1) How did you first hear about the National Youth Theatre (NYT)?
I first heard about it as someone put it up on a noticeboard at my school. My drama teacher told me to give it a go.
2) Did you know much about it before you auditioned?
There had been Chinese whispers amongst us students about what it was and I heard that lots of famous people did it. That was pretty much all I knew about it. I knew that some famous actors had done that and so I wanted to try to. That’s pretty much the only reason why. I came from a family who couldn’t have less to do with acting. The closest thing my family had to do with the acting profession was watching Corrie (Coronation Street). There was absolutely nobody in the Dorset village that I grew up in who was involved with the profession. I think the closest they got to a stage was watching ‘panto’. I was just like how do I get into this. I think this is what I want to do. I know that I love it. I know I’m happiest when I’m in the school play. How do I keep doing this outside of my school holidays? In the village I grew up in there was nothing in the holidays. When I saw this and I could do it outside of school time and have an excuse to go to London and check that out, I was on it like a car bonnet. I was like, this sounds great.
3) Did you get in on your first attempt or did it take you a few tries?
I didn’t get in on my first attempt. I will tell anyone who didn’t get in on their first attempt to just try again. Just keep going until they turn you away at the door. If you want something fight for it. Like anything in life you are not going to be good at something the first time you do it, that’s not how life works. The first time I tried to walk I’m pretty sure I fell on my arse. And then I tried again and again. The first time I tried to speak I was not delivering Shakespeare. But I think we live in a culture nowadays where we expect so much of our selves and we expect ourselves to be the best immediately.
4) How many attempts did it take you in the end?
Okay I made it sound like I had to try like 15 times, I didn’t: I did get in on my second go. I had never done an audition before in my life. I didn’t even know what an audition was. The first time I was there I was just like okay what do I do. They said to me “I don’t think you are ready for this” and I wasn’t. The second time I went I had done some more work on my speeches, I was a year older and that makes a big difference in your teens. When I came to do the course in London it was the first time I was away from my family, my first time in London, it was a big deal. I will thank the National Youth Theatre forever for not being like “yeah sure you’re 13 years old and you want to just come hang out in London for the summer, fantastic have a go”. They have a responsibility of care to the kids who come and audition and they told me I wasn’t ready and I should come back next year and they were right. It’s a big deal. You are being pushed when you do your courses. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have and it’s also the most frightening experience you’ll ever have.
5) What is your advice for young actors who want to audition but are scared by the process?
There is not one actor I know who doesn’t spend the first time they pick up a text or the first three weeks of rehearsals terrified. Everyone is scared. Every actor, whether they have been acting forever like Ian McKellen, or only a couple of years, every single actor when they pick up a new speech or play, are terrified. But you know what, you do it anyway. You feel the fear and you do it anyway. You go, okay, I’m going to be scared of this the first time I do it, because the first time I do anything it’s going to be scary. The first time I had sex I was scared, I then got very good at it. But you know what I mean, any first is frightening. So the moment you pick up a monologue no you are not going to be good at it, no it’s not going to be perfect, yes it’s going to be frightening. Just give yourself a break, read it through, learn it so that you know those words better than you know your own thoughts. Then they come out automatically. Just learn it. Learn it. Then when you know the words, that is when you can start having fun with it. The only time I’m frightened is when I know I haven’t put in the work and I’m winging it. I get frightened on exams when I know I haven’t put in the work. I get frightened of performing when I haven’t learnt my line properly. I get frightened when I’m running a half marathon and I haven’t trained for it. So what I would say to people is accept the fact that you are going to be frightened, know that is frightening, give yourself a huge pat on the back for even doing this, and then push through. Push through the fear and learn your monologue.
6) What is the best production you’ve ever been involved in with NYT?
Silence by Moira Buffini. It was my last show I did with NYT and it was the most special production to date that I’ve been in. The costumes were so cool, the set was worked by the actors, the play dealt with themes like sexual identity, feminism, love, sex and drugs. We got to tour it. The costumes were amazing and they were designed by Chloe Lampford who is now the most sought after designer in England. It was one of those moments where the stars align and you’re given a role and you just go for it and it’s all very special. There are so many moments in the National Youth Theatre that were like that.
7) Did you make friends whilst being a part of NYT and do you stay in touch?
Yes, 100 per cent. A lot of them aren’t actors. A lot of them decided they didn’t want to do this as a job, because it is a really tough job. It’s not tough in the ways of being a soldier is tough, we are lucky in a lot of ways to be able to do this. But it is psychologically tough. It’s not for everyone. It’s very unstable. It means you don’t know where you are going to be living. You don’t know what you are going to be doing, 99 per cent of actors are out of work at any time. It will make you re-evaluate the things that you think are important in your life. Like living in a nice flat, being able to afford clothes, being able to eat anything except for tuna. But you get moments of beauty, honesty and exhilaration where you get close to other human beings and get vulnerable and make art that touches people’s lives and that’s worth living for I think. And that’s what the NYT is. The NYT is a place for young adults to learn how to be themselves. It’s a place where you fall in love. It’s a place where you fall out of love. It’s a place where you laugh and you will definitely cry. You’ll probably drink too much. Well you’ll definitely drink too much. You will party. You will think you never ever want to stand on a stage again. You will never want to leave the stage. You will form friendships. You will break friendships. It’s life concentrated. It’s the most exciting and challenging thing you’ll ever do.
8) What are your plans for the future?
There are a few things that I have in the pipe line that I’m not allowed to talk about. I have just written my debut novel. Again that’s something else that NYT inspired, it’s not just about actors, it’s for writers too. Lots of actors are encouraged to write as the majority of shows are devised. That’s where I was encouraged to think about writing.
National Youth Theatre Acting Auditions for anyone aged between 14-25 are taking place in February in Manchester. To book your audition click here.
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