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Dear West End Producer: ‘Any tips for a student about to start a three-year training course?’

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Yes. Enjoy it, dear. Your training will be hard – you will be required to wear blacks, get sweaty, and speak Shakespeare. You will learn how to pirouette, do the splits and perform a sex scene without getting an erection. And that is just day one, dear.

Many people who go to a normal university imagine acting schools to be easy. There is still the reputation that they are rather silly, with actors constantly pretending to be trees (this of course happens, but only during the ‘woody perennial plant’ term).

Instead, your drama training will usually run from 9am until 6pm Monday to Friday. And when rehearsing it will get even busier. You will be required to work out of class hours – learning lines, practising movement and acquiring solid drinking skills. And, on top of that, you may have to work to aid your finances.

One of the first things you need to ensure is that you have all the right equipment. Usually you need: books on acting, a wardrobe of black clothing, tap shoes, modern shoes, jazz shoes, plain shoes (shoes are vital for acting), a bumper pack of Vocalzones (other throat lozenges are available), an unsoiled jockstrap, and the complete works of William Shatner.

It will be tempting to spend all your time socialising. Of course, going to the pub and finding friends is an important part of surviving, but avoid confusing your local Wetherspoons for your drama school dance studio. In the first few months you will be finding your feet and fitting in – but after that it’s time to pull up your show pants and start working.

Who and what you were in drama school isn’t important

Look after yourself mentally as well as physically. If you find any aspect of the course challenging, or have any problems with your peers, then tell someone. Your training is too precious (and expensive) to have to cope with bullying. Drama schools are an institution, and you may feel you’re not getting all the good roles – but when you leave you’ll craft your own career. Who and what you were in drama school isn’t important, it’s who you are in the professional business that counts, dear.

And finally, here’s a little list of vital tips:

The first two years are about training, and the final year is about getting an agent.

Go wrong, be brave. No one is going to see you fail apart from your peers. Failing is the best way to learn. Go over the top, try an accent, do a silly walk. Many well-known actors have made a career doing this, dear.

Don’t be shy. Don’t worry about what everyone else is thinking. Make your training work for you. Ask questions – the more inquisitive you are the more you will learn.

Concentrate on your voice technique. You will have talent naturally, but the ability to use your voice can only be taught. Mumblers don’t last long in the business, dear.

Eat healthily.

Have a life away from the school.

Watch as much theatre as you can.

And finally – have fun. You’ve done well to even get on the course, so take advantage. Bravo, dear.

Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer

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