Shakespeare

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare : Measure for Measure.

It’s that time of year again. Yep you guessed it. Shakespeare assessments. The two words that makes half of the class leap for joy and the other half want to crawl into a cave and hide. I happen to be on the latter half’s side on this one. To me Shakespeare is like another world – a territory I cautiously tread on. This is because of the expectation of what a Shakespeare performance should be. Or rather what I feel it should be like. A thought I never live up to in my acting when putting it on its feet or rather that I think I don’t. There’s just something about it that puts me on edge. I can’t quite explain it. I feel as though some people are naturals to the art that is Shakespeare and I’m one of the kids that is trying my best to get up to that level.

Despite all this, I actually quite like the work of his that I’ve explored and seen for myself – Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear and The Winters Tale. Probably quite limited next to all you thespians out there but I’m hoping to expand my knowledge of his work in the future. His language and writing is brilliant and I would never want to argue otherwise but I think because of this, it gets me scared into fearing the unknown as it’s not a language I’m comfortable with or used to. I also get scared of how to treat the language and I’m always in doubt as to whether I’m actually treating it and applying the knowledge behind it correctly. But I guess the more I try, the more chances I will get to explore and find the right way naturally on my own making it much more real in every essence.

I think most people get nervous around Shakespeare’s work due to the fact you can’t downplay anything! You’ve got to pay attention to every single little detail and upward inflection in order to fit the requirements of his work and get the recognition you so desperately want. In today’s society we have a tendency to downward inflect and not use all of the language and text of the playwright as well as we should do and partly this can be due to the way it’s written, more so in more recent playwrights, but more so the way we choose to act as an actor. This is something I’ve picked up on in my singing lessons whilst training here at Trinity Laban. My singing teacher, Peter Knapp, always tells me off for not carrying my voice through to the end of the sentence. I tend to start off strong and let my voice weaken towards the end instead of driving the voice through more to the end. The lyrics get lost and this is similar to what not to do when approaching Shakespearian text. But I think knowing this now will help me rectify my mistakes when approaching the text in my lessons.

The one thing I love about exploring Shakespeare is the opportunity to delve into the theoretical side of the craft and this is something I enjoy the most. The theory behind the practice. Now, I guess you could say my main worry is the fear of going wrong or whatever my perception of wrong is. But having found out the play I will be focussing on – ‘As you like it’ I’m excited to see what happens and how to make this character work for me in my own way! Whilst I only have 4 weeks to do this on, give or take, I’m ready to jump in and conquer it. So with that, I bid thee farewell on this present day.

How did I end up here?

So I figured I needed to give you all a bit of a background check on who I am and how I’ve gotten to where I am today. Currently that’s lying in bed feeling nauseous and very sorry for myself but still theatre school is a hard thing to get into and there are thousands of kids out there that stress so much especially when it comes to audition season as I’m sure there were equally thousands more who stressed about getting into their top choice university.

I first started my training at the age of 8 years old at an institution called ‘Stagecoach’ Warrington. For those of you that don’t know what that is it’s a performing arts school that provides training in all three disciplines allowing students to embrace their talents and help nurture and inspire them along the way. After 5 years of training there I definitely left feeling inspired and this was mainly due to the teachers I had there. They all helped me, each in their own way,  have fun and love the craft I’m now, 11 years on, still training in. So if you’re reading this thankyou Liz, Louise, Gemma, Letitia, and various others over the years there.

The really good thing about Stagecoach, being as young as I was, was all the opportunities you had to shine whether it be in the summer schools or for their agency. I remember countless auditions I went to and my first ever job – a voice over for Nickelodeon’s ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’. That was a really fun day being in the studio. During this time I was also doing a lot of panto work.

I will forever love panto and I think it’s such an important part to someone’s stagey life. I’ve got so many memories of my 4 years there with ‘New Pantomime Productions’. To the amazing casts each year and to the friends I got to become acquainted with, the memories are just beautiful. One stand out moment for me was during a showcase we all put on a presentation to the cast where the director would come and it was basically a really fun day to give back to the cast. I had a solo in it and Simon Barry, the director, approached myself and Charlotte and asked us if we’d like to sing in the evening’s performance. After rushing off side of stage for a quick change I was then brought back onto the stage. This was the first real moment I’d ever been mesmerised by the joy I felt being up there about to sing. It was a consolidating moment in my life where I said to myself “Ok George, this is what you’re going to do.” I was blinded by the lights and I felt as though it was me vs the world. For a 10/11-year-old I found it an amazing experience. The people who got me through it were of course the people I like to call my stage moms, the chaperones. One person that will forever have a place in my heart is a woman called Kay Andrew. She was my chaperone almost every year, except one, I think. She’d always be there to cheer us on and look after us and keep the spirits high! She was just an amazing person inside and out! I met such an array of people who were all fantastic to us, they truly were the best years of my life.

I then had a little bit of a break through high school and just got through my GCSE’s. I did study Drama and Dance though. This was when I first got a taste of my passion for dance and this all comes down to who’s teaching you. I happened to have the best little scouse woman I know (Sara Barnes) and I’ll always be grateful for the time she helped me in more ways than just being my dance teacher but someone I considered a friend.

During the latter of my high school years I joined ‘Art in Motion’ run by Ashley Jacobs, someone I first met during my time in panto. This was when I first started studying syllabus work for the first time. It was fun, we had a great laugh and she continuously pushed me to do better. The shows I done there were some of the best dance shows I’ve ever been a part of!! There’s a real sense of family there not only with the students but with the teachers aswell, so thankyou for always welcoming me and helping me progress.

I then went onto studying my a-levels, Dance, Drama, History and Performing Arts eventually narrowing it down to just Drama and Performing Arts in my second year. These two years were a time of growth not only as a person but as an artist so to speak in training. I can not begin to tell you how much I learnt in the two years I spent at Priestley College. Here I made some of the best friends in my life, it was a place we all called home and that’s all down to the staff there. From the endless extra singing lessons to go over songs for auditions to the extra rehearsals they helped out with for dance solos and group pieces, to the countless time spent working on monologues and the unanimous support from all of the performing arts department. They really are a credit to the college. They helped me massively and without them I wouldn’t have gotten into the schools I did. So I’d just like to give a quick thankyou to Sarah, Abbie, Nancy, Helen and Rachel if you ever read this. Know you’ve helped shape me in one way or another.

So then came the dreaded auditions for uni/theatre school where you’re fighting for your place against the next guy who looks just like you and in my case probably has a better range.. atleast than I did during my auditions. My audition process was ok, I’d say. Despite being ill for virtually all of them I somehow mustered on and made the process enjoyable. I auditioned for 7 schools in the end to which I got places at 4 schools. Two of which being The Urdang Academy and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During the spring I received confirmation from Urdang, congratulating me on my place there and inviting me to a funding audition. I thought – great let’s smash this and the day was actually really fun and less daunting than I preempted! Due to the fact of coming from a low-income family after my dad passed away I really was counting on the extra support they could offer. So I really did go for it on that particular day. After declining my places everywhere else I was awaiting my funding results from the academy. Now, I definitely do believe everything happens for a reason and  I am by no means bitter about the experience or what happened, I opened an email one day and found out I was unsuccessful in gaining further funding but I still had my place there! Yes it was heartbreaking and yes I was left feeling a bit blue but like I said everything in life happens for a reason and maybe it just wasn’t my year there. I did however love the school and it reminded me a lot like Fame when I first walked in through the doors, late might I add because of a delayed train. So after declining my options for all my offers I was left debating what to do. I applied for a one year intensive course in musical theatre so atleast I could tell myself I was still training in preparation for auditions the following year, whilst the training there was exceptional in the end I decided to decline one evening because my heart wasn’t in it. Luckily, and this why I do believe in fate, the next morning I received an email from Trinity Laban explaining I had now gained a place on the BA course for musical theatre performance. I screamed the house down that day, everything seemed to be just fitting into place like a little jigsaw puzzle that I called my life. I was beyond happy and now here I am in London ready for term 2 and what it brings.

So I guess you could say it’s been a bit of a bumpy road but I got there eventually. And I have my family most importantly to thank for all of that. Without them none of this would be possible.