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Dear West End Producer: ‘Is drama school right for an actor coming into the industry late?’

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Drama school can be ‘right’ for anyone at any age, but it is not the only option. These institutions offer a practical chance to work on all disciplines necessary to work as a professional actor – allowing you to make mistakes, learn how to ball-change confidently, and even become a ‘quadruple threat’.

But you could also get this experience by having one-on-one lessons, evening classes, or attending foundation courses. Some people even skip training altogether, finding themselves lucky enough to get an agent and TV show with little effort at all. This is rare, and only happens if you have famous parents.

However, drama school is always a good thing in my mind. If you’ve been living and working in the real world for many years then you have something that acting training simply can’t give you – life experience. And, as an actor, this is one of the most important things you can possess.

Good actors draw from themselves, allowing their own experiences to make them genuine and natural. And this is why drama schools like older students, because they have qualities like a good wine or cheese (old, smelly, tasty and mature).

Of course, you need to decide what kind of training you will go into. If you still need to work, then an evening or foundation course may be best – this means you’ll be able to earn while training (Arts Educational Schools London, Rose Bruford College, RADA, LAMDA, and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts all offer these). But if finances are not a worry then a postgraduate two or three-year course would serve you. Generally, these courses are considered much better than a part-time course, as students will spend much more practical time on training.

I hate to say it, but training in musical theatre gets a lot more difficult if you are older. You don’t usually see people much above the age of 25 on these courses, mainly because of the physical demands on the body. I’m not saying that being over 25 means you won’t be able to dance, but the ageism in this industry (which really does exist, particularly in new musical theatre graduates) is always apparent. I’ve seen numerous graduation showcases, and many of them were filled with only young talent – most of them looking like they’d just finished potty training.

But don’t let me put you off. Whenever I or a colleague see an older performer on stage, we are immediately drawn to them, because they are different. Everyone else has the same youthful look, but the older performer, who has already finished puberty, instantly stands out. And if your age makes you stand out, use it, dear: you’ve got to use what you’ve got, to get where you want.

So yes: I think drama school is a good thing for older actors. When you leave drama school you will be ‘new blood’ – entering the business at a later stage in your life when most other actors your age are leaving it. Go for it, dear!

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

Read more advice on how to choose your drama school

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