to take him on to improve his technique. This attracts criticism from the Cambridge college masters, who allege it is not gentlemanly for an amateur to "play the tradesman"; by employing a professional coach. Abrahams dismisses this concern, interpreting it as cover for anti-Semitic and class-based prejudice.

When she discovers his plan to continue with athletics, Eric's sister upbraids him and accuses him of no longer caring about God. Eric tells her that though he intends to eventually return to the China mission, he feels divinely inspired when running, and that not to run would be to dishonour God, saying, "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

The two athletes are accepted to represent Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. Also accepted are Abrahams' Cambridge friends, Lord Andrew Lindsay, and Aubrey Montague.

While boarding the boat to Paris for the Olympics, Liddell discovers the heats for his 100-metre race will be on a Sunday. He refuses to run the race, despite strong pressure from the Prince of Wales and the British Olympic committee, because his Christian convictions prevent him from running on the Sabbath.

Hope appears when Liddell's teammate Lindsay, having already won a silver medal in the 400 metres hurdles, proposes to concede his place in the 400-metre race on the following Thursday to Liddell, who gratefully agrees. His religious convictions in the face of national athletic pride make headlines around the world.

Liddell delivers a sermon at the Paris Church of Scotland that Sunday, and quotes from Isaiah 40, ending with, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Abrahams knows his best chance for a medal will be the heavily favoured United States runners in the 100 metres. He competes in the race, and wins. His coach Sam Mussabini is overcome that the years of dedication and training have paid off with an Olympic gold medal. Now Abrahams can get on with his life and reunite with his girlfriend Sybil, whom he had neglected for the sake of running.

Before Liddell's race, the American coach remarks dismissively to his runners that Liddell has little chance of doing well in his now far longer 400 metre race. But one of the American runners, Jackson Scholz, hands Liddell a note of support for his convictions. Liddell defeats the American favourites and wins the gold medal.

The British team returns home triumphant. As the play ends, we find out that Abrahams married Sybil, and became the elder statesman of British athletics. Liddell went on to missionary work in China. All of Scotland mourned his death in 1945 in Japanese-occupied China.

Roles available – 51M 41F 45X

Male Character/Male Actor

Harold Abrahams - English athlete and student
Eric Liddell - Scottish athlete and missionary
Andy Lindsay - English athlete and student
Aubrey Montague - English athlete and student
Jackson Scholz - American athlete
Charlie Paddock - American athlete
Sam Mussabini - Athletics Coach
Sandy - Liddell's friend
Nanki Poo - Character in The Mikado (singing role – Tenor)
Ko Ko - Character in The Mikado (singing role – Baritone)
Pooh Bah - Character in The Mikado (singing role – Bass Baritone)

Ensemble Roles include:
British Athletes, French Athletes, Cambridge Students, Cambridge College Porters, Footmen, Veterans of WW1, Liddell family members and colleagues, Olympic and French Officials

Female Character/Female Actor

Sybil Evers - Actress, later Abraham's fiancée (role involves singing - Soprano)
Jennie Liddell - Eric's sister and fellow missionary
Florence Mackenzie - Canadian – admirer (and later wife) of Liddell
Pitti Sing - Character in The Mikado (singing role – Mezzo Soprano)
Peep Bo - Character in The Mikado (singing role – Soprano)

Ensemble Roles include:
Flag Bearers and Athletes from 20 Olympic Nations

Male Character/Female Actor

Master of Caius College - Senior Academic
Lord Sutherland - Leading British Athletics Official
Lord Birkenhead - Senior British Athletics Official
Lord Cadogan - Senior British Athletics Official

Ensemble Roles include:
Reporters, Trackside Officials and announcers, stage hands

Male Character/Actor of Any Gender

Prince of Wales - The future Edward VIII
Master of Trinity College - Senior Academic
Alistair - Scottish teenager/fan of Eric (could be played as Alice)
Colin - Scottish teenager/fan of Eric (could be played as Connie)

Ensemble Roles include:
Crowd Members, Runners, Students, Photographers

Important Note

All cast will need to be available during the daytime on the Tuesday of production week.


Monday will be a call from 9am to 6pm for the crew to prepare the theatre ahead of a technical rehearsal in the evening – with cast called from 5.30pm. There might be an opportunity to get on stage earlier and so we would work with all cast who could be available in the afternoon to get ahead of the technical work.

Tuesday will be a call from 12pm for the cast for a dress rehearsal in the afternoon ahead of the opening performance at 7.30pm.

Please be aware that it is a demanding show in terms of the physical and technical requirements and so we want to give everyone as much time as possible to be confident and comfortable in the space.

For a fuller casting breakdown, please see this separate document.

It really is an ensemble piece of theatre. Our cast of 25-30 will portray over 130 different characters over the course of each performance. It will be physically demanding (which is why we are building fitness and athletics coaching into the process) and a huge amount of fun. We need people with a range of skills – acting, singing, dancing, running and more.

With characters from England, Scotland, France, Canada and America, there will also be a lot of accent work needed.

Whilst a number of the characters are of the age to be Olympic athletes, there are plenty of opportunities for actors of all ages – something for everyone.

We have considered various options as to how best to cope with the possibility of key actors sustaining sports injuries as a result of the production. We have settled on a structured understudy programme for the main athletes so that we can ensure that the show goes on as well as providing proper training to reduce the risk of injury to our valuable cast.

If you have specific questions about the characters and what is involved, please contact the director at simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com and he will be happy to help.

Audition Process

There will be 3 first round auditions and then recalls by invitation only.
In the first rounds, we will be working on speeches and scenes related to but not drawn from the script of Chariots of Fire. You will not be required to prepare anything in advance – the texts will be available in the room. Our aim is to assess your potential rather than to immediately consider you for specific characters.

The sessions will run for 2 hours and you will be given the opportunity to work on a range of scenes with a range of different actors. It will be a relaxed and informal process – so please try not to get too anxious. Easier said than done, of course!

If invited to the recalls, you will be sent a small number of scenes from Chariots of Fire to look at. You won’t be required to learn them – just become familiar with them. This is the point that we will be looking at specific characters and combinations. For those being considered for roles involving singing, there will be a music element to the recalls. We will be aiming to timetable this to enable us to see as many combinations as we can – and, of course, give you as much time as possible to shine.

It is important to note that with so many characters to cast, we will not be recalling for every role. So not hearing about recalls does not mean that you are out of contention.

Accessibility concerns

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with us (simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com) and we will help if we can.

What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact us (simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com) and we will try to see you at another time, if possible.

It would be helpful if you could bring a completed audition form, but forms will also be available at the auditions. For this production, we do have a second form that we are asking all auditionees to complete.

All OTG auditions are run according to the OTG audition policy and harrassment policy .

Rehearsals

Rehearsals will start with a readthrough and costume measurement session in early December. We will then start initial character and blocking work before the Christmas break. Rehearsals will start again after the new year.

Rehearsal days will be Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons and the rehearsals will usually take place in the URC Main hall in Summertown.
The schedule will start with 3 sessions per week moving to 4 as the production gets closer. Of course, not everyone will be called to every rehearsal - we will do our best to accommodate your existing commitments as we plan the schedule.

For the athlete characters, there will be additional training for you to reach the level of fitness necessary to convince as Olympic runners. We will confirm those details on an individual basis.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – simon.tavener@oxfordtheatreguild.com