We spoke to Alex Taylor, Head of Postgraduate Studies (Acting) for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Alex, also Course Director for MFA Acting, MA/MFA Professional Voice Practice and Head of Voice for the School of Acting, talked to us about studying a postgraduate degree at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Alex fulfils a number of roles for the school whilst also working freelance as a professional director and voice coach – he directed The Normal Heart for a theatre company in Hong Kong in 2019.
Why study a postgraduate degree at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire ?
The MA Acting course, designed for those with the right to live and work in the UK, is a fast-track to the industry.
The MFA Acting course is unique and focuses on repertoire from within the British and European theatre traditions. It has been designed with international students in mind, and provides opportunities to collaborate with British actors in training. The course provides you with opportunities to create your own work (Major Project) as well as offering all actors on the course roles in two workshops and three full productions, staged in theatre venues within the city.
The MA/MFA Professional Voice Practice course educates suitably qualified applicants to become voice practitioners – principally, voice teachers and coaches. It centres on your own vocal practice and development – 50% of the work of the course is practical – and it provides placement opportunities in professional environments to prepare you for life as a voice coach or teacher. There is also a series of masterclasses with leading practitioners throughout the year. These have included: Kristin Linklater, Barbara Houseman, Alison Bomber, Edda Sharpe and Vivian Ellis. The two-year MFA allows you to specialise in working with the speaking or singing voice and, through opportunities for reflective practice, it allows you to deepen your understanding of voice work as well as providing further placement opportunities.
What have some of your graduates gone on to do?
MFA Acting graduates have gone on to PhD study or are working either as teachers or as actors in the USA. Elizabeth Golden performed her one-woman show on Broadway in the Strawberry Festival. Previous MA Acting graduate, Danielle Pinnock performed in the same festival, winning best actress and is now appearing in (Young Sheldon). Rebecca d’Souza (MA Acting graduate) has played leading roles for The Glasgow Citizens Theatre and Nottingham Playhouse. Nicola Coughlan (MA Acting graduate) has appeared in Derry Girls and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Donmar Warehouse)
What is postgraduate study like at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
Masters courses in the School of Acting are extremely intensive – as an Acting student you will be in classes for around 40 hours per week. If you are a Voice student, classes occupy around 20 hours per week but there is a requirement to audit and observe teaching and rehearsals as well as a considerable amount of private study. It is worth considering whether you are ready to be a Masters student as study at this level requires a level of independence and maturity and you will also be required to work collaboratively with your cohort, as the focus of the work within the School of Acting is the ensemble.
What staff make up the postgraduate team?
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has a highly experienced full-time team who deliver subject areas such as Acting, Voice, Singing and Movement across postgraduate courses. Full-time tutors undertake personal research and professional development within the industry so their practice and expertise is current. There is also a team of visiting tutors who regularly contribute specialist expertise, and productions for MA and MFA actors are directed by visiting directors from the industry.