By Harri Pitches
This is the first of two posts that return to the serialised account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). It is a first-hand account of the experience of a student emerging into the industy from three years of sustained actor training.
My final year of training has without question been my favourite. I had a difficult start to the year, battling very poor mental health, which led me to question my worth as an actor and my place in the cohort. Seven months later, I feel like a new man – I know exactly who I am, exactly what I can do, and, while I have not been without disillusionment in my third year, I feel like I am ready to leave The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) as a professional actor in control of their abilities practically and professionally. In this blog entry, I talk about this growth.
This year has been one full of opportunity to develop and hone my professional skills, from showcase, to meeting agents, to auditioning in the latter half of the final year. Personally, I feel that in terms of my professional conduct, I’m pretty good. I feel like I come across well in auditions and interviews; I’m always very polite and open without being disingenuous and labouring. I do feel that this want or perhaps need to be liked comes at the cost of confidence sometimes – I am not naturally a very confrontational person, and I default too often to subservience. It has often been reflected in the characters I’ve played at drama school! This will not serve me well when fighting for jobs or standing out to casting directors, or even as I develop my working relationship with my agent – I need to be more pushy and more ready to say what I want rather than to immediately compromise, or at worst, simply do what others tell me. This is an industry that will take advantage of me if I continue this sort of behaviour.
However, I do feel that my having an agent gives me a great opportunity to start to change this. I have been offered a chance to act with more agency, and will lose out if I don’t start doing this. My training has well prepared me for the working world; particularly the discussions with Casting Directors like Simone Perreira Hind and Laura Donnelley that have made me far more aware of the kind of attitude I need to have in interviews and castings. I of course don’t mean that I now need to be self-absorbed and bratty, but that I need to have a better grasp of my own worth in these situations if I am to be successful. Currently, things are going well – through auditions I have had I am now fortunate to have work set up for the whole summer and will graduate and go straight into a two-month long job in York. I strongly believe that without this ‘go-getting attitude’, I would not be in this position. I am improving in this aspect of the industry, but I know there is a way to go.
The job of an actor is not an easy one, and I feel like I have never been under any illusion as to how difficult it could be. I know that I will not always have work lined up, and so have sought to make myself as castable as possible in order to stay in work for as long as I can. Throughout my training, it has been made abundantly clear to me that the 21st century performer cannot be simply one thing; one must be multi-faceted in order to stay in work. Accordingly, I have developed my skills as a musician in my free time during drama school, and can now play three instruments; ukulele, guitar, and cajon – the latter two to a high standard. Where possible, I have used my talents as a musician in my own devised work, and in productions outside of RCS that I have been in while in training. I feel confident talking about myself as an actor-musician, and believe that this is what I need to be in order to be successful.
I have also used my training to hone my skills as a writer – I wrote a play for On The Verge Festival of New Writing at the Citizens Theatre in second year, and am continuing to write and devise new projects that I am eager to produce. From discussions with graduate actors and through talking with Vanessa Coffey, Professional Practice Lecturer at the RCS, I understand what to do to get my work seen in Scotland. I believe that the RCS has fully prepared me for a portfolio career; I understand that the nature of my work may change, and I may not always be an ‘actor’ in the traditional sense. However, I find that I do not particularly want to be – I feel most at home when I am stretching multiple creative muscles, and think that the challenge of employability will be best tackled by me while I am doing this. I am already seeing the benefits of this – over summer, I am first working as a deviser for a festival, and then as an actor-musician. I am keen to keep developing my skills in these areas, and my ideal career will allow me to do this.
I do worry that I have been at a disadvantage as an English actor training in Scotland, and that this will translate to my professional career. I want to build my career in Scotland and make use of the myriad of connections that training at RCS has allowed me to make, but fear that the Scottish-centric nature of the industry will not let me do this. For example, I have a strong ability for accents and can do plenty of specific Scottish ones. At my recent audition for the Dundee Rep, I was asked to perform specific Scottish accents, but I do not feel like I have been considered for Scottish parts with the same seriousness as a native Scottish person would be. I do however realise that my casting doesn’t exactly scream ‘Scottish.’ Regardless of this, I feel like Glasgow and Scotland is the place I want to be – the theatre scene is very exciting for new and devised work and there are a myriad of roles for multi-faceted performers like myself. I think I would be foolish to have spent three years making connections with acting role-models such as Dan Cameron and Finn den Hertog and not try to build on them. Ultimately, I just want to be comfortable and creatively fulfilled, and I feel like my training has set me up properly to achieve this. I am ready to take the leap of faith… and see what happens next.