Acting student Matthew Underhill stood in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire atrium.

Matthew Underhill

BA (Hons) Acting

Despite an ongoing battle with Crohn’s disease, Matthew secured his spot at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire after just two auditions. He now feels ready to face the future as a trained actor.

“I always knew I wanted to be an actor, but growing up I didn't know how to realistically make it happen. It wasn't until sixth form that I learnt about drama school. When auditioning for drama school, there is no way of predicting where you will end up. You audition for the schools that stand out to you and hope that the panel see your potential. I believe that you end up where you're meant to be and for me Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has been the perfect fit.

In 2020 I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a chronic illness that effects the digestive system. It can lead to symptoms such abdominal pain, weight loss and fatigue, which can severely hinder daily life. I was particularly ill for about a year until I was put on repeat medication. Luckily, this fell during my gap year so I had time to recover and I could audition online, otherwise I might not have ended up in Birmingham.

The training that RBC provides is world class; what makes it stand out is the quality of teaching. The tutors have huge amounts of experience in the industry, and as well as the in-house teachers, RBC hosts leading practitioners from around the world. There is such a variety of skills classes, from singing, dance, stage combat, animals studies, Chekhov, Laban and transformation.

Something that RBC has that makes it stand out is the focus on the individual actor; the course is not designed to churn out the same type of actor, but tailored to meet your specific needs and find what works for you so you can become the best version of yourself.

There is a strong sense of community at RBC. The nature of drama school means you get to know everyone on your course on a very personal level and this reaches out to the other years too. We often socialise together and support the other years and acting courses when they go into productions. It might seem like a big industry, but it’s a small world, and contacts in this business mean everything. 

Being part of BCU has big advantages. We have access to state-of-the-art camera and recording studios with film and media courses at our disposal that are always in need of actors. In terms of support, it’s a massive relief to have student accommodation for your first year of training and they helpfully make sure you live with actors who don't mind if you’re belting at the top of your lungs in your room!

Each year becomes more centred around performance. In the first year, the course is tailored to filling up a ‘toolbox’ of acting techniques that you can take into the industry. You find what works for you and there is no correct way to do something. Some things you will really connect with, and some will make you question everything; everyone is different.

A real bonus to training at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is that the acting building is located in the beautiful Bournville. We have our own building, Ruskin Hall, with lots of studio space which gives us a real sense of identity and individuality. With easy transport into the city centre, various food and coffee shops and lots of greenery, it’s the ideal place to train.

One thing you learn early on in training that can be seen as a challenge is the fact that all acting is subjective. If you did the same thing for all your teachers and peers they would all have differing opinions. Don’t overthink it, otherwise it can quickly become overwhelming. That's something I personally continue to work on, but everyone has their own personal struggles. It’s all part of the journey of becoming an actor. 

I’m extremely lucky to have made it through my auditions at RBC and feel grateful to have had the chance to flourish as an actor whilst studying here. I’m positive about what the future holds.”