Written by Olivia Vinall
Soon to be staring as Desdemona at the National Theatre with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear from April to July 2013: http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/othello
I’ve been asked to write a little about life since graduating from Drama Studio London (DSL) in 2010 – (wow, even typing that I can’t quite believe it’s been that long!) The past two years have, as I’m sure most graduates would agree, been quite a roller-coaster. You have the exhilarating high of finishing a year of training and all the possibilities that lie ahead, but also the reality of needing to earn money, working anti-social hours, and nerve-wracking auditions. It’s not always easy to maintain the enthusiasm and drive gained from the course!
My time since graduating has had plenty of ups and downs. I’ve performed in only a few theatre productions but each of which I’ve learnt so much from and each has pushed me forward to keep exploring, learning and wanting to create. I’ve been lucky to gain TV experience through commercials and shows which have taken me to some amazing places (namely a muddy field in Wales being chased by a bull whilst about to give birth!) But there have been long old quiet patches which aren’t always easy.
I managed to get a job working as an usher at The Royal Court Theatre, as I wanted to have as much experience of theatre as possible (and earn some money!) I got to watch some amazing pieces of incredible new writing, many times over, which really helped keep my mind focused on acting and kept me awake to performing. I’ll never forget all the teachers’ at DSL’s advice to keep yourself attuned and alive to performance, art and creativity after you graduate.
You have to work really hard to stay motivated even when you can’t see what end it’ll come to. However I’ve learned that it’s so important to stay ready and focused, so that when something is thrown at you, you don’t feel totally behind or lost. I’ve tried to keep notes of the funny auditions and situations I’ve been in, mainly during commercial castings, though some of which, for the sake of dignity, I’d rather not remember! But each one of those experiences has helped prepare me a little more for the next thing thrown my way.
Continuing to train is invaluable. I have found the Actors Centre in Covent Garden a really good place to do workshops to keep the skills I learned at DSL fresh. It was actually from a class in American drama where I met the director Lisa Forrell who cast me in a production of The Dark at the Top of the Stairs last autumn, which was a major stepping stone to my being cast as Desdemona in Nick Hytner’s upcoming production of Othello at The National Theatre - a complete and unbelievable dream come true.
As I approach rehearsals and work on the text, I have Pickles’ ‘Verse Acting’ check list by my side, Tessa’s vocal sheets, Brendan’s Shakespeare heartbeats, Illona’s storytelling magic and so many other tips and pointers that I come back to time and time again. I guess what the past two years have shown me is you never really know what’s round the next corner, but if you keep that motivation and belief going then mad, seemingly impossible, things can and do happen.
Chris Pickles is Principal of DSLTessa Wood is Voice Teacher at DSLBrendan Murray is Director of 2 Year Studies, Acting Teacher and Director at DSLIllona Linthwaite is Acting Teacher and Director at DSL