What made you decide to train at RWCMD?
It was the atmosphere and the people. I hadn't a clue when I was applying. I picked two in London, because LAMDA came to Ireland to hold auditions. I picked one in Wales, one in Scotland and Trinity in Ireland. Eeeny, Meeny, Miny Mo.
What was the audition like?
There was something about Royal Welsh, I immediately felt at home there. It's a feeling when you go into drama school. They seemed genuinely interested without being too snobby. They talked to me before my monologues, after my monologues, it was lovely and informal. You do your monologues in front of about nine people which could be intimidating but I think it makes you perform better. It was just the vibe there. They encourage you to have your own personality, your own individuality.
What did the training involve?
It was fantastic from day one. I think one of my first classes was about researching on the internet, looking up people in the business. That was ‘Wow!' – no-one had ever taught me to do that. The first six weeks were about improvisation, but also about asking what acting is. It made you examine what you were in it for, why you like it, what you can bring to it. In general, the whole course taught me so much, I can't praise it enough. It gave me everything, Shakespeare, Musical Theatre, Voice, Movement, Singing lessons – not just repertoire, but proper one-on-one lessons. There were also plenty of professional directors working with you, people who work in the industry, and who remember you.
The RWCMD course is very ambitious, you get through a lot.
And what's great is they incorporate the whole college into every production, so you work with singers from the opera course, musicians from the music side, designers. So there's this great mix going on, and you have several teachers working on projects. It's enormous, but such a great experience.
The whole attitude of the showcase is to show you off, to give a taste of your personality, of who you are. RWCMD are so clever at that.
What was RWCMD like for final year students?
We do what most drama schools do which is two shows a term. We kick off the year with two shows before Christmas and a mock showcase. The real showcase is actually quite early, in the spring. That's because we're based in Cardiff and for a lot of people that's a bit of a trek. The showcase gives a little taste of people which entices agents and casting directors to travel to see the shows. I think it's a great idea to do the showcase so early. The great thing about the post graduate course at RWCMD is they joined us, the 3rd years, for showcase and then for the last two shows.
What was your showcase like?
I think RWCMD must work so hard for their students because the showcase is just amazing. I've seen showcases from other colleges and I can honestly say RWCMD is the best. They put so much into it. Dave Bond, the Head of Acting is pretty much a legend, and he supports us so much. He's the reason I am where I am, he really looks out for students. I think one of the best things about preparing for showcase is we watch everybody and we inform each other, as friends, and as performers. Because we know each other, and have seen each other, we can say “I don't think that piece shows enough of you as a performer”. The whole attitude of the showcase is to show you off, to give a taste of your personality, of who you are. RWCMD are so clever at that – I was so nervous about showcase, I didn't think I'd find anything, and then they said “Why don't you put something together yourself?”
Yes, I noticed at RWCMD showcase that there is a lot of original writing, pieces written by other students or by the performer themselves.
It's because you tailor make something for yourself. They don't let you get away with bad writing, but they definitely encourage you to create something. I put a piece together from My Brilliant Divorce, some lines from Tommy Tiernan's stand up comedy and some pieces I put in myself to join the dots. My agent thought it was a fantastic idea and showed me off better than anything I could have found.
Does that encouragement give you a confidence in your own abilities in the industry? The idea that you can write, direct, produce, your own work too?
Absolutely – and it's all down to the magic of the EYA.
The End of Year Assessment. In first and second year you have to write your own stuff, and whether you do it badly or well, it's the best experience you will ever have as a performer. Basically they give you a theatre, equipment, lights, staff everything. Make a piece of theatre. That's what they tell you, and you don't have to worry about production costs, anything like that. And it's the scariest thing I've ever done, and the best thing I've ever done. If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have written, directed and produced my own show in Dublin. That show was a development of my 2nd year EYA. I wouldn't say I'm a great writer, but thanks to the EYA I feel confident about creating a piece of theatre.
So, Royal Welsh was incredibly important to you while you were there, as it should be. A year down the line, how important is it to you still?
I definitely still visit, I hung out with the 2nd years when I was a 3rd year, so I went to see their mock showcase. Loads of them are planning to come see me in Three Sisters. So they all support me too, students who were ahead of me have been to see this and support me. When I first moved to London there was a big get together on a Saturday night in Brick Lane so I felt like I was part of a posse, and I always had somebody to ring. I still email some of the teachers, just to see how they're doing. And anytime I'm in Cardiff I drop in to see them. I'd love to see myself going back, years down the line to talk to students. It's a lovely, lovely, lovely college. Even people who are out there a long time go back, people like Ruth Jones. I have a real connection to it, and I hope I always will do.