I auditioned for The Chase and it was a wild experience
A real rollercoaster of emotions
Like meal deals, essay stress and hard drug use, The Chase is a staple of university life for many students, both in Sheffield and beyond. The show, which attracts over two million viewers, has become well loved for its presenter Bradley Walsh, high risk format and competitive chasers.
On the Friday of reading week, I visited the website after one episode and applied on a whim. I was contacted just four days later by a production assistant who, after a brief phone quiz, invited me to a Sheffield audition. Without further ado, here is what goes down in this all-important stage.
It's much fancier than expected
For the country, it may be light entertainment, but behind the scenes The Chase is a very serious business. Audition information was sent over just five days in advance. All applicants are asked to bring along originals and photocopies of ID and a bank statement as proof of address.
Arriving at a four-star hotel on the outer edges of Sheffield, contestants are directed up some stairs, and then some more stairs, and then down some corridors. Eventually, I arrived at a meeting room which had countless water bottles and chairs set up. It turned out that we were auditioning in groups of no more than five.
The audition itself is absolutely wild
Eventually, we were herded through to the audition room. The ITV staff repeatedly told us we had done "very, very well" to get to this point. They'd had 80,000 applicants, few of whom get through to an audition.
At twenty, I was the youngest of the small group. There was a retired teacher, Sandra, who travelled from Nottingham for the audition. David, in his late sixties who was once on The Weakest Link, took two minutes to make a questionable joke about his wife's "assets". Completing the line up were Luke, a local lad in his late twenties, and a teacher called Chris.
We introduced ourselves and talked briefly about hobbies and interests, then got down to the quiz side of things. A tape player played two sets of questions, with five second gaps to write down answers. Painful memories of GCSE French flooded back. The buzzer round was recreated with pieces of card and a researcher playing the chaser. In the final chase, we worked as a team and just shouted out answers if we knew them.
The half hour or so flew by, and I racked my brain to answer questions on everything from Ellie Goulding songs to chemistry symbols. For about 20 minutes, we returned to the waiting room as deliberation took place among the research team. It was good fun, and we were all made to feel at ease as part of an entertaining, and even fairly authentic, audition process.
Sadly, the chase was over
"If you don't get through it's not that we don't like you or anything like that!" insisted one of the production assistants, finally arriving to announce the results. "It's an entertainment show." They stressed that decisions were not to be taken personally.
David, Luke and Sandra were all 'shortlisted', which doesn't even guarantee them a place on the show, but means at least one or two of them will most likely pop up on teatime telly eventually. However, yours truly – and Chris – had not made it any further.
Was I not entertaining and/or clever enough? Were David, Sandra and Luke's plans to spend hypothetical winnings on their kids or partners, of which I have neither, enough to swing it for them? Did they found out that I write for The Tab? Either way, the chase was over before it really began.