Into Training: Starting Out

As I sit down to write this, the New Year is over, Christmas has been and gone and I’m almost sick of leftover turkey. This always ends up being the season when I find myself involuntarily looking back over the past year before I can look forward to the next one.

And my-oh-my, what a year it has been. In all honesty, at this time last year this is definitely not where I thought I’d be. Last Christmas I had just completed the first term of a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies and was doing my best to convince myself it was the right course for me. Within a month – and with the help of a few people who were close to me – I’d sent out some applications to drama school, “just to see”. I figured that if I didn’t give it another try, I’d look back in years to come plagued by “what ifs” and “maybes”. So apply I did, and went through the joys of auditions a second year running, and found myself unexpectedly being offered a place on the Acting Foundation at East 15. And in that moment, my plans for the foreseeable future changed. I transferred from my degree to the Foundation course,spent most of my summer arguing with Student Finance (be persistent!), eventually found a place to live and moved down to have my second Fresher’s Week.

Right, so that takes us up to the last week of September 2012. The next week, term began. Blooming heck! To use a much-maligned X Factor cliché, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. (I think this is one of those rare moments when clichés are permissible.) When I wrote my first blog entry, I was planning on writing another within a month or so, and then another when term finished. I must apologise; that has not happened. I’m not going to pretend otherwise – I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, I don’t think anyone really does before they start! This term has been more testing, more exhausting, more emotionally draining and more thrilling than I could have ever imagined.

Having been on an academic course at a respected university for a year, I was used to spending far more time in the student bars than in lectures. It could not be more different now. While I still find time to get down to the bar, full days of classes are tiring and I often find myself hankering after a day to just sit wrapped in my duvet re-watching Will and Grace. But I can happily say I feel like I’ve learnt more in the past term than I did in a whole year of my previous course – not because that course was bad, just because it wasn’t right for me. And I think that is a really important thing to bear in mind when applying for any kind of training or course; while a course may have a great reputation, great teachers and great facilities, it has to be the right course for you to get something out of it. This Christmas, various family members I’ve not seen for months have asked “Are you happier? Are you settled? Is this what you want to be doing?” I’ve had no hesitation in answering “Absolutely yes.” I have never felt more like I’m doing the right thing.

That is not to suggest this term has been without its less-than-brilliant moments.There have been days when I have been moody as hell, days when I’ve just wanted to sleep, days when I’ve not quite understood or when I’ve taken criticism too personally. There have been times when I’ve definitely felt frustrated or angry or over-emotional. But it is days like that when I’ve often learnt the most, without even realising. We are being encouraged to make mistakes, to put our necks on the line, to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. It is definitely worth it. There is no expectation to know the right answer all of the time; in fact it is often better if you don’t! And to be in an environment where you feel comfortable to make mistakes is something rather special.

Living closer to the West End than I ever have before – though still a good 45 minutes on the tube – I have definitely been making the most of it. I’ve seen so much theatre, most of it wonderful, and I find it invaluable. You can learn so muchfrom watching professionals do what you one day hope to be doing. I’ve spent far more time in Fringe theatres than I have in West End houses, and I find you can get far more sincere productions in the smaller venues than some of the money-making behemoths on the West End. You can also see some brilliant work for a fraction ofthe price!

I’m now in the midst of filling out applications for three year acting courses. Again. It never gets old! I’m learning my pieces, having spent months trying to find some gems that won’t be being used by every other guy at auditions. I am also starting to feel those old nerves come back. Really, though, I actually can’t wait to get back into the audition rooms to really give it a better shot than I’ve ever been able to before.As you may have noticed, there is something in common between this blog and my first. I think it is a sense of possibility.

Okay, so I think I’ve spent plenty of time looking back, now it’s time to start lookingforward. I’m determined to have a great 2013.

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