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Hollyoaks fever brings out all the soap hopers; Our man Dan decides that he can be a teen idol in Channel 4's big hit ... but finds a lot of young competition.

SCOTLAND produced 10,000 would-be soap stars yesterday - and brought Edinburgh's Royal Mile to a standstill.

In town were the producers of the Channel 4 teen soap Hollyoaks, searching for new talent to fill the shoes of departing cast members.

In the middle of the crush was yours truly, Record reporter and wannabe teen heart-throb, ready to audition for a part in Mersey Television's hit show.

In London last weekend more than 20,000 would-be TV stars turned up for the same auditions, which are being held around Britain over the next fortnight.

On Saturday, the queue at Channel 4's headquarters in central London, was over half a mile, so my chances were not looking good.

On the journey through to Edinburgh, I realised just how slim my chances were. Sitting across from me on the Edinburgh express train were three of the most perfect female specimens I had ever laid eyes on, each one determined to get a part in Hollyoaks.

In fact, the whole train resembled a scene from Fame. At one point, it was impossible to move for dancers doing leg exercises in the aisle.

As I arrived at the audition venue, The Hub on the Royal Mile, I looked along the endless queue of hopefuls, thousands of them, each one brimming with confidence and enthusiasm.

There was only one thing for it - I had to skip the queue.

It was quite easy really. I pretended I was doubled over with stomach cramps and a kindly security guard escorted me into the Hollyoaks inner sanctum to use the toilet.

Who said this acting lark was difficult?

Inside the Hub, a converted church used as a theatre during the Fringe Festival, the scene was bedlam.

Teenagers lined up in their droves fixing their make-up, fluffing their hair and rehearsing their lines.

At the front of the queue, behind an imposing desk, sat the casting director, Dorothy Andrew, famed for having one of the finest "eyes" in the business and responsible for casting the Oscar hit Chariots Of Fire.

I immediately figured I needed some advice so I looked around and spotted Hollyoaks star Gary Lucy signing autographs in the corner.

Gary, 18, a former professional footballer, is better known, as Luke Morgan, the Hollyoaks heart-throb who starred in last month's controversial male rape scene. I asked: "Gary, how do I get a part in Hollyoaks?"

"Well ,that's a hard one to answer," said Gary looking over his shoulder for a security man.

"The key to getting into this job is to have a lot of self-belief and most importantly determination and perseverance.

"So how did you get your part in Hollyoaks, Gary?"

"My aunt is a casting director," came the deadpan reply.

No clearer on the key to an actor's life, I followed what Gary had advised me on determination - I jumped the queue again. I was told to simply say my name, age and occupation.

"What about the Shakespeare?" I asked and I was promptly shown what I thought was the door.

In fact, I had made it through to the second stage and was directed to a small room at the back of the church for a reading.

Inside, a television crew was filming several aspiring young actresses reading out a prepared script.

The script was simple enough. I had gone back to a girl's flat and all I had to say were the words "Nice gaff, darling" and then agree to a coffee with the immortal line, "Yeah, cool, that would be nice."

So, of course I fluffed my lines.

Dorothy has spent the past three days interviewing 20,000 hopefuls. By the time the Hollyoaks roadshow trundles on to Cardiff and Chester, where the soap is set, she will have met 40,000 aspiring actors.

She said: "This isn't easy, but you get an eye for these things. You are always looking for a spark. You know when you see it.

"We've had a lot of positive candidates come through in Scotland. The best thing is they are all fresh and not just going through the audition circuit."

Enough about all that - what about my chances?

Dorothy said: "Well not too bad. I'd maybe have taken you four years ago, you certainly can talk.

"Perhaps you'd fit into a more mature role. Don't call us though, well get in touch with you."

Not everyone was tossed on to the acting scrapheap though. Kilwinning student Simone Lucas was chosen from thousands of aspiring stars to go forward for a screen test. The 21-year-old media student said: "I couldn't believe it when I was picked out. All I did was walk up to the table and give my name and age, the next thing I knew I was reading a script with Gary Lucy.

"It was really nerve-racking but I'm absolutely determined to be an actress."

Another hopeful, Lisa Livingstone, travelled from Aberdeen at 4am yesterday morning. She said: "I couldn't believe it when I saw the queue - about 1000 people.

"When I finally got through, I was just thrilled to be asked to read out a script. Most people were sent packing."

Scots-based Wheel of Fortune star, Jenny Powell, also appeared at the auditions, but claimed she had no aspirations to be a soap star.

She said: "I'm just here to help.

"If you need some counselling then I'd be able to help you, but I'm sure you'll recover if your not chosen."

For this young journalist, a life as a soap star was clearly never meant to be but the next time I visit a girl's house, I know how to say "Nice gaff, darling" - a winning line, it seems.
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Author:McDOUGALL, DAN
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 20, 2000
Words:946
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