Some of you out there who are keen on the theatrical arts may have heard of a thing called the LAMDA Exams. Those of you that haven’t, it is basically a year-long project where you develop your acting skills by learning two or three monologues/duologues and performing them to an examiner who will, in the end, question you on your knowledge and understanding behind the pieces.
A LAMDA exam is the speech and drama equivalent of a music grade. LAMDA stands for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and they began offering speech examinations to the public in the 1880s. These examinations have been refined and developed over the years. They now form a comprehensive system of performance evaluation with the purpose of improving standards in communication through the spoken word, fostering an appreciation of literature and supporting creative, intellectual, and social development.
I have recently just finished my LAMDA Gold exam, and I can say from experience that it was quite the challenge. If any of you are thinking of taking the medal exams, be warned as it takes a lot of effort. Here are some tips on what to expect, and what I learned from the experience.
For your first piece, it usually has to be one written by Shakespeare or one of the Greek classics. I choose Shakespeare and recommend that you do the same as it’s much easier. You need to learn the piece from top to bottom with every, single, little bit of supplementing info you can find on Shakespeare. Where he was born, when he died, why he wrote his plays in his specific style, who were the plays based on, etcetera. Obviously, you cannot just watch the movie.
For your second piece of the LAMDA Exam, it needs to be written before 1980. Apart from that rule, you can just about choose anything. However, if you pick a tragedy for your first piece, maybe choose a piece that shows you can display a range of emotions instead of just doing three depressing pieces. When I took my exam, I opted for a piece by Oscar Wilde as there is a lot of information behind him and the themes he explored (which is what the examiner usually looks for). In my opinion, the first two pieces are the most important, as they are often the ones the examiner has heard of.
For the third piece, as long as it’s after 1980, you can choose anything. You can also play this to your advantage as it means that if you select one of the most recent plays, the examiner is less likely to have heard of it and so, probably won’t pick this piece to question you on.
On top of all that research that you already have to do, you also have to learn about a practitioner. For my exam, my chosen practitioner was Konstantin Stanislavski (1863-1938), a very well-known Russian actor and director. He believed in making the part you’re playing seem as realistic as possible, by trying your best to become the person you are portraying and not just an actor on stage performing. Many very famous actors nowadays use Stanislavski’s methods to help develop their acting skills.
When introducing your piece, you need to say what character you will be portraying, when the piece was written and first performed, what is happening in the scene you will be performing, and how you used Stanislavski’s methods to make your piece better.
After your first piece, you repeat the whole process of introducing what your next piece is going to be about and then perform your second piece. You then repeat everything until you have finished the acting part of your exam.
For me, I found the hardest part of my exam the actual acting instead of answering questions. Although, when I asked a friend of mine who also took the exam (and who is a lot better than me at drama) she said that she found the questions a lot harder than the acting section. This confused me until I watched her perform all three of her pieces and I then understood why she had said the questions were harder.
So, as I’m writing this I fear that I’m not making the exam sound very appealing, so I’m now going to mention some stuff that will make it sound better. Completing a LAMDA Gold exam is major UCAS points for anyone looking to get into universities in the UK. It also helps develop your public speaking and presentation skills – which are handy things to have and know how to do, especially when you get older.
The LAMDA medals are usually focused on people who are a bit older – around 16 to 18 – but don’t let this discourage you! If you and your LAMDA teacher feel that you may be ready to take on a LAMDA medal exam, go for it!
Some advice for you: If you do decide to take this exam, please try the refrain from giving your LAMDA teacher a heart attack by leaving everything entirely to the last minute like we did. It makes them stressed out, and it then becomes something you dread to think about, which causes you to procrastinate on everything for a longer period of time until you are in this never-ending downward spiral that you can’t get out of. Just learn your monologues and all of the supplementing info, and you should do just fine.
Photo: Adobe Creative Cloud
This article appeared on p40-41 of the beijingkids September 2018 Teen Takeover issue.