02 March 2009
The knock on the door seems a little too hard, as if bruising to the knuckles. The door opens and 'internal candidate' John Driver strides into the interview room. He is smartly dressed and smiling broadly, reeking of composure and expensive aftershave. He flashes eye contact and handshakes at the panel, then takes a seat.
The panel, for their part, do their utmost to make the candidate feel at ease. It's what they've been practicing all morning. Offering water, introductions, and active listening. They further establish rapport through conversational questioning such as 'how was your journey this morning?'.
Almost immediately, the gears shift, and the competency based interview begins. Using the models learned through a mornings training, the panel attempt to gather evidence of competencies displayed on the job. They scribble fiercely, trying to make notes and eye contact at the same time. Driver smiles and talks his way around the broad questions, but rewards direct ones with direct evidence-based answers.
Last week I was absent from my usual office drone world. I was, for a time, a paid actor. Working in what is variously known as 'industrial theatre', 'applied theatre', 'corporate work', or 'role-playing'. It was fun, and I would definitely do it again. I was John Driver. I was pretty good too. Take note, companies who hire actors for this sort of work.
The paycheque and the free lunch were obvious perks, but absorbing the skills we were teaching, and having the opportunity to stretch my acting chops in a slightly sideways direction were also definite boni. And, perhaps most importantly, all of my colleagues - trainers, and actors, were delightful people.
According to one actor, who works regularly in London in this field, 80% of 'paid acting work' is of this type. So giving up dreams of starring in a Broadway musical or a soap commercial doesn't mean one can't make a living as an actor. In fact it's much more common to gig as a patient for interning doctors, doing safety shows for gas companies, or in this case, role play for civil servants.
John Driver is brash. He can be overwhelming to his juniors, and sarcastic in meetings. He is driven. He is loquacious. He is a character I have made my own. One rung at a time, I move my way up.