I learnt to ‘pass my test’ at RCSSD, I ‘began to drive’ working with Creation Theatre. – In essence: DO IT!!!!’
In June 2015, I was coming to the end of studying my Applied Theatre degree. I was slightly later to do this than my three year’s younger sister and all of my friends at home. After having begun studying a Primary Teaching degree with Drama as my subject specialism at 19, I came to the very definitive realisation three quarters of the way through, that assessment, marking and teaching maths everyday was really not for me and Drama and Theatre, was, and had always truly been, my passion and what excited me about working with young people. To clarify, I have many friends who are teachers and they are some of the most wonderful, dedicated and hardworking people I know but I knew that to ‘teach’ it is vital to be wholly in it and I just wasn’t. So in 2011 I took the rather scary and risky, but the ultimately, ‘what felt right’ decision to leave my teaching course and apply to my Applied Theatre course in London. I fortunately got my place and began my training in ‘Applied Theatre’ or ‘community based theatre’.
Now, at this point, it may seem like I am digressing as much as Shakespeare does when he’s on one, and, admittedly I am very much known to sometimes waffle on and get carried away (exact case in point with this testimony – Soz about that!), but I can assure you that it is all relevant and there is (pardon the cheesy cliché Hamlet quote!) method in my madness!!
So let’s jump forward three years and return to the bit when I was coming to the end of my degree (finally!!). I felt very conscious and slightly apprehensive about the fact that I was a little bit older now, and many of my friends were beginning to make considerable professional steps forward that felt, (at the time) a million miles away for me in comparison. I did feel a bit of self-initiated pressure and knew I had to hit the ground running as I had a good bit of time to make up for (see, I told you it was relevant!) I was adamantly determined, enthusiastic, bursting with creativity and eager and excited to break free from the bounds of a drama school and begin independently developing my professional identity and ultimately get working in the industry that I love, wholly believe in, and am endlessly inspired by.
As is the status of many pending graduates, I was flat broke, and although I had a strong amount of experience, I was very low on contacts and networks. As a result, and in addition to this, I was coming to terms with the unfavourable ultimatum that I needed to return to Oxford until my finances were back on track to return and survive the deep financial abyss that is London Town. With the impending thoughts of ‘How on Earth am I going to do this?’ and ‘I am NOT giving ANYONE the satisfaction of saying: ‘I told you leaving a reliable teaching degree was a bad idea!’ ’ and the even more naïve and excruciatingly embarrassing: ‘What Theatre-based work even is there in Oxford?!’ I began searching for jobs. As I scrolled through and became more and more disheartened and somewhat intimidated with every job that passed that I was not yet qualified/experienced enough for, finding Creation’s Internship and finding it was in Oxford as well was a huge relief and truly felt like a meant to be moment (cue climactic scene music!).
I walked in nervously, but hopefully, with a mask of confidence and fearlessness oh I got putting that £9000 a year Drama degree tuition fee to immediate use my friend!) to meet Maddy for my interview. As we discussed the intern role, the company, and our shared interest in Theatre and classic text, I Instantly felt at ease and straight away got a real feel and introductory understanding of Creation Theatre, and began to feel excited about the opportunity and prospect that potentially lay ahead of me. All of the rest, I can say now, is history. And, honestly without hesitation, my Internship experience and latterly freelance work with Creation has helped me just an invaluable amount in getting that swift start to my professional career that I needed, and was hoping for. I have made some wonderfully special friends along the way and had the absolute pleasure to teach and direct some innately gifted and creative young performers and theatre-makers.
I remember vividly some advice that was given to me in my last few lectures by a previous student that had come back to speak to us ‘You’d be naïve to expect to walk in to a highly paid job straight after graduating, you need to be prepared to work hard and always value yourself and know your worth.’ I took that mantra on board then, and I still do now, volunteering and interning is always, especially in your early days, so so worth considering and in many ways imperative! Although I was technically not making money (to be blunt and frank about it!), I entirely felt like I was moving forward, which I have discovered is a vital thing to always bear in mind when exploring work opportunities and ideas – play the long game!
I know it goes without saying but truly, I had SO MUCH FUN! Learning new games and being free and silly is, and was, the best, and there are always constant flows of laughter in workshops! I have been able to watch and get inspired by many of Creation’s fabulous and inspiring professional shows, and the link between this and the education programme is extremely exciting! One week of my internship we took our group to assist in the development of a scene for the forthcoming Alice in Wonderland production. I have explored and investigated texts I’d not explored before, and collectively discovered innumerable new things about texts familiar to me, especially during weeks where the focus is to reinvent a text. Crucially I have developed a coherent understanding of the alive and diverse drama and theatre networks there are in Oxford, and been able to expand my contact base and freelance work through the other amazingly talented facilitators.
One of the things I adore and am so inspired by about Creation, is how they create site-specific work. It is a real reflection of my own creative practice and has enabled me to work in spaces that I have never worked in, places such as the North Wall and University Parks. Seeing the young people respond to this is incredible, and as an intern/ facilitator is so exciting because you can wholly manipulate the space you are working with and build its ambiance into the piece you are working on to add even more dimension to it. There are so many now, but an example that captures this really well, as it was the first time I’d experienced it, was one week where we were with a group working on a school’s sight with the text of Lord of the Flies, and the lead facilitator had the children (as the children exploring and running free on the island) running around the balcony of the building we were working in, and then down through the audience. The children’s reaction of “wow, we can actually do this?!’ as we rehearsed was so wonderful and I have yet to see that elsewhere with any other company I have worked for!
And that neatly brings me to what my internship provided for me above anything else. Ultimately it gave me the invaluable opportunity and space to, BUILD MY CONFIDENCE, EXPERIMENT and MAKE MISTAKES, and freely and creatively, challenge myself and develop and enhance my facilitation, directing skills and writing skills, and through this establish my own professional identity. My fondest memory of this was creating and directing an immersive Alice in Wonderland’with a group of teenagers. The A-team of facilitators that you have the pleasure to work alongside are (aside from working with the children and young people) absolutely what makes it. I have learnt and continue to learn a countless amount from them and with them. There is always an organic mentality, and Creation facilitators are always thinking creatively outside the box and moving with the times and constantly on the lookout for new games and creative approaches, and this is something I felt as a new intern that I could contribute.
I know it may sound and seem a bit odd for me to say that ‘I learnt to pass my test’ at RCSSD and I ‘began to drive’ working with Creation Theatre, but I honestly think it is just a textbook and tangible way of capturing what my experience was like and hopefully helps to give a useful insight. The Education stand of Creation Theatre truly emanates a kind, nurturing, positive, and free energy and you will love contributing, working and learning with them!