Many actors hone their craft while working professionally. But for those who want to train before taking the plunge, Samantha Marsden presents a selection of the options available
Actors who want to work on the stage tend either to take a general course in acting, which covers screen and stage acting, or they join a theatre company and gain experience on the stage this way.
Actor David Garlick, who has performed on the stage in the West End and on Broadway, says: “My training came from working professionally – observing and absorbing and then using those skills.”
But, for those who want to train before taking the plunge, here are some of the training options available.
Joining a repertory theatre company is a path many notable actors attribute to their journey of becoming a better actor, although they are not as prevalent as they once were.
Fourth Monkey Actor Training Company’s repertory company, the Year of the Monkey, offers training with an emphasis on repertory performance. Graduates have gone on to secure work at the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe, the BBC and Netflix. Alongside comprehensive tuition, Fourth Monkey actors in training benefit from travelling, studying and performing overseas and throughout the UK, learning via the power of doing.
Actor Sam Adamson, winner of best supporting male at the Off West End Awards 2015, says: “Year of the Monkey is revolutionary and unique. Never before have I had the opportunity to do as many things within the same year to help my journey to become a professional actor.”
Shakespeare’s Globe offers a ‘voice studio’ for actors. The classes are aimed at professional actors and drama school graduates. There are 12 actors per course and four sessions. The topics include: line endings/verse speaking, rhyme, antithesis and rhetorical devices. The cost is £50 per session, or £170 for all four sessions. The Globe also offers the Young Actors’ Summer School and Shakespeare’s Globe Summer School. These one and two-week intensive courses are for 16 to 19-year-olds.
The Actors Centre also provides specialised masterclasses. These include: Tension Levels Through Physical Characterisation Techniques; Acting With Passion; Advanced Solo Theatre Performance; The Process: The Secret of Truthful Acting; Devising Theatre – Finding Points of Departure; and Ibsen’s Women. These masterclasses range from £18 to £90.
Many drama schools across the UK offer world-class training to actors. Notable schools that offer a BA in acting include: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Royal Welsh College of Music and Dance, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, East 15, Drama Studio London, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Drama Centre London, LAMDA, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Guildford School of Acting, Rose Bruford, Manchester School of Theatre and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
LAMDA graduates who are currently on stages in the West End, and beyond, include Rory Kinnear in the National’s Macbeth, Martin Shaw and Maureen Lipman in The Best Man, and Samuel Barnett in Kiss of the Spider Woman at Menier Chocolate Factory.
At LAMDA, throughout students’ training, the core disciplines of acting, voice, movement and music are developed through classes including stage combat, the Alexander Technique, mask work, vocal technique, accents, singing and musicianship, and group improvisation.
Final-year student Jenny Wall says of LAMDA training: “You get opened up to so many things, and so many things open up inside you that you never knew were there. Things come out of you – emotions and feelings and reactions – that you would never have expected. Things you didn’t even know you had the potential for.”
Many actors in training work full-time jobs and take evening courses in acting. And more and more drama schools are catering to this by providing evening training.
City Lit offers a number of specialised evening classes. These include: Actor’s Voice; Movement for Actors; Acting Advanced; Stanislavski: Beginners; Meisner Workshop; Accents for Actors; and the Alexander Technique.
Other notable schools offering evening classes to actors include: Identity School of Acting, the Actors Centre, Drama Studio London and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Many universities offer courses in acting and some have good connections to theatre companies.
The University of Birmingham’s drama and theatre arts department is enjoying a collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Students at Lancaster University are tutored by Tim Etchells, director of Forced Entertainment. And many universities participate in the Edinburgh Fringe.
Alan Mehdizadeh, who studied drama at the University of Wales and is appearing as Don in the West End musical Kinky Boots, says: “What [university] did for me was put me in a rehearsal room for 12 hours a day, six days a week, finding my limits, learning what I was good at and finding just how much I enjoyed the process.”
Universities that offer acting or drama degrees include: Aberystwyth University, University of Birmingham, Lancaster University, Bournemouth University, University of Bristol and the University of Warwick.
There is also the option of taking an unrelated degree at university, but joining the university’s theatre company or amateur dramatics society to gain experience, with the University of Cambridge having the most famous dramatic club – Footlights.