8 Stirring Monologues to Impress in an Audition

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For a working actor it’s always a good idea to have a couple of monologues ready for auditions. And if you’re applying to drama school or university drama courses, finding an impactful audition monologue is a must.

“It’s highly probable, whatever monologue you choose, you’ll perform it many times, so it’s worth picking something you love and something that’s going to serve you the way you want it to,” says Jonny Hoskins, senior lecturer in Acting at Arts University Bournemouth. “Some drama schools tell you exactly which monologue to prepare, but it’s good to have an alternative.”

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How to choose an audition monologue

Hoskins advises choosing a monologue you can connect with from a play you could feasibly be cast in. “Playing away from your casting type is not completely out of the question, but it may be a risk that is not worth taking in a crucial audition,” he warns.

As for what makes a good audition monologue, “You’re going to want something which has depth, a world that the character exists in, and a situation or problem for the character which you can relate to,” he says. Hoskins also suggests seeking out monologues which have an emotional journey or some kind of transformation for the character.

“Often, you’ll be asked for two pieces, usually one classical and one contemporary,” says Hoskins. “Use the opportunity to have two pieces which are contrasting and show off your range. You’d be surprised how many people stand or sit in exactly the same position in the same part of the room and deliver similar pieces. The whole point of doing two is to give an idea of what you can do out of all the possible acting choices available.” So if your first choice of monologue is for a character who is bitter and resentful, consider picking a second one that’s comic, wistful, or about falling in love.

Where to address your audition monologue

“Be clear about who the character is talking to,” says Hoskins. “Are you creating an invisible other or are you directly addressing the audience? On the day, you can ask the people auditioning you this question directly. Some of them would prefer you to pretend you’re in a larger space and avoid looking at them directly, but it’s not the same for everybody. And be prepared for them to throw the question back at you and to make a choice.”

Examples of brilliant audition monologues

There are a great many monologues out there that would make impressive audition pieces. We’ve chosen 10 that span different ages and genders, and a mix of comedy and drama. Remember to read the whole play because it’s important to study the character in context.

River, Jez Butterworth (2012) 

Character: The Man

Situation: The Man is addressing a woman with whom he has a significant and deep connection. Earlier in the evening, he made a declaration of love to her, which she laughed off, possibly out of surprise or discomfort.

Why choose it? The character expresses profound feelings of love, loss, and desperation, which gives you the chance to showcase your ability to convey complex and intense emotions. There is also plenty of variety, from storytelling to direct address and from calm recollection to passionate declaration, which lets you demonstrate your versatility. The speech builds to a powerful climax, making it a strong choice as an audition monologue. 

The speech:

You really want to know? (Pause.) When I was about twelve my uncle said he’d brought lots and lots of women here. Fillies he called them. And he said how he used to do the same things with each of them. The same routine. He’d bring them here around sunset, pour them a large scotch. Take them fishing then bring them back and quote have his wicked way. He said he’d brought dozens here. So many he said he’d get them mixed up. Have to write down their names. And he laughed. He laughed that big laugh of his. But he suddenly had the eyes of a ghost. And the mouth of some desperate creature caught in an invisible snare. As I went to sleep that night I promised myself I would only bring one woman here. The woman I wanted to spend my life with. The woman I wanted to be with for ever. She would come here, and it would be sacred. It would be something I had only shared with her and her alone.

Silence

Earlier this evening, when you came back. I said something to you. And you laughed it off.

It’s okay. You were surprised. Not as surprised as me. Trust me, I didn’t want to say it. But I had no choice. Because there was nothing else in my head or in my whole being. There was no way forward except through that. There was no next breath without it. And you’re right. I may forget who you are. I may bring other women here, to this place, and I may tell them I love them, and make love to them. But they will be imposters. And I will be a ghost. Because it means I will have lost you. My body, my brain, my lungs, my stomach, my guts, legs, arms will be here but I won’t be. I will be out there, looking for you. And if we meet somewhere, at a restaurant, or a party and I’m with someone, I want you to know that they are by my side only because you are not. And she will be beautiful. And I will be laughing and smiling and she will be laughing and smiling, but she will be laughing at a lie. Because all I will have done to that person is lie to them. All I will do to anyone else, forever, from this moment forward, anyone who isn’t you, is lie. I have no choice. (Beat.) I have no choice.

Brontë, Polly Teale (2005) 

Act 1

Character: Charlotte

Situation: The monologue is rooted in Charlotte’s unrequited love for her Belgian professor, Constantin Héger, whom she met while studying in Brussels. Her feelings for him were intense and passionate but ultimately unreciprocated, leading to deep emotional turmoil.

Why choose it? This has a period setting while still being modern, making it an ideal piece for anyone auditioning for a show like Bridgerton. The transitions from writing a formal letter to a raw, unfiltered outburst of emotion, then to self-loathing and regret allow you to show your range and how you handle emotionally charged material.

The speech:

Dear sir. Day and night I find neither rest nor peace. For three months I have waited and still you torture me with no reply. Nothing. Not a morsel. Not a mouthful. It is cruel. The poor need little to live. They ask only for the crumbs that fall from the table. Deny them this and they die of hunger.

She screws up the letter and starts again, trying to compose herself.

Dear sir. In your last letter you told me of the snowdrops you could see from your window.

She crosses it out furiously. BERTHA is behind CHARLOTTE, wild with longing and frustration.

I love you. I love you. I love you. You can’t do this to me. If I was a dog you wouldn’t do this to me. I wish I was your dog so I could follow you and smell you and eat the scraps that you throw under the table and lick your shoes and have you beat me and –

She realises what she has said and stops herself, horrified.

Oh God.

She screws up the letter, throwing it to the floor. BERTHA flings herself to the ground.

Oh Lord, forgive me.

CHARLOTTE picks up a mirror and forces herself to look in it.

A greater fool than I never breathed the breath of life. Me, a favourite with him? Me, gifted with the power of pleasing him? Me, of importance to him in any way? Look at that tired, uneven, charmless face. Whenever in future you imagine that he thought well of you, take out your mirror and look at yourself.

Incomplete and Random Acts of Kindness, David Eldridge (2005)

Scene 35

Character: Trevor

Situation: Trevor reflects on his interactions with a deceased classmate, his own feelings of guilt and regret, and his current struggles with his ex-girlfriend and education.

Why choose it? The monologue features shifts in tone from reflective and regretful to hopeful and determined, which allows you to showcase versatility. See if you can connect with Trevor's experiences of school, relationships, and personal failure, which will help bring out a truthful and empathetic performance.

The speech:

I don’t mean to say bad things of the dead, but he was weird.

He asked out my woman. I couldn’t believe he did that! He was the biggest freak in the whole school! He would sing songs and be in a world of his own and he told lies to everyone.

Like he said his dad was a politician in Nigeria and then he said his dad was a big-time villain, he’d come and shoot us for picking on him. I felt kind of bad about it because I told everyone he asked out Leah. And everyone mocked him and then he died. And then my girl dumped me, which you might say I deserved but I was gutted, man, because she said it was my fault. But I knew she felt bad herself because she took the piss out of him as well. She said I was more stupid than him because at least he could write.

A slight pause.

Anyways, she’s going out with this other kid now, but I’ll get her back. She confessed to me that I had the softest lips she had ever kissed. I don’t like thinking about her kissing no one else, but I can see the compliment in what she says. My teacher said that if I wanted you could help me to read better.

There are some crazy rumours about Trevor, you understand?

A slight pause.

And I don’t mean to pry, but I would to like to know what you know because I can put an end to those rumours in this school today.

An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde (1895)

Act 2, Scene 1

Character: Mabel Chiltern

Situation: Mabel humorously recounts her numerous marriage proposals from Tommy, expressing her frustration and amusement at his persistence and outdated wooing methods.

Why choose it? This is full of Wilde’s trademark wit and wordplay, allowing you to showcase your comic timing. Despite the period setting, Mabel’s frustration with Tommy’s outdated courting style gives her a modern edge. It’s great fun and would make a good contrast to a more serious piece. 

The speech:

Well, Tommy has proposed to me again. Tommy really does nothing but propose to me. He proposed to me last night in the music-room, when I was quite unprotected, as there was an elaborate trio going on. I didn't dare to make the smallest repartee, I need hardly tell you. If I had, it would have stopped the music at once. Musical people are so absurdly unreason-able. They always want one to be perfectly dumb at the very moment when one is longing to be absolutely deaf. Then he proposed to me in broad daylight this morning, in front of that dreadful statue of Achilles. Really, the things that go on in front of that work of art are quite appalling. The police should interfere. At luncheon I saw by the glare in his eye that he was going to propose again, and I just managed to check him in time by assuring him that I was a bimetallist. Fortunately I don't know what bimetallism means. And I don't believe anybody else does either. But the observation crushed Tommy for ten minutes. He looked quite shocked. And then Tommy is so annoying in the way he proposes. If he proposed at the top of his voice, I should not mind so much. That might produce some effect on the public. But he does it in a horrid confidential way. When Tommy wants to be romantic he talks to one just like a doctor. I am very fond of Tommy, but his methods of proposing are quite out of date. I wish, Gertrude, you would speak to him, and tell him that once a week is quite often enough to propose to any one, and that it should always be done in a manner that attracts some attention.

One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean (2011)

Act 1, Scene 2

Character: Francis

Situation: Francis reflects on his current dire situation, recounting how he lost his job in a skiffle band, his humorous encounter with a stranger, and his longing for food and money.

Why choose it? This monologue gives you the chance to demonstrate your comedic timing, physical expressiveness, and ability to create a sympathetic yet quirky character. The direct speech also gives you the chance to create a secondary character within the speech, which you can give a different voice or accent to, highlighting your range. 

The speech:

My Father, Tommy Henshall, God rest his soul, he woulda been proud of me, what I done with my life, until today. I used to play washboard in a skiffle band, but they went to see The Beatles last Tuesday night, and sacked me Wednesday morning. Ironic, because I started The Beatles. I saw them in Hamburg. Rubbish. I said to that John Lennon, I said “John, you’re going nowhere mate, it’s embarrassing, have you ever considered writing your own songs”. So I’m skint, I’m busking, guitar, mouth organ on a rack, bass drum tied to me foot, and the definition of mental illness, cymbals between my knees. So there I am, middle of Victoria Station, I’ve only been playing ten minutes, this lairy bloke comes over, he says – “do you do requests?” I say “yes” he says “I’d like you to play a song for my mother”. I said “no problem, where is she?” He said “Tazmania.” So I nutted him. This little bloke Roscoe Crabbe seen all this and offers me a week’s work in Brighton, says he needs a bit of muscle. I tell him this is all fat. But I need a wage, I haven’t eaten since last night. But I don’t get paid until the end of the week, and I can’t stop thinking about FISH AND CHIPS. I’m staying in a pub, and I don’t even have enough shrapnel for a PINT.

He empties all the dregs into one pint pot, picks a tab end out and downs it in one. He looks at the dustbin. Puts a hand on the lid.

There might be a discarded bag of chips in here. No! I can’t go through the bins! Must stop thinking about FISH AND CHIPS. Come on Francis! Think about something boring, like… Canada.

Three Birds Alighting on a Field, Timberlake Wertenbaker (1991)

Act 2, Scene 3

Character: Biddy

Situation: Biddy reflects on a moment of realisation and fear about the future, spurred by hearing a prediction about the 1990s and its potential horrors. This leads her to contemplate her life, her husband Yoyo's changing fortunes, and her motivations for becoming an art collector.

Why choose it? Although Biddy describes a seemingly mundane moment, the monologue is infused with an underlying sense of anxiety and fear about the future, which allows you to convey a complex emotional subtext, showcasing subtlety and depth. 

The speech:

I remember the end of 1989 when the walls came tumbling down. Yoyo was excited because it meant new markets and he needed them. People walked the streets with smiles on their faces, but there were chill winds blowing already. I know when it happened for me. I was watching the Channel Four news, waiting for Brookside, which I like because it's so exotic, and I was about to pour myself a drink during the Comment, but suddenly I heard this man talk about Nostradamus and I listened. I listened because one of the girls at Benenden had gone a little mad over Nostradamus during the last year. She was a little strange anyway, I mean her parents were odd, journalists, or Canadians or something, but she began to talk about the horrors of the future and she became depressed about this thing, the future. Eventually the headmistress confiscated her Nostradamus and told her to worry about herself not history, that was for others, men maybe. The future, the general future was not a problem for Benenden girls. So when I saw this man talking about Nostradamus I listened and he said terrible things were predicted for the nineties and a chill came through me because everything was going so well and we were so rich, Yoyo and me. And now Eastern Europe was going to get rich as well so we wouldn't even have to feel guilty or feel nervous about communism and I was angry at this man for saying things would go badly, but maybe I had already noticed that actually things weren't going so well for Yoyo and he was looking worried and ill and muttering about confidence and that was partly why I had to do something showy like become a collector of modern art. It was just a chill that night, a draught coming under a door, but now I think about it a lot.

Lovesong, Abi Morgan (2011) 

Scene 9

Character: Billy

Situation: Billy’s 40-year marriage is ending and his wife is fussing about how he will manage without her. 

Why choose it? Billy's speech is filled with raw grief and anger, giving you a chance to delve deep into these intense emotions. You may also be able to connect with the universal themes of loss, loneliness, and the struggle to cope without a loved one. The speech builds from mundane details to a crescendo of defiance and grief, culminating in the powerful, repeated declaration “Without you”, which creates a natural arc.

The speech:

This is not some fucking...fucking...fucking...fucking –

      BILLY slams down the rope.

      ...holiday where you come back.

      Silence

I won’t [look after myself]. I’ll grow my hair long and never get it trimmed the third Saturday of every other month as you’ve booked it all my life. I’ll leave out the milk, let it go warm on the front step, let it pile up with the newspapers. I’ll let the grass grow. I’ll never pull hair out of the plughole when it clogs up. I won’t wipe up after I’ve washed the dishes. I won’t wash up dishes. I won’t eat. I won’t. If I do I’ll eat straight from the freezer, with a spoon, fingers if I feel like it. Frozen pie mush. And the endless cans of salmon. For the fucking vanished cat. Which I’ll open with a penknife. Why not? I’ll stop opening mail.

I’ll stop opening anything. I won’t answer the phone. If people ring I won’t pick up. I won’t open the front door much at all. I won’t shovel snow like a good neighbour should do. I won’t pick up my clothes. I won’t wash my underwear. I’ll wear the same socks. I’ll stay in the house and if I do venture out I won’t say hello to that kid with his fucking skateboard banging back and forth up and down the fucking kerb like a fucking moron. I will live as someone who used to have a life, who used to have a life with someone but that someone isn’t here anymore. I will live my life as I fucking want. Without you.

      Silence.

      Without you.

      Silence.

People, Places and Things, Duncan Macmillan (2015)

Act 1

Character: Emma

Situation: Emma is undergoing rehab for drink and drug addiction, and in this monologue, she talks about the allure and structure of acting compared to the chaos and unpredictability of real life. 

Why choose it? Emma's monologue is filled with raw and honest emotions, especially when she talks about her brother’s death and her inability to feel anything. This vulnerability gives you rich material to convey deep emotional layers. The quote in the middle also gives you the opportunity to show how you handle poetic and heightened text. 

The speech:

With a play you get instructions. Stage directions. Dialogue. Someone clothes you. Tells you where to be and when. You get to live the most intense moments of a life over and over again, with all the boring bits left out. And you get to practise. For weeks. And you’re applauded. Then you get changed. Leave through stage door. Bus home. Back to real life. All the boring stuff left in. Waiting. Temping. Answering phones and serving canapés. Nothing permanent. Can’t plan. Can’t get a mortgage or pay for a car. Audition comes in. Try to look right. Sit in a room surrounded by people who look just like you, all after the same part. Never hear back. Or if you get the part it’ll be sitting around in rehearsal and backstage making less than you did temping. Make these friendships with people, a little family, fall in love onstage and off and then it’s over and you don’t see them again. You try not to take it personally when people who aren’t as good as you get the parts. When you go from being the sexy ingénue to the tired mother of three.

But you keep going because sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you get to be onstage and say things that are absolutely true, even if they’re made-up. You get to do things which feel more real to you, more authentic, more meaningful than anything in your own life. You get to speak poetry, words you would never think to say but which become yours as you speak them.

When he shall die take him and cut him out in little stars, and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night, and pay no worship to the garish sun.

It feels like Lydia wants me to acknowledge some buried trauma but there isn’t any. I played Antigone and every night my heart broke about her dead brother. Then my own brother died and I didn’t feel anything. I missed the funeral because I had a matinee. I’m not avoiding talking to the Group because I’ve got something to hide. It’s the opposite. If I’m not in character I’m not sure I’m really there. I’m already dead. I’m nothing. I want to live a hundred lives and be everywhere and fight against the infinitesimal time we have on this planet.

Acting gives me the same thing I get from drugs and alcohol. Good parts are just harder to come by.

I really

I really miss my brother.

Whether you are drawn to the raw intensity of Emma from People, Places, and Things or the charismatic boldness of The Man in Jez Butterworth’s The River, we hope you find something in this selection to help you shine in your next audition.