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Snacks, spanners and self-belief: what you really need to take with you to drama school

RADA students. Photo: RADA RADA students. Photo: RADA
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If you’re starting drama school this autumn, or returning, you’ve probably been told what to bring. Samantha Marsden talks to current students, graduates and teachers to find out some of the things that might have been missed off the official list…

A willingness to fail

If you want to get the most out of your training, put yourself out of your comfort zone. Try things that you may not have the confidence to try in the professional world. Drama school is a safe space where you can get to know what you are capable of. Jake Hagan, recent graduate of the BA in Acting course at the London College of Music, says: “It’s the only way you’ll learn and grow as an actor.”


Compassion is one of the most important things you can take to drama school. Compassion for the characters you will play, compassion for your training buddies, teachers, technical artists, directors and, most importantly, you’ll need compassion for yourself. Compassion will make you a better person to work with, a better performer as well as mentally supporting you when the going gets tough.


Julie Crofts, director of student and academic services at RADA, says: “All new students should bring curiosity, openness, empathy and a willingness to be the person who asks the question everyone wants to ask and no one feels brave enough to ask. And always carry a pen and notebook.”


No one wants to see you ‘hangry’. Coral Sinclair, graduate of the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, says “bring three times as many snacks as you think you will need”.

Photo: Shutterstock

Appropriate Tupperware for these snacks, lunches, and sometimes dinners too

Drama school hours are long so you’ll need to plan, prepare and transport food if you want an affordable and healthy diet. Invest in some good Tupperware and don’t get caught out like Guildford School of Acting graduate Harry Boyd did. He recommends “putting cling film over your lunch box. It sounds silly but balsamic vinegar ruins scripts like you would not believe”. Boyd is now performing in the national tour of Buddy Holly the Musical.


Natalie Rowe, who is going into the third year of her BA in Musical Theatre Performance at the Hammond School in Chester, says: “Guard Sellotape with your life. I’ve bought about four rolls the past two years, because they keep getting nicked.”

Don’t be a stationery thief. You’ll need pens, highlighters, ring binders, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and notebooks. Stephen Griffin, recent graduate from the MA in Acting at Mountview in London advises that you bring “many, many notebooks. I got through four in a year.”

A towel and water, water and more water

Paige Thomas, who is in her third year of the BA in Acting course at London College of Music recommends a towel: “You’ll sweat more than you’ve ever sweated in your life.” Which leads on to water. Drink lots and lots of it. Don’t let dehydration hack your training.

An open mind

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate Ben Wesley advises bringing “an open and sponge-like mind in order to put into practice all that’s thrown at you”. He adds: “Then, at the end of training, work out what techniques and skills work best for you.”

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

A quad spanner… if you’re a technical theatre student

Jack Hennighan, who is about to start his third year at RADA on the BA (hons) in Technical Theatre and Stage Management, says: “A quad spanner is perhaps one of the most commonly used and versatile tools. Bring something to store your kit in – a tool bag or Peli case, for example.

“Take every opportunity to take on information, new or old and, to a degree, leave what you know at the door. You can listen and learn in your training and always pick up your own knowledge again afterwards. I believe the best practitioners in this field are the ones that combine both.”

The original version of yourself

Don’t be a clone. Miles Griffin, who is beginning his third year of BA in Acting at London College of Music, says: “Take the original version of yourself with you. Keep it and never change it.”

Elizabeth Cristo, a recent graduate from Fourth Monkey’s two-year acting course, agrees: “Don’t compare yourself to other people you admire in your class. You’re never going to be them.”

An escape

Although being at drama school can feel all- consuming, don’t let it become so. Emma Tracey, who is starting her third year on the BA in Acting (Collaborative and Devised Theatre) at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, recommends that you bring “the knowledge that you are someone else outside of drama school, as well as anything you have that brings you an escape – for even an hour. Be that all your books or a guitar, or your crochet work. Anything.”


Professor Hugh Hodgart, director of drama, dance, production and film at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, says to bring self-belief. He adds: “Believe in yourself and all that you can achieve. You have made it this far and you should be proud of yourself and your abilities. Don’t underestimate yourself either. You are stronger and more resourceful than you may sometimes think.”

So, don’t let rigid thinking, fear, or self-doubt hold you back. Embrace your training whole-heartedly with compassion, an open mind, snacks and plenty of stationery, then you’ll be on your way to succeeding at drama school.

Samantha Marsden writes drama teaching resources and fiction for young adults. Her latest book is 100 Acting Exercises for 8 – 18 Year Olds, published by Bloomsbury 

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