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Train to act or not? I don’t know!

October 18, 2017

With the return of “Stage School” on E4 (no, me neither – one series was enough. Though I do wonder about those who appeared in the first series coming back to have their careers trashed before they begin… again) it seemed like an idea for a blog…

Until I realised that I’ve honestly no idea. A quick straw poll of the TV I watch seems to suggest that most actors either go to one or take a University course and end up doing stand-up comedy which leads to acting in the end.

There is also the fact that a massive bill is racked up, which is re-payable at earnings of £21 (soon maybe £25) thousand a year. For most actors they can relax. 30 years down the road, they won’t earn that and the debt is written off. Of course, the write-off means they won’t get the hip replacement required from too much “circle-forming” (thanks West End Producer) as there’s no cash, but it won’t be hanging over them, and the mortgage isn’t a worry on a Thames Embankment box.

My best guess, though, is that no amount of sitting in circles, discussing Brecht or channelling Stanislavsky is ever going to shape someone who isn’t instinctively an actor.

You may (or may not) do as I do at every theatre I visit. Spotting the actor who is ushering just to be in a theatre is pretty simple. There’s a look in the eye, an expressive openness that sings out – and, if they are playing their chosen role properly – is utterly charming every time. I’ve had many a great chat over the years, as well as the pleasure of recognising the odd familiar face making it to the stage. Side note: it can work the other way – and that drives me nuts (also, don’t stare too long, it can get you thrown out, but that’s another story).

The area of the theatre jungle (monkey pun, so there) that I inhabit – somewhere in the marketing zone, I’d guess, is also full of actors who trained but preferred to be paid more by doing something more commercial in the business. Trust me, you’ve no idea the level of talent that exists among those who ensure the show happens every day and keeps the entire industry going.

Here, stage school is as much an advantage as my own business training. Again, if someone has studied how to create a persona and environment, how to stand in a room and not be phased by 500 people staring at them, and how to come up with a reply in a split second – at the very least a place on “The Apprentice” beckons. It’s the old “transferable skills” thing, and that is why I’d be pretty unphased if any young person I know wanted to try for RADA over Cambridge (RADA over Hull, of course, another matter – Blackadder).

Life experience is what really hones the person, and if it is done in rehearsal blacks or a suit doesn’t matter. So, as you fill out your UCAS form, my simple advice is, “3 years is a long time, fill it with something you love, I don’t think you can go that wrong.” And I’ll see you in lights – either West End or John Lewis department. Good luck.

  1. tonyloc permalink
    October 18, 2017 10:51 am

    Very interesting piece on which I have a number of comments to make although the bottom line for me is also ‘I don’t know!’

    My first thought is that without a natural inborn talent for acting, you cannot be taught how to be an actor. I have a little bit of experience in seeing student productions of plays and musicals as well as playing piano for some auditions at Stratford East when Ken Hill was putting on his plays there.

    As regards the student productions, it was occasionally sad to see the odd actor who should never have been on stage but who was presumably paying good money to train for the profession that they loved but for which they had absolutely no talent.

    Regarding the auditions, these were actors who had graduated from their training and sometimes had already had some some professional work, but the standard was wildly varying. Some were clearly experienced and talented and some were hopeless. I remember one applicant who gave the most impressive audition with his set pieces, singing and improvisations. Guess what? He was useless in the play in which Ken cast him and it became painfully clear that his only talent was in giving wonderful auditions!

    But the other side of the coin is that there is a great deal of work these days in musical theatre both in the West End and in endless tours and I can’t imagine how young people could learn the necessary skills in singing and dancing without rigorous training in theatrical schools. I have no idea how many young people are currently in training for the triple threat skills (singing, dancing and acting) or how much it is costing them but the end result seems to be spectacularly successful.

    So I guess the answer is that schools are necessary to give basic technical training in voice production, general acting technique, singing and dancing, but no amount of teaching will do any good if you don’t start with a goodly supply of natural talent.

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      October 18, 2017 11:11 am

      Thanks Tony, glad it isn’t just me.

      Totally agree it is part nature – if you had seen the YMT “13” in August that shows it for sure, too. Sadly, lack of talent doesn’t always prevent a career of course, though ;).

      Sad about that auditionee. Would probably do fine in Variety, where one act is enough, I guess.

      I think we can add the fourth “musician” skill these days as well, with the BYOB productions.

      Love your conclusion too. Thanks :).

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