Case Studies

Yasmin Mwanza, BA (Hons) Acting, 2017, Manchester School of Theatre

My three years at Manchester School Of Theatre equipped me, nurtured me, disciplined me and gave me the tools and skills needed to embark on an acting career. The training I received will undoubtedly stay with me throughout all the years to come.

From Shakespeare term to Acting for Camera, movement classes to voice classes, the rigorous training pushed me and took me on a journey that unlocked my potential. The School was a safe environment where I felt free to take risks in my work. And if those risks didn’t work out I felt safe in knowing that I could try again.

A personal highlight for me was winning the prestigious Spotlight Prize which was a first for Manchester School Of Theatre! I was thrilled to be representing my school. Walking out onto that stage and performing my monologue to the audience marked the culmination of three years of hard work. A testament to all the training I had received by all the staff who taught me at the school.

Whether working on a film set or doing voiceovers, my training at Manchester School Of Theatre plays a huge part in who I am as an actress.

Aron Julius, BA (Hons) in Acting, RADA

I had the ‘I want to be an actor’ moment when I was 11, playing the King of Hearts in my school hall in Liverpool. It gave me such a sense of purpose and every decision I have made since then has been geared towards a career in acting. My Grandad told me there were such things as drama schools, the equivalent of a university but for acting: “The only one I can think of is RADA, but that’s aiming very high!” That conversation changed my life.

I learnt a lot about myself in the audition process alone and was determined RADA was the school for me. When I got the call to say I had a place, I was so overwhelmed and excited.

RADA has changed everything for me. The training has given me more flexibility and specificity as an actor, stretched my capability, broadened my knowledge of plays and challenged me in the most fruitful and creative ways. I was surprised by how physically and emotionally demanding it is, but my stamina and capability has grown quickly and the staff are caring and exciting to work with – being able to feel safe and supported by the school is a delight.

I came to RADA wanting to be challenged and stretched, allowing me to be the best actor I can be. RADA given me that, but it’s also given me a much deeper understanding of myself, life and acting. I feel confident that I’m in the hands of an excellent training.

Alexandra Mardell, BA (Hons) Acting, 2015, GSA

I currently play Emma Brooker on Coronation Street, ITV. I am also the co-artistic director of JunkBox Theatre Company. The most exciting thing for me in my job is meeting and working with other actors/directors/writers etc.

I always attended dance and drama classes as a child, mainly focused on musical theatre. But as I got older I wanted to focus on acting for television. For me, the only option was drama school.

When I first visited GSA it felt homely. The other students were so friendly and supportive, rather than competitive. My happiest memories at GSA are all with my class mates - back stage stories, tech day, watching the other class in their showcase. 3 years of working so intensely together, they know you better than anyone! Throughout my time at GSA I would often feel as though I couldn’t do it but class mates would always tell me off when I always seemed to manage it in the end. We had such a supportive year group, and over the three years, they helped me to overcome my self-doubt. At GSA many of the tutors have taught for years, worked as performers themselves and really care about sharing their knowledge and experience with the students. Although they can seem intimidating in your first year, by the time you graduate, they’re your friends! GSA was the drama school for me! The perfect balance of feeling settled and under pressure!

Tyler Dobbs, BA Acting, 2018, Arts Ed

The key thing about the ArtsEd BA Acting course is variety. The stage and screen split means that we get to experience what it’s like on and off set. From day one, we learned how to use all the equipment such as cameras and clapperboards and learned best practices. This really harnessed our appreciation for what happens on set. Thanks to my training, I did an Assistant Director job on a short film when I left!

The stage training at ArtsEd is second to none. We cover everything; Contemporary, American, Shakespeare… I was particularly daunted by Shakespeare, because before I arrived at ArtsEd, my knowledge on classic texts really wasn’t up to scratch. But since I left, I’m really excited about Shakespeare – I’d love to perform with the RSC or The Globe.

The proof in how well the stage and screen split works can be seen from looking at our alumni. Some are doing seasons with the RSC, or Oxford Shakespeare Company, others are involved in exciting new Netflix series, and I’m on tour now with Calendar Girls The Musical – the proof is in the pudding really. We go off to do such varied work thanks to the style of training we receive.

Jessica Brindle, BA Acting, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Jessica Brindle is playing Shona in Top Girls at the National Theatre, a play written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Lyndsey Turner. It’s an all-female play with an 18-strong cast and she says it’s her dream job.

I look back very fondly on my time at RCS. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the intense and informative three years of training I received. The BA Acting degree equipped me with knowledge and skills that I will use and put into practice for the rest of my acting life.

A personal highlight is from my second year, when eight of us were asked to take The Tempest to a festival in Beijing. I played Stephano and Sebastian. Doing Shakespeare on the other side of the world was a very different and thrilling experience.

My training taught me to be independent, a self-starter. It taught me how to be a good actor and to be open-minded.

During the three years on the course we met with and auditioned for some very important industry members. Those relationships have been crucial since heading out into the industry. Now I’m out working, I feel equipped because I know what I’m getting myself in for.

Glasgow is a great place to study. The theatre scene is incredibly supportive and friendly. There’s a lot going on in the city; it’s a really vibrant place to be.

Jordan Bamford, Three Year Acting Course (Level 6 Diploma in Professional Acting), The Oxford School of Drama

I have had two jobs in quick succession after I left The Oxford School of Drama – with Theatre Centre in a national tour of an adaptation of Oliver Twist and I’m currently in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

The course has given me all the skills and knowledge I need to be an actor and also a real understanding of what my part in the industry is, how to be professional and the importance of teamwork.I found the teachers inspiring.I truly felt that every single tutor at the school genuinely adored what they did as a profession and this made us all want to work as hard as we possibly could, day in and day out.

It was challenging and you need to be realistic in the demands you place on yourself.It was important to build up a resilience whilst you are in the supportive structure of the training that you can then take out with you into the profession. But it also shaped me and helped me in ways that I never thought would be possible.

Training as an actor can be really tough and I think a lot of students go through moments when they question whether it is what they really want to do.Did I know when I pulled into the car park of that magnificent school for my first audition that this was going to be, at least for me, a little crazy?Yes!But what I didn’t realise was that it was going to be something that I hadn’t really had in my life up to that point – it was going to be a home.And I will never forget on my last day at The Oxford School of Drama, my Principal, George Peck, taking me aside and saying “I think I know this has been a home for you, and I just wanted to tell you it still will be, even when you have left.”

Daniel Adeosun, BA Acting, Guildhall

I fell into acting. When I was younger, I saw my cousin perform and thought ‘I want to do this.’ When I was nine, I signed up to Saturday drama school classes, then did Drama for GCSE.

I enjoy acting because there’s no right way to do it. With most hobbies there’s always a right technique, but with acting, there’s always growth, and no end product. The Guildhall audition process didn’t feel like an audition – I felt like I was learning. I forgot the pressure of ‘I need to be good, I need to do this.’

We’re taught that acting isn’t a one-person game. You depend on the other person. It’s an environment where we all have respect for each other – a safe space to take risks, try different things. If you fail, you learn from the failure and get back up and try again. You learn by watching others. It’s very supportive.

The training at Guildhall gives you a chance to try different things before you are out in the out in the industry. You can take risks and work on them, so that when you take that risk in the industry, it won’t be a failure. It’ll be worth taking because it’ll make you stand out as an actor that people want to work with.

When I leave Guildhall, I want to do everything. I know that the training we get here means I will be prepared for anything that’s thrown my way in the industry, whether it’s radio, film, theatre or TV.

Daniel Ezra, BA Acting, East 15

Before graduating, I had already been cast in two BBC TV productions. My agent at Curtis Brown reported; “His tapes are some of the best I have ever seen and he’s already making a buzz in America! He is one of the most committed and professional drama graduates I’ve ever worked with and I really think he’s going to have a mighty career.” Coming to East 15 was one of the best decisions I ever made. Growing up, I could never keep still, was always full of energy and excitement and East 15 provided the perfect outlet. It is a thriving institute, everyone here has something positive to offer and East 15 allows everyone, no matter who they are, to express themselves and contribute to their art.

Throughout my time on the BA Acting course, I was pushed far beyond my comfort zones and asked to explore areas of myself I hadn’t been conscious of. I fell in love with Shakespeare, tested myself in a variety of forms from Commedia Dell Arte to stage combat and historical dance and upon leaving, I felt confident that I had an immense amount of experience to draw upon to help me navigate this daunting industry.

I am incredibly proud to be an East 15 graduate. We are known for our boldness, our fierce determination and commitment to our work, anybody entering East 15 should expect to have that commitment tested on a constant basis. It is not easy, but should you prevail the rewards are incredible. My career has begun like a dream since leaving East 15 and I will be forever grateful to every student and staff member for aiding me on my journey.

Reece Pantry, 2 Year course, Drama Studio London

At 15 I had the privilege of being a lead character on a CBBC show and by 18 I had appeared in adverts and music videos. But was acting a path I actually wanted to pursue as a career?

A few years later I realised that this is the path I wanted to go down. I was also aware that there wasn’t much armoury in my toolkit as an actor and training would be beneficial. I went to the open day at Drama Studio London and instantly fell in love. The vibrancy, the friendliness of staff and students along with its rooted training meant that this drama school was where I needed to be.

Getting in and completing the two-year course was one of the best life decisions I’ve made. I was in a talented multicultural year group and the space was always made safe to try different ways of working, that improves you as an actor. Especially as an individual who has a disability (muscular dystrophy), the inclusiveness and understanding of students allowed me to be the best version of myself. A highlight from my training for me was the Shakespeare workshop, which conquered my fears on classical texts.

I’ve left Drama Studio as a better, more open individual that aids my acting. Since graduating from the school, I’ve worked with The Globe Players, done voice overs for The Royal Ballet School and Sunrise Radio and an advert for HMRC. It was a pleasure to receive top training and the experience alone really opens you up as a human being.

Beatrice Grannò, BA Acting & Contemporary Theatre, East 15

You will develop individuality as a performer and as an independent artist while making artistic partnerships for life.This course’ unique work method will provide a clear map of your artistic identity. After graduation I was invited to Italy to play the lead role “Luce”in the TV series “Il Capitano Maria” and then in the Disney Channel sit-com “School Hacks”. I am currently working on the set of my first Italian Feature Film where I’m playing the lead.

As a pianist, this course gave me the opportunity to expand my musical skills and encouraged me to develop my own original sound which led to signing up with a music label.Throughout my training I had the opportunity to meet and work with fellow students who shared my artistic ambitions.We constructed the “Superglue Assembly Line Theatre Company” and after graduation took our Debut production “Juice Straws Are Bleak” to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It followed with numerous invitations and commissions to perform in venues in London and elsewhere. While my filming career is flourishing I always maintaining strong connection with my “Superglue Assembly” roots, soon embarking on a new show.

This course taught me that being an actor doesn’t always mean working for immediate gain and instant recognition, but mainly constructing a unique path that will become consistent over time. The course is now imitated by many but no other course can offer the level of experience, enthusiasm and tenacity this team will put in to the development of your original work.Most importantly, no other place can offer you the meeting with such a collection of multi-talented fellow students.

Jed Berry, BA (Hons) Musical Theatre, 2017, GSA

I’m currently appearing as Angel in the West End musical, Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre

Performing in a show like Kinky Boots, that promotes a certain participation from the audience, it is the most amazing feeling to be stood on a stage with thousands of people out of their seats, dancing and cheering along. To know you’ve had an effect on an audience is a wonderful feeling.

GSA has a family feel like no other. From the moment I walked in to audition to the moment I left at the end of my training, I felt truly supported by both my peers and the staff. At GSA, I was never told to be anyone different than who I am. The students are there because they are talented and because they are individuals. Every staff member worked with me to develop the best version of me possible. I left GSA feeling proudly individual.

It’s an incredible but also very tough three years. Your body and mind are pushed to the limit and insecurities or weaknesses can start to take over. Seeing everyone collectively performing and supporting one another, and witnessing the progress and success of your peers is a joy. I left GSA a stronger person emotionally and mentally.

My main advice is; sometimes you just have to bring ‘the thing’. That edge, that fire in your belly or the glint in your eye… that one more level of detail, or passion, or research. When it’s game time, always unapologetically bring ‘the thing’. Be ready to work hard. This ain’t for no wallflowers!

Alex Cardall, BA Musical Theatre, 2018, Mountview

ArtsEd is like my second home. Of course, first and foremost it prepared me for the industry and has provided me with the techniques and skills I need, but most importantly its pastoral care is second to none. During my time there, I felt so well supported by both staff and peers. The musical theatre industry is a competitive one, that can’t be denied – but there is no animosity at ArtsEd – it nurtures your individual talent and teaches you to put all your energy into that – cattiness and bullying is not acceptable there.

Having industry professionals come into our classes, teaching us new techniques and discussing the industry as it is now, was such a highlight of the course. It enabled me to make the right connections and develop professional relationships, which eventually led me to my first job after I graduated: Sweet Charity at the Hopemill Theatre. The stamina required for that show was insane – but my training at ArtsEd meant that I knew the steps I had to go through to keep my energy up!

Cletus Chan MA Musical Theatre, 2016, GSA

I am currently a musical theatre actor playing Simon of Legree in The King and I at the London Palladium

I chose GSA for its outstanding reputation and its incredible employment rate. It is almost impossible to open any programme without seeing a handful of GSA graduates. I also chose GSA because of its equal emphasis on all three disciplines. I felt that GSA has the most well rounded MA course and does not try to pigeon hole you into a particular discipline. Many schools are known to excel in one or two disciplines, I believe that GSA excels in all three. The sheer intensity of the MA programme at GSA really pushed me to become a better performer. GSA understands that we only have one year and they pack it with as much training as possible. After a year, it really feels like I’ve received 3 years’ worth of training!

GSA has instilled a high level of professionalism and tenacity in me. The industry is so competitive, you have to be a professional and constantly work on honing your craft. The weekly professional development classes really prepared me to enter this competitive industry, giving me the skills and drive to continue despite constant rejection.

Rory Boyd, BA Production Technology and Management, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Rory works in the Touring Show Division for Cirque Du Soleil as an automation technician.

RCS was an incredible experience. It’s a place where you can try new things and meet like-minded people across lots of different disciplines. The opportunity to get three years of hands-on experience in the industry before graduating is invaluable and crucially, without worrying about the repercussions of making mistakes. The more you put in, the more you get out and I had a great time.

RCS was the first and one of the only universities with an automation system. Getting hands-on training during studies then using those skills during productions is something you won’t get elsewhere. You also get the ability to learn the whole production process, working with Production Managers and Directors. Teamwork was one of the main things – I will always value the approach I learned during my studies at RCS.

Duncan, MA Acting, 2016, ALRA

I spent thirty years in a family business providing for myself and my family but had always harboured dreams of being an actor. In 2015 I had a ‘what the heck’ moment, closed the family business, applied and got into ALRA North, and began a 15-month MA in Acting.

The drama school experience exposed me to a wide variety of tools for the actor’s toolkit with an emphasis on movement and Laban training – this, I found invaluable. Discovering a language based on movement is an incredible experience and so helpful in professional life. Another plus, as part of the course, was being involved in David Thacker’s production of Arthur Miller’s An Enemy of the People at the Bolton Octagon.

After graduating in December 2016, I found myself with an agent going from audition to audition mainly, and unsatisfyingly, for commercial roles. My breakthrough came last year when I was asked to audition for the National Theatre’s national touring production of Macbeth and got the role of Earl Siward. My Laban training really came into its own whilst playing this character. In some of these theatres the audience are so far away that it’s impossible to see who is talking, so body language and movement are very important tools for communicating who is actually speaking.

I’m 53, have played at every major venue in the UK and Ireland, been directed by Rufus Norris and worked with some incredibly talented and supportive people, and my acting journey only started four years ago… You can do anything you put your mind to!

Ncuti Gatwa, BA Acting, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Ncuti is playing Eric in Netflix original series, Sex Education.

RCS’ approach, in terms of training, was very personal. The teachers and the staff really got to know us quite well. I just felt very cared for – I felt like it was a very safe space.

Before Sex Education, much of the work I did was in theatre, which is my first love. RCS nurtured my love of theatre and gave me all the tools to succeed in the industry. Every time I’d start a new show, I’d think back to the work I had done. You never really forget your training.

I have so many highlights from my time at RCS. There was On the Verge, where you could collaborate with people across different specialisms. RCS allowed us to take our creativity into our own hands, which was very special. Another highlight was Victory by Harold Barker, where I played King Charles II. That’s a character I’ll probably never get to play again. That was an invaluable experience, a great example of RCS giving students opportunities to hone their craft.

Glasgow is the best place to study. The night life is wicked, the people are wicked, the vibrancy of the city is infectious and you have a good time. People are very grounded, down-to-earth and fun. There’s so much going on and so much to get involved in. It’s a beautiful city and there’s real character there. I would not have picked anywhere else to study.

Daniel Lynch, Drama, BA Applied Theatre and Education, 2017, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

My placement in the creative engagement team at The Arcola Theatre played a huge part in my development as a practitioner and a significant role In confirming what I want to do in the future and what kind of work I would like to create. It was wonderful working as a staff member alongside people who loved what they do; seeing the whole process from auditions and initial meetings with the cast to then being half way through rehearsals is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time; The Arcola Theatre has given me insight in to how everything works in all parts of a theatre from staff meetings talking about targets and the promotion of a show, all the way through to being an assistant director on a show.

Kate Scarlett Duffy, BA (Hons) Drama, Applied Theatre and Education, 2013, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

I am currently a refugee youth practitioner and co-Artistic Director of Applied Theatre company Phosphorus Theatre.

Central’s focus on practice as research meant I could take ideas out of the library and into communities, making mistakes along the way and learning from professionals. The course gave me a passion and flexibility for drama in unusual spaces with people with limited access to self-representation. I’ve developed a show with Phosphoros Theatre, ‘Dear Home Office’, which shares the untold stories of refugee young men who came to the UK on their own. My grounding in Applied Theatre gave me the confidence to believe that it would be possible to empower non-actors from an incredibly hard to reach community to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe and in London theatres. Thinking critically about Applied Theatre has also led me to undertake interdisciplinary research through an MA in Migration & Diaspora Studies at SOAS.

Natasha Mbwana, BA Performance and Creative Enterprise (PACE), Guildhall

Many programmes were asking me to specialise in one specific thing – as either a director, producer or an actor – and I felt that wasn’t true to who I was, so I was looking for places where I could do everything else I wanted to do. One morning I typed in ‘cross-arts undergrad degrees’. Guildhall kept coming up and I found PACE, which resonated with me.

Being part of taking something from paper to reality is really exciting. The Guildhall PACE course is very experiential, so you are not just thinking about theory but also putting in the work, and experiencing both sides.

Everybody in the community understands the importance and value of the arts. Having that support system is great. The chance to learn from people from different backgrounds and experiences is so useful. Our tutors bring people from outside Guildhall to teach us, so we get perspectives from directors, theatre companies, from dance companies, curators at the Tate and others. There’s a balance between craft and theory, as well as ‘go try that and see what works’. It’s very much about self-development and learning how to be a freelance artist within the safety net of the School. Everyone is different so there isn’t a benchmark: we set one for ourselves early on and are accountable to ourselves. Everyone else is just there to support us and challenge us.

At some point of my life I want to create an arts district and arts school on the African continent, but also to create a stationery empire. PACE is structured with collaborative core classes but you also have one-to-ones, tailored specifically to what you need, and that combination and flexibility, as well as the fact that the course is experiential, has prepared me for all those different things.

George Baker, BA (Hons) Theatre Production, 2017, GSA

I am currently Assistant Stage Manager on Motown UK and Ireland Tour

The job satisfaction from working in this industry is incredible and provides endless motivation.The knowledge that a production won’t develop from rehearsals through to its first performance without our team is extremely satisfying.

I chose GSA because it radiated a family atmosphere. Support from peers, staff and visitors began on our first day and continues even now we’ve graduated. I loved working on GSA’s productions - the advantage of having a technical theatre course that is supported by external professionals is that the production values are so high. I still look back at production photos now and I’m reminded how lucky I was to work on drama school shows of such a scale. My confidence grew at GSA in ways that I didn’t expect. I find it hilarious now that I was so scared to walk into a room full of people I had never met before and assume a role of leadership because now I don’t give it a second thought. I think that is because I’ve settled into who I am and I have confidence in my ability not only to work professionally but also to be a genuine and friendly person.

It’s important to carefully consider what you want from your training. I wanted to graduate into a musical theatre stage management career with a focus on show calling and I strongly believe that GSA gave me the best possible training and industry exposure for this

Ben Smith, BA Theatre Sound 2018, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

I recently worked in the Sound Department for Heathers the Musical.

I was lucky enough to go on placement with award-winning sound designer Pete Malkin (Associate Sound Design for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and we did a couple of shows together. I assisted him on The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith which was a very different show from what I had done previously. You’re not going to go to university and find anything else like it; it is such a diverse course, with people from all different backgrounds and levels of experience which makes it a rich atmosphere in which to learn your craft.

Lucia Sánchez Roldán, BA (Hons) in Technical Theatre and Stage Management, RADA

Growing up, I always thought I was going to become a scientist. The idea of working in technical theatre wasn’t even a possibility, or something I knew existed. When I was 18, I moved to London to study Natural Sciences at UCL. There I became involved in technical theatre purely by accident. From then on, if I wasn’t in lectures, I was backstage helping.

In my final year, I realised I didn’t want to pursue science; I wanted to dedicate my professional life to something I genuinely enjoyed. So I decided to apply to RADA.

The moment I stepped in for the interview, it felt like the right place for me. Now I am in my final year at RADA on the BA (Hons) TTSM course, specialising in lighting design, and these past years have proven invaluable for my knowledge and learning. Having spent all my life in exam-based education, it was refreshing to find that everything taught is practical, while staff put trust in the individual student and push them to produce the best work they can.

This course has given me the opportunity to explore all areas of technical theatre and provided a broad understanding of the industry and backstage work.

The best thing about RADA is the support you get from tutors, which are always there when you need advice. I am graduating at the end of this year and I feel like RADA has prepared me for what’s to come next in my career.

Sian Clare, BA Technical Theatre Arts [programme name changing to Production Arts from 2019] Guildhall

I completed a foundation degree in design before I came to Guildhall. This was the only course that offered Costume Supervision and I always wanted to come up and study in London.

There’s an atmosphere at Guildhall to produce exceptional work, so we all work hard to produce something that is beyond ‘student production’ level. We all understand the expectations and work together to try and create something amazing. We’ve got incredible budgets and spaces so we put our all into it otherwise it’s not worth it.

Working with professional designers on productions is a massive strength of the programme. It’s so important to work with industry professionals who have already been there and done it. We train in the context in which we’ll be working. You’re thrown in at the deep end, so it’s not for the light-hearted, but it really sets you up for what’s actually out there.

The musical is always a highlight – it’s always busy, with so many costume changes. I worked on last year’s musical and we had at least three pairs of shoes for fifteen girls.

You’re always encouraged to find work placements in holidays and on weekends. In your third year you do a six-week placement, and it can be in any discipline you want to help you to develop understanding of the industry, and to build plans and contacts for your future career.

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