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M'audition Pieces

Every child at the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, as he/she reaches the age of 12, is fully prepared with a set of audition pieces for acting, singing and dancing roles. These pieces are known as "m'audition", an abbreviation of "my audition". "'M'audition' was a speech from a play, or a recitation, and a song which had a dance worked to the chorus, or to a repeat of the tune." (Ballet Shoes, 1936:152).

In this article, I have provided the text for some of the speeches and songs made by various characters: Pauline Fossil, Petrova Fossil, their friend Winifred, Sorrel Forbes and Rachel Winter.

Pauline Fossil

"Pauline had Puck's speech from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a song called 'Springtime is Fairy Time', which had a waltz tune, and so was easy to dance to." (Ballet Shoes, 1936:153).


In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck is a mischievous fairy, servant of Oberon and responsible for much of the mayhem that occurs in the play. He has a number of relatively self-contained speeches, and we are are never told exactly which one of these Pauline uses in her m'audition. Puck makes two speeches in Act II Scene i: one telling of the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, and the other describing himself. He has another lengthy speech in Act II Scene iii when he puts the love potion into Lysander's eyes, and in Act III Scene ii he tells of how Titania came to fall in love with an ass. He has two final speeches in Act V Scene ii, including an epilogue in which he solicits applause from the audience.

Of these various speeches, the one it is most likely that Pauline has in her m'audition is the one from Act II Scene i, in which he describes himself:

Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,
Neighing in likeness of a filly foal:
And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob
And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale.
The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale,
Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me;
Then slip I from her bum, down topples she,
And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough;
And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh,
And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear
A merrier hour was never wasted there.
But, room, fairy! here comes Oberon.


I have not been able to locate the words for "Springtime is Fairy Time".


Petrova Fossil

"[Petrova's] 'M'audition' was 'The boy's speech from Act III, Scene ii, of Henry the Fifth.'" (Ballet Shoes, 1936:206). We never learn what Petrova's m'audition song is.


The boy in Henry V had been in the service of Falstaff. After Falstaff's death he goes to the war in France with Pistol, Nym and Bardolph. In Act III Scene ii, he tells the audience about his companions:

As young as I am, I have observed these three swashers. I am boy to them all three: but all they three, though they would serve me, could not be man to me; for indeed three such anticks do not amount to a man. For Bardolph, he is white-livered and red-faced; by the means whereof a' faces it out, but fights not. For Pistol, he hath a killing tongue and a quiet sword; by the means whereof a' breaks words, and keeps whole weapons. For Nym, he hath heard that men of few words are the best men; and therefore he scorns to say his prayers, lest a' should be thought a coward: but his few bad words are matched with as few good deeds; for a' never broke any man's head but his own, and that was against a post when he was drunk. They will steal any thing, and call it purchase. Bardolph stole a lute-case, bore it twelve leagues, and sold it for three half pence. Nym and Bardolph are sworn brothers in filching, and in Calais they stole a fire-shovel: I knew by that piece of service the men would carry coals. They would have me as familiar with men's pockets as their gloves or their handkerchiefs: which makes much against my manhood, if I should take from another's pocket to put into mine; for it is plain pocketing up of wrongs. I must leave them, and seek some better service: their villainy goes against my weak stomach, and therefore I must cast it up.



"[Winifred] recited 'You are Old, Father William', and then sang 'Come unto these yellow sands,' and then did a most difficult dance." (Ballet Shoes, 1936:158).


There are actually two different versions of "You are Old, Father William". The original was written by Robert Southey, and is actually called "The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them". Much better known, is the humorous version written by Lewis Carroll. Winifred almost certainly recited the Carroll version.

"You are old, father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head--
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door--
Pray what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment--one shilling the box--
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak--
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose--
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said the father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"


'Come unto these yellow sands' is from Act I Scene ii of The Tempest by William Shakespeare. In the play, it is sung by Ariel, an "airy Sprite".

Come unto these yellow sands,
And then take hands:
Court'sied when you have, and kiss'd, --
The wild waves whist, --
Foot it featly here and there;
And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
Hark! hark!
Bow, wow.
The watch-dogs bark:
Bow, wow. Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow!


Sorrel Forbes

Sorrel's first audition is with BBC radio: obviously, dancing is unnecessary, and they don't want her to sing, so instead she has two spoken pieces. "Miss Jay, assisted by Sorrel, wrote a short version of "The Princess and the Pea". It was nearly all conversation. ... [Miss Jay said] "I think, for the second item, you'd better recite some Shakespeare. You shall learn Titania's speech from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.'" (Curtain Up, 1944:219). Later in the book, Sorrel does have a m'audition ready "including a dance in which she got on her points" (Curtain Up, 1944:283), but we never see her use it. However, it seems likely that the speech would still be Titania.


Titania is the queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sorrel's speech comes from Act II Scene ii, when Titania and Oberon - who are quarreling - have just accidentally met. Their fight has extended to cause disorder in the natural world.

These are the forgeries of jealousy:
And never, since the middle summer's spring,
Met we on hill, in dale, forest or mead,
By paved fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beached margin of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter here;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.


Rachel Winter

We do not see Rachel attend an audition in The Painted Garden. However, we learn that her m'audition consists of 'Cherry Ripe' and Viola's speech from Twelfth Night. When the family are sailing to California, she dances her m'audition dance at a concert on the ship.


Viola, the heroine of Twelfth Night, has disguised herself as a young man, and is serving the Count Orsino, with whom she has fallen in love. Orsino is in love with the Lady Olivia, and he sends Viola to woo her on his behalf. Upon meeting Viola, and believing her to be a young man, Olivia then falls in love with her. Rachel's speech is probably the one at the end of II i. After meeting Viola for the first time, Olivia sends her servant to give a ring to Viola (claiming that Viola had left it with her), and asks her to return the next day. As the servant leaves her, Viola realises what has happened.

I left no ring with her. What means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside hath not charmed her!
She made good view of me; indeed, so much
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure, the cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord's ring! Why, he sent her none.
I am the man. If it be so, as 'tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness,
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper-false
In women's waxen hearts to leave their forms!
Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we!
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? My master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him,
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master's love;
As I am woman--now alas the day!--
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O Time, thou must untangle this, not I!
It is too hard a knot for me to untie!


'Cherry Ripe' was originally an 8-line poem by Robert Herrick. When it was set to music, many of the lines were repeated.

Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy
Cherry ripe, cherry ripe
Ripe I cry
Full and fair ones
Come and buy.

If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer there
Where my Julia's lips do smile
There's the land, or Cherry Isle
There's the land or Cherry Isle.


Where my Julia's lips do smile
There's the land or Cherry Isle
There plantations fully show
All the year where cherries grow
All the year where cherries grow.




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