“So, how was your training?” - the inevitable question that follows me to every social event I appear at. A question that used to fill me with crippling anxiety and dread at the thought of answering truthfully. I found myself so embarrassed, I had to lie socially, to impress. My skin thickened and my jaw tightened with a Theresa May type tension as I began to, ironically, expectorate the words: ’It was Strong and Stable.’
My story is split in two. Year one was a good start - the teaching staff were a god-send who I am lucky to still be in touch with. A bunch of professionals who really worked at understanding what sort of a person I was but also what was needed to let me grow. Not only was I developing more skills in Voice, Acting and Movement, I was noticing a clear difference in both my physical and mental heath. It was the little things that became vastly important; like muscle knowledge, my own emotional memory and water consumption, which all lead to a healthier me. I had never felt more alive and on track to becoming the best possible performer. The support was great and alongside the course I began to further my career in screen acting too; my lecturers were incredibly helpful throughout my new venture and made me love the course so much that I ended up turning down a permanent role on BBC Scotland’s ‘River City’ to further my study. Finding numerous jobs in Film and TV whilst having the chance to bag an agent was, I thought, really only possible with a Diploma attached to my name. Things could only get better, right?
I digress. Trying to write this in the most balanced way possible is a real challenge for me and only my class will ever understand the true difficulties and stress we were put through. I cannot help but feel cheated out of a proper education. When I heard stories of other Colleges that had a 5-working day policy compared to my 2.5-working days, I couldn’t help but feel unworthy of my degree. I was clearly not given the best education but I sure utilised my power and drained them of everything I could, absorbing as much information that would benefit my future. I could go on and shock you with the stories that emerged from my college experience; but I’m saving them for my BAFTA speech. Looking back upon my time there, I can honestly say It was the worst experience of my life but I hold pride in that. Okay - I didn’t learn what they advertised to teach me but I did learn to become pro-active and independent - which is the key to every good Actor. Having a place of study that hired unqualified staff, who shunned you at every-given opportunity and who held you back from achieving was, ironically, what boosted me to fight for this career more than ever. I continue to study privately in the comfort of my home - reading and learning from the greats, reminds me of my first year there. I feel totally unchained to their judgement now and continue to find my own performance jobs. Since I left, I have done nothing but professionally paid work in Theatre, Film and Tv whilst also bagging myself a top London agent. Of course, I understand that my experience is personal to me and some of you may have had a great time, but what I do know is that my training has played very little part in my current success and I believe anything is achievable if you put your mind to it. Macbeth had a flame of ambition to become King of Scotland and he got it - so if you want to be an Actor, you can do it. You don’t have to rely on further education to take you there. Look like the innocent flower but be the serpent under it.
It is my belief that after graduating, an actor should be able to discuss their training with a great sense of pride and achievement, not hatred and disgust. A teacher at school once told me, in the future, I would embark on a journey of self-discovery and find what type of Actor I wanted to be. I thought she sounded like a pretentious piffler after that but, she was right. I was always told I ‘had something special’ and it was drummed into me that College would be the best option if I wanted to develop after High School. The once joyless ting of the School bell rang for me the final time and the sound of freedom sent me off in hopes of achieving a HND in Acting and Performance.
Wrong. Second year was a complete and utter disaster. Filled with lies, bitchiness and full on Drama - I must add at this point that this was just from staff, not the students. ‘Out with the old and in with the new’ seemed to be the theme as everything we knew had changed. With a new set of unqualified lecturing staff and a Gorgon Medusa (a poisonous snake lady) in charge of overseeing the course run - we knew it was going to be one hell of a difficult year. Everything good about both the College and the Course soon turned venomous. When you go from having intense physical and vocal conditioning plus hours of detailed emotional technique work based on crucial practitioners with, who I call, the ‘Queen of Shakespearian text’ - who would divulge in the Bard’s beautiful use of language, rhythm and rhyme, offering a real understanding to those who weren’t familiar to his works, to then downgrading in your second year to what can only be described as an angry, shaved ball-bag, pretending they knew a thing or two about the Iambic Pentameter and who, openly told students that the word ‘Acting’ really actually meant ‘Devising’ - well, you can Imagine me feeling like I had been sold down the river. All in all, the year turned out to be pointless and painful. I noticed a rapid decline in my health and the once connected class soon became shattered - I’m lucky if I speak to three of them these days.
To all of whom that ask me: “How was your training?” - it was the best thing that could have ever have happened to me but for all the wrong reasons.