Reflections of a First Year Acting Student – Part I:


Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – BA Acting

 By Harri Pitches

This is the first installment in a serialized account of a First Year BA Acting student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.  It is a first-hand account of the experience of embarking on the rigorous and holistic training offered at that institution and intends to provoke responses from students who undergo such training, or those who teach them.

The First Lesson – 26/09/2016

My introduction to the RCS in the first ‘official’ week of my training has given me a fantastic idea of the kind of actors this institution hopes we will grow to be.  I have already had the pleasure of the revered ‘freshers-week’ meeting and greeting the wonderful people with who I will share the next three years of my life.

Monday morning, we arrive as a cohort of 24, excited and nervous for our first full day. First on the agenda is ‘Critical and Reflective Practice’ (CaRP), in which we will cover both Theatre and Film, learning about the history of performance and its heritage. In this first introduction to CaRP we were informed that Ancient Greek Theatre will be first on our list next week, much to my delight as a self-proclaimed history buff. CaRP’s inclusion on the course as a subject gives the impression that we are going to be trained to be ‘thinking’ actors, aware of the roots of our craft and the implications that history has on performances today, as well as the cultural relevance of plays from eras past and the period in which they were performed. As our first year CaRP tutor put beautifully, ‘Their ceiling is your floor’ – we will learn the rules of theatre from history so that we can break them and build on the theatre of the past. This, to me, is all very exciting – I have always had a deep love of history, and to find that knowing about the history of our craft is considered so important in our freshman year of training gives me a solid impression that we aren’t being trained to be solely actors, but individuals aware of the world around us and how what we do affects it. Provocative stuff.

That said, it was reiterated to us several times that CaRP was not to be considered a ‘history lesson’, more a way to find how we respond to historical events from an actor’s perspective. The subject also has untold practical uses: we’ll gain a better knowledge of how to research properly, vital no doubt in future characterisation work, and the way we’ll explore history is practical itself, taking a play from the era we’re studying and performing short scenes from it and reflecting on these and our reactions to it afterwards.

All the time we were told to think about how it all connects to US, the individual, which really epitomises the feel of the training here at RCS – we are all unique people with an untold multitude of different skills to bring to the table. RCS, it seems, isn’t here to break us down and rebuild us in their own image, but rather take what we can already offer and build on those foundations. In this sense, the ‘ceiling’ of our current experience really is the ‘floor’ of the tutors.

All in all, after just one lesson into my ‘official’ time here, I am already filled with wonder and excitement that we’re going to be actors with a wide view of the world and theatre in all its different contexts. I feel ready. Let’s do this.