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LAMDA’s head of voice Judith Phillips: ‘All actors should be willing to transform’

Judith Phillips. Photo: Terry Smith Judith Phillips. Photo: Terry Smith
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How did you start off in theatre?

As an actor.

What’s your best advice for acting students?

Keep going, have faith, keep learning and make your own work.

What would you change about drama training in the UK?

I think we’re doing well – but I wouldn’t mind a four-year training. I would also like to be able to clear up misconceptions about it. Our outreach work is good, but it’s not helped by people, some very famous, saying drama training is expensive when it’s the same as university. A total of 42% of our students are from low-income backgrounds, and we’re able to scholar people to help them. I would like people to know that. I think the difficulty is reduction of drama training in schools, and how hard it is to find work afterwards. I would also like us to build on our support of dyslexic students. I’m doing some research into this at the moment.

What is the best part of your job?

Working with some cracking students and hopefully inspiring them to love language.

And your least favourite?

Higher education speak – trying to come to grips with another language that describes what I do: HEFCE, HESA, OIA – many acronyms, but also Byzantine (to me) vocabulary.

Which practitioners do you most admire/ who should students be looking up to?

Simplicity and humility of telling the story: Maxine Peake, Cate Blanchett, Rebecca Frecknall. Young people creating their own work: Mischief Theatre, Adam Scott-Rowley, Naomi Sheldon. Creative theatre companies: Hydrocracker. People working for change with generosity and not rage: Danny Lee Wynter.

What is the one skill that every successful actor should have?

The willingness to transform.

In an increasingly screen-based world, how can actors broaden their imagination?

Sensory work – waking up the senses; exploration of the written and spoken word in detail; listening, listening, listening – in every way.

Judith Phillips was talking to John Byrne

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