With an ambition to develop entrepreneurial performers who shape their own careers, the Brighton-based BRICTT drama school has rapidly developed a reputation for well-equipped, supportive training since its launch last year
Launched as recently as 2017, BRICTT (the Brighton Institute for Contemporary Theatre Training) has quickly acquired a healthy reputation for its fresh, innovative approach to vocational training and its focus on preparing and producing all-round performers ready to make their mark on the industry.
For founder and creative director Mia Bird, herself an experienced West End performer and songwriter with an extensive background in education, BRICTT’s ambition is clear. “We are focused on having an impact on the nature of our industry by equipping students to recognise what is unique about them, how they can contribute to changing the landscape of the performing arts, and how they can not only make but also sustain a career in the industry,” she says.
With student numbers doubling since its initial intake, as BRICTT gears up for its second year, demand for places at the UK’s youngest theatre school suggests that this south coast college has much to offer.
“We want to do more than produce great actors, dancers and singers – although that is central to what we do – we’re aiming to create entrepreneurs who recognise the value and potential of their talent and have the wherewithal to make their own careers.”
That ambition defines the three-year BA (hons) course in Performing Arts, which aims to transform students into “industry- ready professionals”.
Although opportunities for performers have never been greater, challenges for young artists in an increasingly competitive environment have also grown exponentially. Which is why, says Bird, a broad range of learning options are available to students.
“Besides the extended training in core skills, we offer classes in other areas such as circus, stand-up comedy, creative writing, and acting for video games; elements that students can add to their toolbox. Clearly, this enhances the employability of our graduates but, crucially, it also allows them to develop further as independent creative artists.”
Validated by the University of Sussex, the degree course, says Bird, “introduces students to the realities of the industry and helps them to make the transition from learning to doing when they graduate”.
The days are long gone when performers would wait by the phone willing their agent to ring. BRICTT’s real-world approach is intended to equip students to take control of shaping their own careers.
“The industry is evolving faster than ever before and we are dedicated to turning promising students into multifaceted professionals capable of surviving and succeeding,” says Bird. In return, she adds, the college is looking for “applicants with drive, curiosity, dedication and a focused and disciplined work ethic”.
Successful applicants will find themselves in a creative, supportive environment designed to help them thrive. A flexible approach to teaching is determined by ability, potential and learning needs, shaped by what Bird describes as “tailor-made pathways to ensure students make the most of their talent”.
With more than 30 hours of teaching each week, the emphasis is on practical learning. Class sizes are limited to 15 students, carefully organised to ensure a range of complementary skills that will serve the group. A dedicated tutor throughout the year guarantees that no one is overlooked or left behind.
The equivalent of one day each week involves academic work geared, says Bird, “towards supporting the performers’ pathways. Students complete a dissertation in their final year that includes a business plan and a production plan for a specific piece of work chosen by the student.”
In all, she adds, “it’s not about theory, it’s about the practical application of students’ understanding of the industry and where and how they can fit into it.”
Substantial investment in resources make BRICTT an enticing prospect, with eight studio spaces, a separate dance studio, a mobile pop-up theatre for site-specific performances and access to theatre spaces in two ancillary sites.
Factor in a state-of-the-art computer suite loaded with video-editing equipment and lighting and design programs, BRICTT’s close partnerships with near neighbours the Brighton Film School and the British and Irish Modern Music Institute, and studying on the south coast becomes a viable and attractive proposition.
“You don’t have to be London-based anymore. Theatre is not confined to the capital and Brighton has a thriving arts scene including its annual fringe festival, the largest in England. It’s a wonderfully creative place and just a short train journey from London.”
That easy proximity allows for the wealth of BRICTT’s visiting tutors, all of them experienced professionals drawn from every area of the industry. None more so than BRICTT patron Julian Stoneman – currently worldwide executive producer of Bat Out of Hell – who had a direct involvement in designing the course and is a valuable mentor to all the “BRICTTonians”.
Although course fees are already lower than at many other institutions, financial help is available in the form of bursaries and scholarships and successful candidates are eligible for student loans. There is even better news for applicants to the two-year, performance-based Extended Diploma course for 16-18-year-olds, which is fully funded and free – as are BRICTT’s audition sessions.
Says Bird: “The diploma is designed to help students decide whether the performing arts are a real option for them as a career by giving them a basic introduction to the skills, the attitude and the discipline they’ll need if they are to progress.”
She adds: “Theatre reflects life and so should training schools. There should be no barrier, financial or otherwise, that prevents a talented and dedicated student from training.”
Mental and emotional health is also a fundamental part of BRICTT’s ethos. The college provides an innovative programme of “mental resilience training”, delivering regular sessions in mindfulness, coping with anxiety, nutrition, physical well-being and basic life skills for those who find themselves away from the family home for the first time.
With graduates guaranteed a raft of benefits, including an agent, a listing in the actors’ directory Spotlight, a digital showreel and a professional online and social media presence, BRICTT provides a fresh, vital and thoroughly modern alternative for the performers of the future.