The Demands of Training

Previous articles have touched upon the relative merits of university drama courses and drama school training. An article in The Times warned its readers about the “hidden truth about university courses; that a few offer a terrific, demanding education while many others are content to allow students to drift through — in a three-year haze” with minimal contact hours that churn out graduates ill-prepared for any industry.

If there is one thing that drama schools cannot be accused of, it’s neglecting to give their students enough contact time. Typically, the exacting timetable consists of 9 hours of contact per day. That’s typically 54 hours a week – in a study conducted by the think-tank – The Higher Education Policy Institute – revealed that the only other university course that requires similar demanding hours was found to be Medicine. Even this notoriously challenging course’s contact hours differed from institution to institution and ranged from 32-50 hours a week.

Faye Marsay, who recently appeared in Fresh Meat, was asked whether her life at drama school resembled the show’s image of relaxed student life: “Drama school was more like twelve hours every day – work, work, work, lines, lines, lines.”

This, along with Brian Cox commenting in The Times that “drama training is the best preparation for anything”, is confirmation that drama school is a far better investment of time and money than a university course if you want to be taken seriously as an actor.

This idea was cemented this week when Sam Troughton lost his voice in the middle of a preview of King Lear at the National Theatre. Paapa Essiedu, a recent graduate of Guildhall, talked of how he had to take over as Troughton’s understudy: “I had about half an hour before I had to go on as Edmund but I was on stage for most of it. I didn’t have any time to prepare. It was one of those things where instinct kicks in and you rely on your training and on any work that you’ve done. And trust yourself to go and do it.”

Olivia Vinall, also starring in King Lear, was asked by Official London Theatre on her first professional job: “My first job was actually before I graduated. I was lucky enough to be in a production of Romeo And Juliet. The principal at Drama Studio at the time let me do it because he thought it would be the best showcase that I could have. From that I got an agent so it was a really good platform.”

In both cases, drama school training has proved to be a necessary foundation for successful performances. Although there are workshops in London such as the one which will be run by Ideastap in February (‘Auditioning technique and monologue advice masterclass’) where actors can ask industry professionals such as casting director Polly Jerrold for tips, there is no substitute for the one-on-one sessions that Audition Doctor offers. Instead of being in a group of 20 where understandably, the advice can only be more generalised, Audition Doctor sessions offer one hour sessions that focus solely on you. From the speeches you choose to group workshop advice, the guidance that Audition Doctor offers is always specific. The result is that you present the best possible you at your audition and consequently significantly increase your chance of securing a place at drama school.