How did you start off in performance?
I trained at Central School of Speech and Drama as a voice coach.
What is your best advice for students today?
‘Come and audition for us’ would be my first one. But, wherever you do audition, the tips we give our own prospective students are worth remembering. They include: ensure that you are never ‘on time’ but always early, have a short ‘tell me about yourself’ speech ready and, most importantly, believe in yourself – it’s catching.
What would you change about UK training?
I think drama training needs to be affordable. Otherwise, potentially talented young actors can’t afford to train.
What is the best part of your job?
I enjoy directing student productions. We had a memorable rehearsal period on The Laramie Project this year with a great student cast and crew.
And your least favourite?
It is never fun turning people down at auditions for accredited courses, but at least we can also offer them a structured training programme on the weekly courses we run.
Which practitioners do you admire the most and who should students be looking up to?
David Carey was my voice teacher and is the best in the land.
What one skill should every successful theatre professional have?
Innate talent. Drama schools teach technique, not talent.
You are involved in traditional rep theatre. Are there particular skills actors can learn from rep to add to those learnt in training?
I’m part of the London Repertory Players. In the grand tradition of weekly rep, a group of professional actors perform one play at night while rehearsing next week’s play during the day and also learning the lines for the play the week after. Actors learn how to develop memory; they learn range of characterisation and, crucially, to be unflappable on stage. In weekly rep, you have to know how to cope with the unexpected, and that is always a useful skill for actors to have.
Vernon Thompson is also programme manager for the Foundation in Drama (Extended Certificate Level 2) at City Lit. He was talking to John Byrne