Deciding where to train and which course is best for you can feel like a very daunting task – there are so many institutions offering a wide range of different courses and disciplines and for someone just starting out on their journey towards actor training, it can all be very confusing. That’s how I felt at the age of 17, trying to choose which school and which course would be best for me. Fast forward a few years, and here I am in my final year at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
I knew from the start that drama school was the route I would be going down. For me, university courses just didn’t measure up to the standard of training that accredited drama schools provide, nor would they give me the same kind of opportunities; all of the schools I looked into had a showcase at the end of the course that would be performed in front of agents and a real focus on making sure their students were leaving not only with the skills needed to be an actor, but also with a clear idea of the industry and how to cope while working (or not working, for that matter). The financial aspect was also a big deciding factor for me – at a university I could be paying £9,250 a year to have less than 20 hours contact time in a week. At drama school, you could be expected to be in classes and rehearsals for up to 40 hours a week, and because most of the schools I applied for went through UCAS, the course fees would be covered by my Student Finance.
Auditioning for drama schools is a very challenging experience. Unfortunately, there is a lot of rejection involved, but this is typical of auditioning for professional work, so at the very least it’s good to have those experiences early on as it is a huge eye-opener for how hard it can be as an actor. I also firmly believe that having a couple of years of auditions before gaining a place at drama school really makes you appreciate what a privilege it is to be offered training. I auditioned at lots of different schools (which I would definitely recommend if you’re a little unsure about what kind of training you’d like to do) but it wasn’t until my third year of auditions that I decided to apply for Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. I was lucky enough to receive a recall audition and was subsequently offered a place on the Foundation Course. Foundation courses are really worth looking into – they are a big financial commitment as most of them aren’t covered by Student Finance, but it was honestly one of the best six months of my life. I learnt so much, not just about auditioning for drama school but also about myself as an actor. I very much felt like a part of the family there and even though I was unsuccessful following my six months at the school, I still kept in contact with the tutors and received a lot of support for my auditions the next year. After five years of auditions, I was finally fortunate enough to gain a place on the BA Acting course at RBC.
The past three years of training have been a huge learning experience, both from a personal and a professional point of view. I’ve been equipped with the skills I need to succeed in my career and I’ve been given so many opportunities that I doubt I would have had if I’d decided to study at a university. My first year focused on laying the groundwork in terms of skills; we had extensive lessons on voice, movement, text work and singing. Second year was still about honing those skills, but with the added excitement of our first public performances where we could really learn how to put all that groundwork into practical use. Our third year will be mostly performance-focused, with three rounds of shows and an industry showcase in February, not to mention opportunities to apply for the Sam Wanamaker Festival at the Shakespeare's Globe, the BBC Carlton Hobbs radio award and the Stephen Sondheim Competition, as well as opportunities to work with external directors who are well-established theatre practitioners.
I’ve been supported every step of the way by tutors who have a vast amount of experience. I’ve met a whole host of visiting tutors, industry professionals and, of course, fellow students within the school who have all given me advice and connections that will hopefully further my career. Studying at a Conservatoire has given me both the skills and the confidence to be able to succeed in this industry – I definitely made the right decision!