Masterclass at Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

For the past 3 years I have attended many free events with Masterclass at London’s stunning Theatre Royal Haymarket. For any aspiring creative, Masterclass is worth taking a look at. It is free for the under 30s and very inexpensive if you are over 30. They offer a variety of opportunities and events including monthly talks with industry professionals, workshops (a chance to get up on stage and work with industry professionals), apprenticeship schemes, Pitch Your Play (for new playwrights) and free tickets to theatre shows. It’s a great place to be inspired, ask questions and meet other like minded people!

Going through my notes after attending some wonderful Masterclasses at TRH I have found this article which I wrote in 2013. It is my reflection on a hugely helpful Masterclass with actor Stephen Mangan. I would like to share it with you as a taster for what to expect from the fantastic talks which always end with a Q&A session with audience members:

 

15th March, 2013 2.30pm-4.30pm.

I love visiting the Theatre Royal Haymarket. There is something magical about entering such a grand building and experiencing a theatre that is very much alive! It has welcomed so many people and shows through its grand entrance with its weighty, antique wooden doors with gold handles. As well as the shows, it is the history, architecture and rich furnishings inside that make visiting the Theatre Royal Haymarket that extra bit special.

On 14th March, 2013 I saw ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ with its amazing cast, witty script and fantastic direction on the night before Stephen Mangan’s Masterclass. Upon entering the auditorium for a second time on a more informal basis, a different kind of atmosphere was felt, an atmosphere full of excitement and energy. Enthusiastic young actors, all in various stages of their careers filled the auditorium, all eager for the opportunity to ask such an acclaimed actor as Stephen Mangan, questions about the industry. It was clear that most of the audience comprised of actors in the first stages of their careers.

Mangan was so professional, truly inspirational in his demeanour and advice, but also in his comedic interludes which lifted spirits. He was consistent in teaching us the facts of life as an actor and importantly, he stressed the fact that no two successful actors’ journeys have been the same.

Mangan began his talk with an important and logical piece of advice about research. When he was trying to break into the industry he read numerous actor autobiographies, each telling their different stories about how they got to where they are today. ‘Get into fringe theatre’ was his advice. You have to be seen to be heard and fringe theatre gives you the motivation and training needed to partake in professional working theatre. Fringe theatre is also a chance to network and meet people in the industry which is vitally important. This is familiar advice from nearly all industry professionals, ‘it is impossible to succeed in the industry without contacts’. With the technology available today it is easy to promote yourself via social networking sites, websites and blogs, something we should all do, not only to gain contacts and opportunities of work, but also to improve writing and creative skills.

Mangan gave further advice on approaching casting directors. He said ‘be charming, but persistent and have faith’. To have faith in yourself is the key to success. Later in the Masterclass, he stated that we waste so much time worrying about our ability and instead we should just ‘go for it! . . . don’t appear to be desperate, casting directors want you to do well and want to see you. Go in without nerves if at all possible. Go in without expecting and forget about it afterwards.’ We spend so much time worrying and doubting ourselves and our abilities. This was an inspiring speech, encouraging us as artists and human beings to learn to forget about unnecessary doubts which can hinder progress. ‘Be true to your instinct’ and  ‘just go for it!’

Another important point Mangan made, was the feared nightmare prospect of being ‘out of work’. He said we often hear about actors who are ‘resting’ and at some stage every actor needs to think about what to do when out of work. His advice was to ‘keep busy, keep fit, work on speeches, see as much performance as you can, try and be engaged in the art of acting. Ask yourself questions – what is it about a certain performer/performance that you did and didn’t like? ‘These are all key elements, especially keeping fit. It is always good to be prepared for any acting role and an active focus on fitness prepares us both physically and mentally. Keeping active will help us focus on our art no matter what our position of employment is.

The final point Mangan made was to be realistic. You need to concentrate on what you’re doing and your career and try not to compare too much to other actors as this will make you stand out and be yourself. That is always a tricky subject, to be ‘yourself’. How does one be yourself when you aren’t necessarily sure of what ‘yourself’ is? As actors we are constantly trying to find ourselves, to progress, build and flourish. Being yourself is something we will always be trying to achieve, it is always a thought which travels with us through every new career development and opportunity and in the end, defines us as being that all important adjective ‘unique’.

The opportunities which Masterclass offer are amazing. I really can’t rate it enough. If you are interested or working in the performing arts industry, then get yourself signed up! It’s free for the under 30s and is inexpensive to join if you are over 30. For more info and upcoming events have a look at their website www.masterclass.org.uk

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There have been many highlights for me in my Masterclass journey so far, the most recent being a Masterclass with actress Tanya Franks who worked with Masterclass members on stage delivering monologues from Steven Berkoff’s play East. I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to work with her. Keep a look out for my next article with full details of ‘The Berkoff Experience With Tanya Franks at TRH’ on my website. If you would like more details about Masterclass or how to join visit their website at www.masterclass.org.uk and follow them on Facebook @masterclasstrh