Situated in Twickenham, Drama St Mary’s offers its students the best of both worlds – access to central London while receiving vocational, conservatoire-style training in its leafy environs
Training at Drama St Mary’s is unlike training anywhere else. Not only is it a drama school embedded within a university, meaning young theatremakers don’t miss out on that special student experience, but it has also adopted an innovative, forward-looking new curriculum, designed to produce performers and practitioners prepared for the rapidly evolving world of theatre.
“The theatre industry is facing huge challenges at the moment, but none of us can foresee a time when actors are not vital to a functioning society,” says head of drama Mark Griffin. “Rather than waiting for the world to change and then adapting our training in response, we want our students to create the future of the industry themselves. We want them to become self-starting, creative practitioners playing their part to build a sustainable theatre economy.”
Situated in Twickenham in west London, Drama St Mary’s offers four full-time courses: two undergraduate degrees – a three-year BA in Acting and an accelerated two-year BA in Technical Theatre – and two, one-year postgraduate degrees – MA London Theatre and MA Playwriting.
“The BA in Acting offers conservatoire-style training,” explains Griffin. “It has everything you might expect from a drama school – voice work, movement training, contextual studies, text interpretation, and more. There is a real focus on employability and creative output. We know the landscape is changing, so our aim is to produce graduates who, rather than bemoaning their lack of opportunities, have the creative resilience to make things happen for themselves.”
The BA in Technical Theatre also has a strong vocational focus, with students choosing their specialty – anything from costume to lighting – and, within two years, thanks to summer placements and projects, completing a course that boasts a 98% employment rate among recent graduates.
“Our two MA courses – in London Theatre and in Playwriting – are aimed at those who already have an undergraduate degree,” continues Griffin. “On the playwriting course, six writers will develop their work into a full-length play, ready for publication and production. On the London Theatre course, students will immerse themselves in the history and culture of our capital’s performing arts industry.”
All four courses are taught on the Covid-secure Twickenham campus at St Mary’s University, where facilities include various technical workshops, five fully equipped studios, and two fully equipped theatres, as well as a sound suite, a television studio, and a recording studio. Plus, of course, the various research and recreational facilities of the wider university.
“Twickenham is such a lovely place to study because you get the best of both worlds,” says Griffin. “You are only 20 minutes from central London, the West End and the National Theatre. But you are surrounded by lots of green space, and right next door to Richmond Park and the river.”
The four courses are delivered by a small, dedicated and experienced faculty, alongside up to 50 visiting lecturers and industry professionals – one first-year module was recently run by the world-renowned director Katie Mitchell, and one of this year’s graduate productions will be directed by JMK Award-winning director Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu.
“Our students graduate having developed a wide network of professional contacts through the course,” continues Griffin. “They’ve gone on to do such a wide range of things, and they are able to grab hold of any opportunity that comes their way.”
Applications to study at Drama St Mary’s can be made via UCAS, and are eligible for financial support from the Student Loans Company. Applicants will be assessed via an audition, a full-day workshop, and an interview, with an online audition optional instead for 2021 entrants.
“We are looking for people we want to spend three years with,” says Griffin. “Interesting people. Imaginative people. Collaborative people. People who want to help build the theatre industry of the future.”
For more information, visit stmarys.ac.uk