As a northerner, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to find useful training outside of drama school that benefits my career during my teenage years; the majority of good training is down south. There isn’t a lot happening up north, especially in Cumbria! However throughout the years I’ve managed to sieve out some of the gems that are definitely worth checking out.
If you’re just starting out and are between the ages of 5-18, I’d recommend paying for a few terms at Stagecoach. You can find Stagecoach pretty much all over the UK. Believe it or not before I attended Stagecoach I was actually petrified of getting on stage and performing in front of a large audience; I had only performed to small groups at school. Although Stagecoach does have its flaws, the hefty price tag being the main flaw, it gave me great confidence and basic training in acting, singing, dancing. If it hadn’t been for Stagecoach, I wouldn’t be as confident as I am today. Stagecoach also advise their students attend LAMDA exams but I didn’t do these as I think they’re a bit of a waste of time. I’m a firm believer that what is deemed as ‘good acting’ or a ‘good performance’ is subjective and can’t be graded. However, a few of my friends have really enjoyed their LAMDA exams and would highly recommend them. Having LAMDA grades can help you down the line when applying to University as they count towards your UCAS points similar to music grades.
Manchester based young actors can check out the Royal Exchange’s Young Company. It provides 12 months training for young people aged 14-25 where you work towards a finalised performance showcased in their Studio. The Royal Exchange also cast the Young Company as ensemble in their professional shows too giving you professional credits (fabulous for later on down the line when you’re signing up for Spotlight). Young Company also receive workshops from some of the theatre companies performing at the Royal Exchange and have guest speakers such as Maxine Peake to talk to them about the industry. The company is funded by the Manchester Arts Council so there is a criteria of living in Greater Manchester area to be accepted onto the course which is something that I didn’t know when I went to the audition. Home Theatre in Manchester have a constant stream of opportunities for young performers too. They provide affordable workshops and events by industry professionals but you have to check their website frequently as places fill up quickly. I’m pretty sure Complicite did a workshop there recently which I unfortunately missed.
Act Up North is great for those wanting training in TV, Film & Radio. They provide affordable adult classes in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds & North Wales and also workshops from industry professionals. Act Up North is a great networking opportunity as they are constantly bringing in guest tutors and casting directors to assess and critique your work. I felt like I had gotten to a stage with Act Up North where I wasn’t learning anything new or exploring any fresh techniques, just practising the same thing over and over so I decided to leave after a term there. Personally I found the training quite slow-paced which wasn’t ideal due to the fact I was travelling from Kendal – Manchester once a week but if you live locally it may suit you better. I would definitely recommend Act Up North if you’re wanting to learn the basics of on-screen acting as it provides a solid skill set you can build upon. Similar to Act Up North, there is also a company called The Actors Lab which is based in Manchester. I haven’t personally attended The Actors Lab but it has a good reputation.
One of my closest friends who is now training at LAMDA on the BA Acting course highly recommends the Everyman & Playhouse in Liverpool. They have their own YEP course for young performers aged 11-25 which is similar to The Royal Exchange’s Young Company course where you perform in the Everyman, Playhouse & Playhouse studio. The cost of the course is £40 per term (there are 3 terms).
To be a member of the Actors Centre, you need to have professional acting credits or drama school training which is quite frustrating for aspiring young actors who haven’t quite made it that far yet. However they do run non-member courses which are fabulous though not as varied. The Actors Centre is based in London which is a pain if you’re a northerner but I felt that the course was too good for me not to put it into this post. I attended the Drama School Audition Intensive course which is an full day aimed at getting your audition monologues up to scratch in preparation for drama school auditions. The group was really small (about 5 students) which was brilliant as we got in-depth 1-on-1 tuition. This was my second time auditioning for drama school but there were a mixture of students from those who hadn’t auditioned before to those who had got through to the finals. At the end a Q&A session was held where we could quiz the course leader and students about the drama school audition process- BRILLIANT, I love those sessions because you learn so much. If you’re considering auditioning for drama school, definitely check this out. I stole advice from this day and put it into my Lady Macbeth monologue I performed for my NYT audition.
Whilst I’m on the subject of auditions, The Mono Box (yes another London-based organisation- sorry!) hold Speech Surgeries once a month where you can browse their extensive play collection, get feedback on a monologue you’re working on and attend a Q&A with industry professionals. Now I’m raving about The Mono Box because it is so reasonably priced- £15 for the Speech Surgery! So even if you are a poor northerner (like me), you only really have to fork out for the train ticket. They also hold other workshops with industry professionals such as Annie Tyson who teaches at RADA.
If you’re a regular reader on my blog, you’ll know that I attended the National Youth Theatre senior course in the summer of 2016. To be a member of NYT, you have to audition and be accepted but once you are a member, you are in the company until you’re 26. Not only does NYT provide amazing training opportunities, endless casting calls, brilliant contacts and the highest caliber of teachers, it has its own free REP company. With the REP company you train intensely for 8 months with industry professionals and then perform in the West End. Pretty good, eh? I can’t stress enough how amazing and wonderful this company is. If this is your first time hearing about NYT then visit their website, read up on it and see their alumni. I don’t need to sell it to you, it sells itself. Audition this year! You can read my blog post on my experience at NYT here.
The best way to train as an actor is to act. Go to your local drama group/society and get acting. However, try to step out of your comfort zone as much as possible when training; it’s not good for you to stick with one amateur dramatic group all of your life. Switch it up and move to another one. You’ll work with different directors, actors and you will learn SO much. Even if it is ‘am-dram’, working with other people (and having to cope with different egos) is brilliant training that you’ll keep with you all of your career. I have worked with some amazing ‘am-dram’ companies and some not so amazing but it has made me more confident as an actor.
If anyone has any questions or has any recommendations of places to train please send me a message- I’m always wanting to try out new things and places!