I still can’t believe it but I was offered a place on the Senior Course at National Youth Theatre this summer after three years auditioning.
I first auditioned for NYT when I was a young, cocky and naive 15 year old – looking back, no wonder I wasn’t offered a place. If I’m honest, I thought I knew everything at the age of 15. I didn’t really enjoy my first NYT audition (I think my nerves got the better of me) and I don’t think I gelled well with the director who was auditioning me. I was also more concerned about what other people were doing in the audition rather than focusing on myself and my performance.
Although I got rejected, I auditioned again the next year. Stupidly (and naively), I chose Blanche’s monologue from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ and yes, I did do an awful Southern American accent. I cringe so much thinking about it, why did no one stop me? I thought I had the audition in the bag as I knew the NYT ambassador in my audition from an Act Up North workshop. I remember leaving the audition thinking I had nailed it. Oh boy, how wrong I was.
If you’re thinking about auditioning for NYT or drama school, my best advice would be to stick to your own accent. Unfortunately I listened to my drama teachers for my first two auditions and they advised me that doing an accent in auditions is fine. Big no. HUGE no. Never do it. I would have saved myself some serious embarrassment if I had known that. Also go for a character closer to your age, Blanche isn’t the best character for a 16 year old to play…
So after two years of rejection from NYT, I decided to give it a break as I wasn’t sure it was for me. During these 2/3 years I finished my A-Levels, did a few amateur shows, auditioned for Drama school twice and attended a small handful of workshops. Unfortunately I wasn’t offered a place in any of the drama schools I applied for and I was in a pretty low point in my life. I couldn’t understand what it was that I was doing wrong in these auditions, I still don’t if I’m honest. Anyway I decided to audition one more time for NYT and voila, a few months down the line, I got the email saying that I had been offered a place.
I cried and cried and cried. Then I remembered that I would be able to buy the NYT merchandise and then I cried some more. There were a lot of tears that day when I received that email. The course and accommodation cost around £1,500 but in total the whole experience cost me around £2,400 (especially with all the drinking). It is incredibly expensive but it’s such an amazing opportunity. Some people fundraise the money but I just worked my arse off for 7 days a week until I could afford it; I didn’t feel comfortable taking money off people whilst also having a social life, it just seemed wrong.
The course was three weeks training at Trinity Laban which is near Greenwich. We were told that around 5,000 people applied this year and that around 250 of us were accepted. It was crazy to think that I was sat with Britain’s top 5% of young talent.
Before we arrived, we were put into groups. I’m not too sure what their system is for grouping people but I have a theory that it may be based on what you say in your audition and what type of actor they think you are as I was suited very well with my director. I absolutely love physical theatre & movement based work and it just seemed like a coincidence that my director was specialised in that field. Don’t quote me on that as I don’t really know the answer and it could have been random.
I was in course 17 and my director was Lukas Angelini who has worked with many drama schools, theatre companies and is an associate artist of NYT. Our course assistant was the lovely Katie Trump who had just graduated from a 3 year BA Acting course at Rose Bruford. I’m not going to go into depth about the training and exercises we explored as I don’t think Lukas would appreciate his techniques plastered on the internet. I also don’t want to spoil it for anyone who may work with him in the future. If you are fortunate enough to work with him then you’re in for a treat, he is honestly so inspiring and boy that man can MOVE! Alongside Lukas, Katie taught some workshops with us which were really interesting and I enjoyed every single minute even though she nearly killed us all with her extreme warm ups!
Overall the training was incredibly physical and we did a lot of work on the voice and physical presence through a Japanese training method called Suzuki. I wasn’t prepared to sweat as much as I did. It was a total wakeup call to how much physical work you have to put in sometimes for your work to be truthful; it isn’t just the case of learning lines and reciting them with a few facial expressions here and there, especially for the big meaty Shakespeare roles.
Some of the other areas we explored were: stereotypes, view points, yoga, story telling, breath, voice, movement, devising, elements and ensemble work. Now, I feel that I have such a better awareness of my body and I feel more grounded as a performer. It was basically three years of drama school squished into three weeks (no wonder we were shattered). My eyes were really opened to how the body is the actor’s instrument and it needs to be trained frequently. It also made me want to train EVEN MORE! Argh get me to RADA ASAP!
Most of Lukas’ training was based around getting “out of your mind” and “into your body” which I found incredibly difficult but so rewarding once I finally got to grips with it. I think as actors, a lot of us preplan and over think things before doing it (being in your mind) and this training really helped towards creating impulse reactions and having a true kinaesthetic response to a situation which makes it more believable.
I’m not going to lie, it was incredibly tough. Some days I found myself so drained physically and mentally, I felt like I wasn’t ‘in the room’. I wanted to work hard but at the same time I couldn’t physically push myself any further without feeling like I was about to crumble. We were pushed to our limits and beyond.
On top of our training with Lukas and Katie, we had two days where other directors came in and we did a clowning workshop with Andrei and a workshop on immersive theatre with Joel. Unfortunately I can’t remember their last names but I enjoyed their workshops loads. It was really refreshing to be taught by different directors as they all had an interest in a different part of theatre. Whereas Lukas enjoyed teaching movement, shape and physicality, Joel came from a perspective where the audience was more involved in the theatre and Andrei hit us with the comedic aspect and that didn’t have any rules apart from to make the audience laugh.
Personally clowning isn’t my thing as I’m not a comedy actor/I don’t have a funny performance bone in my body but nevertheless I enjoyed it, it was nice to just play and have fun. Things did get a bit too far and someone on the course stripped naked during a clowning exercise. I had a lovely view of his right bollock and a flash of the tip of his penis… You always read about these horror stories in articles but never think it will happen to you as they’re usually drama school myths. Nope, this shit really happens, actors are crazy.
One thing that did stand out to me though was the lack of northern actors that were accepted. I don’t care what people tell me, I still think there is a clear north/south divide in the acting industry. There are auditions all over the UK (a vast majority in the North) and I think I met about 20 northerners which isn’t a lot to say that there are 250 places given. Out of those thousands of people who auditioned, there were only 20 (approximately) good northern actors? Hmm, I’m still skeptical about this but hey ho, at least I was one of the few accepted!
If you’re going to NYT, I’d definitely recommend staying in the halls due to the social side. Not going to lie, the halls are rank. They’re mouldy, ridiculously hot, overpriced and nothing works but the social aspect of staying in them was really amazing. Everyone bangs on about how you make friends for life at NYT and you really do. I miss them all dearly. The best times were being sat up at 2am drunk with Julia and Sophie talking about acting. You become part of a family that is understanding of your passion and drive for theatre.
I still can’t believe I’m a member. It means I can now audition for their showcases which are performed on the West End, potentially train in their free REP course and audition for any other casting calls that come their way. Oh and of course attend all of their amazing workshops plus get discounted tickets to shows (woooooo!). I’m part of this fabulously creative family that are constantly creating work with each other.
I’m glad I was rejected the first two times I auditioned for NYT as I wasn’t ready at all and now that I’m older, I appreciate the training at lot more. If you’re wanting to go into acting, audition for NYT this year but if you don’t get in first time, don’t worry! Keep auditioning and you’ll be given a place when the time is right for you. In my opinion it’s some of the best training out there. They also do a really good audition workshop to help you with your pieces that you can apply for and attend even if you’re not a member.
This is only the beginning of my National Youth Theatre journey and I’m so excited to see where it takes me!
P.s. If course 17 are reading this, I love you and miss you all x