Written by Adam Sowter
‘MUM CALLING!’ my phone loudly announces to the world. Bleary eyed I struggle to read the clock - 6.30am! My parents clearly don’t trust me to wake up on time. I try to go about my usual morning routine as if it was like any other day (admittedly with a few alterations e.g. reduced shower singing and a lot of running taps to disguise bodily functions - after all it’s only been a day) but as me and my new housemates assemble in the hall nothing can disguise the fear - this is it!
Yesterday had been terrifying enough. Meeting for the first time people you’ve already committed to live with for the next 12 months is always going to be scary but I needn’t have worried - they’re down to earth, friendly and every bit as petrified as I am.
We set off for school eyeing every passerby with suspicion - could they be a fellow student? Arriving at the gates I begin to feel more relaxed, DSL looks friendly and familiar, just as I remembered from the auditions. Stepping inside we’re greeted with a flurry of excitement. There’s faces everywhere, all looking terrified. We settle ourselves in the Grange Court Theatre awaiting an introductory talk from Chris Pickles (the Principal).
A young lady with a friendly face pops her head round the door - ‘is there an Adam Sowter here?’ I can feel my face turning white. This is it. They’ve realised they made a mistake. I follow her into the corridor. ‘Hi Adam, I’m Nicola’ she says with a smile. The penny drops that this is the Nicola I’ve spoken to countless times on the phone over the past few months. ‘We need a student to write a blog for the website, would you be interested?’ Pheew! With overwhelming relief I gladly accept.
The rest of the day hurtles by. Everyone is exceedingly friendly and the staff are every bit as brilliant and eccentric as I’d hoped. I finally meet the lovely Tamasine who had helped me so much with my financial woes.
It’s all going swimmingly. Why did I ever worry? Then Principal Pickles drops a bombshell - we are each to learn a new monologue for Friday to perform in front of the entire school! Crikey. You can feel the oxygen sucked from the room as 52 students take a collective gasp. Still that’s why we’re here. In at the deep end, after all a year really isn’t that long. By 5.15pm I feel more tired than ever before but my head is buzzing with excitement. A smashing first day.
I wake up late. Evidently my mother’s concern was not unwarranted. At least underwear can be worn inside out and the nearby Starbucks means my lack of lunch preparation doesn’t spell disaster (...mustn’t make a habit of it though). I make it to school on time and the day begins with our first movement class. With two left feet I can’t be the only one feeling a little doubtful when Keith (our Movement Tutor) announces he’ll have us all moving with comfort and confidence. However within the hour he’s choreographed us in a full dance number. We’re all dancing! Proving that a slightly different approach mentally (e.g. actors ‘moving’ as opposed to ‘dancing’) removes the fear and enables us to do it (almost without realising it).
Our second lesson of the day focuses on how we go about getting head-shots taken and when they need to be taken by - so soon! There really is no messing around. As the day continues we have a character class with the wonderful Sonia and round things up with a voice class with the brilliant Dewi. Voice proves to be an utterly fascinating subject. As the actor’s main tool Dewi begins our training by imparting a breathing exercise that we are to practise every day. It becomes clear that to boom like Brian Blessed takes an awful lot of work and doesn’t simply happen over night.
Come 5.15pm it’s apparent that two sensible days in a row is two too many - pub time. Class agrees. Over a beer people start to relax and friendships start to form.
Stage combat. There is a tingle of excitement in the air. This is the one we’ve been waiting for. A legitimate reason to start hitting each other. Phil (the Fight Director) enters the room and the class falls silent. Looking not unlike Steven Seagal it wouldn’t be a huge leap to assume he’d already fought off several villains that morning on his way to class. A friendly twinkle in his eye reveals he’s not without a sense of humour. The next hour is easily the most fun so far. We learn to push, slap and strangle, all the time taking note of the safety and care needed. At the end we are instructed to keep a journal of fight techniques that will be checked at the beginning of each session, should we fail to complete this then the punishment - ‘push ups’!
Start the day with singing class. The boys particularly seem fearful of this. I admit my singing ability is a case of experience over talent. Yes I’ve sung. But any good? Hmm. As the class each tell of their own singing experience it becomes apparent there’s a huge mix - from people who’ve fronted bands through to people for whom singing in the shower is a hazardous experience.
Unfazed by this Sarah teaches us a song and within a short space of time has us singing in four part harmony! The brilliant thing is you can’t tell the experienced from the inexperienced. Everybody really enjoys it. It’s clear that after only a few days our preconceptions of ourselves and our capabilities are being challenged resulting in people discovering talents for and (more importantly) a joy in doing things that they previously would have avoided.
The day of reckoning has arrived. Thursday night had consisted of much hair pulling and panic - ‘do I know my lines? Have I picked the right monologue? Am I going to look like a total tit?’ Walking in to see 52 staring faces doesn’t help either. But from the moment the first performer begins to speak the room is full of positivity and support.
Yes people fluff lines. People muck stuff up. But it doesn’t matter. If anything that’s the point. It’s ok to stand up and make mistakes. We’re here to learn, if we were perfect there’d be little point in us being here at all. Each and every student does themselves proud. My monologue passes in a haze of fear and faces. I honestly don’t know if it was any good. But the ice is broken. When we’ve all finished Principle Pickles smiles and assures us it will never be quite that scary again. At this I feel a rush of emotion. In just one week we’ve all been on a tremendous journey that has set us up for the year ahead. I almost feel a tinge of sadness it’s the weekend already although I am ready for a well earned rest. After the pub of course...