Drama School in the UK offers a number of different types of courses from acting to stage management, multiple design disciplines, musical theatre and more; it is a vibrant and exciting place that is sometimes a little overwhelming. It can be hard to know whether drama school is the right path for you and what to expect from the experience once you get there. I decided to give our readers an insight into what it’s really like to study at a drama school in the UK by interviewing a selection of final-year acting students and recent graduates. I asked my interviewees what their ultimate drama school takeaways were. Below I have listed, in no particular order, the real-life lessons they learned and the top tips they have for the aspiring actors following in their footsteps.
Imagination is key!
‘Your imagination is the most wonderful and unique tool you have as an actor – use it! At drama school, you are given the opportunity to play characters you might never get to play in real life. It is such a fantastic way to stretch your imagination and transform yourself into characters that feel very far removed from you and will end up being a massive help in your work even with characters that feel close to you. The chance to make bold and brave choices is an exciting one, so make them!’ – Anushka, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Always be true to yourself!
‘The most important lesson I learned at drama school in the UK was to BE MYSELF. I spent so much time trying to emulate others in my year or other actors that I loved on TV. As soon as I stopped trying to be someone else and started reacting in the moment, that’s when I started to do my best work. There is only one you. Don’t waste your time trying to be someone else’ – Emily, Royal Welsh.
Read between the lines
‘Subtext. I love thinking as the character. What did he do this morning? What’s on his mind during the scene? How might his feelings about the other person evolve as he listens to them? I think it’s useful to wonder generally about these things without being rigid. Exact thoughts can’t be controlled or conjured’ – Zachary, Guildhall.
‘I think the top lesson I’ve taken away would be just to live life. Drama school in the UK is intense and a lot of hard work so it’s easy to be consumed by it and feel like you’ve got no time or energy for anything else. Finding a balance in life is really important. Remember to make time for other things you enjoy, time to relax or time to try new things and see new places’ – Kat, Mountview.
‘Having so many creative people around you Monday to Friday can be incredibly exhausting. So many different opinions and personalities flowing through one space can leave you feeling overwhelmed at times and just wanting to be alone. Please take time for yourself. Be yourself’ – Romario, ALRA.
Focus on your fellow actors
‘How to read people, I seriously thought that I could be hired as a spy after 1st year, we go deep into Meisner and it was magical’ – Libby, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
‘There is so much to learn from your fellow actors – drama school gives you friends for life because you go through quite a unique experience with each other. In our first week, one teacher told us to look around the room at all the strangers who we would come to know so well and it’s true. Watching them change and grow is the best way to grow yourself and I probably learned more from watching them develop as actors and as people than in any formal class’ – Anna, LAMDA.
Do your research, then let it all go!
‘Importance of doing research, but then letting it go. When I’m playing a character, I research and imagine as much as I can about them. I will fill notebooks with ideas and facts and dreams and objectives. Then when I’m actually acting, I let all that fall away and just react in the moment. Because I’ve done the work, I’m reacting as the character instinctively’ – Georgie, Drama Studio.
‘Knowing and enforcing my boundaries. Being at drama school has been one of the most challenging and demanding experiences of my life. The highs are high and the lows are low. I’ve really had to learn how to take care of myself and let myself say no when the work becomes too much. At drama school, you can so easily put the work above all else because you are entering into such an intense environment, sometimes you just have to take a step back and remember exactly why you are here and what you need to do to protect yourself’ – Laura, Manchester School of Theatre.
A little bit goes a long way
‘I learned not to take myself too seriously. Everyone spends so much time worrying about how to hit that specific note, or nail that triple pirouette, but in reality, sometimes the harder you push the harder it gets. I learned, especially vocally, that a little bit a day goes a long way, rather than trying to bash it out until your voice is sore’ – Alice, Royal Academy of Music.
Now it’s your turn! Share your biggest drama school lesson in the comments below! Haven’t been to drama school yet? Tell us which tip from this blog resonated with you the most! Let’s keep the conversation and good advice flowing!
Izzy is a producer and director. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 2020 where she directed, produced and stage-managed multiple plays and operas alongside running Candlewasters, a new writing theatre company, in her final year. In addition to being the producing intern for Yonder Window, Izzy produces and directs for the Bomb Factory Theatre, which is an emerging women-led theatre company based in North London. She also produces theatre independently and has worked freelance for a number of theatre companies such as Wessex Grove and the Birmingham Rep.