How did you start in theatre?
I first studied acting at Chichester under a very inspiring teacher, Loraine Edwards. On the BA course at East 15 I worked with teachers, who not only inspired me to make acting a career, but also to teach. I studied my Master’s in Actor Training and Coaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
Training doesn’t finish after drama school. Be dedicated, a student of humanity and always working on your craft.
What would you change about training in the UK?
Training in the UK is some of the best in the world, but as an actor of colour I wish the texts we studied were more diverse. I would still look at Shakespeare, Chekhov, Rattigan, Miller et al, but modern texts, especially written by people of colour, are equally important. Che Walker and Bola Agbaje are a good start.
What is the best part of your job?
Coaching actors is so rewarding, I am inspired, surprised and learn so much from my students.
And your least favourite?
I can’t abide a lazy actor.
Who are the practitioners you admire the most/who should students look up to?
Good actors don’t rely on one ‘method’. I take great inspiration from Uta Hagen, Stella Adler and Michael Chekhov in my work but you’ve got to find who and what works for you.
What skill should every successful actor have?
Communication skills are largely overlooked, but they’re important to actors. Empathy is a great place to start when approaching a character. I tell my students: “It’s not your job to judge the character but to defend them.”
What are the similarities between actor coaching and teaching?
Teaching a classroom of actors is a different beast from private coaching but both have the same goal. Every actor is an individual and training should be tailored. I try to create a holistic and personal practice to give each student an opportunity to do their best work.
Sophie Mensah was talking to John Byrne