Archives for posts with tag: Inspiration

Today is “Blue Monday”. For those of you who may not know, “Blue Monday” was a claim made years ago (by a travel company, no less) stating that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year. Scientists have poo-pooed it as a pretty nonsensical idea, but it still grips our negative attention as soon as we are reminded of it. Your mind instantly turns to analysing aspects of your life that could be giving you cause for distress and then that negativity festers. Consequently, and unsurprisingly, it then easily becomes the most depressing day of the year. The ridiculous con/claim to get people to book a holiday has started to carry some weight. I, unknowingly, picked up a mug at work today which had a very apt quote:

“The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” – Buddha

Quite right, Buddha. Quite right. So I thought this would be the opportune moment to talk about some musings on the mind – and our focus on negativity – that I’ve had recently.

We all have inner demons to varying degrees of severity and whilst some are fed by exterior influences, most are self-induced. They can crop up occasionally (y’know, in an audition when your leg starts to shake and they jump into the room to make sure you’re focusing on this phenomenon rather than the task to hand) or they can follow you around daily and chip away at your optimism (y’know, when you’re speaking to hundreds of people about the conservation of birds as a temp job and become increasingly sure you’ll never work again). They are ever present and, despite having the occasional bonus of being the foot up your backside, they generally need to be told to pipe down.

I’m just starting to find the balance between listening to the demons and quashing their efforts when I need to. It’s so easy to become your own worst enemy when you’re looking for work. A wavering confidence in your ability/skills set could easily be your downfall. In these periods of unemployment, it’s all too common for people to spend their time seeking confidence boosts from outside sources. We forget that, actually, we are in the position of power. We can find it for ourselves – we need to be our own cheerleaders*.

*In our minds, mind. I wouldn’t advise going into a full Elle Woods-esque “What You Want” routine every time you’re presented with an opportunity to seize. As much as the thought of us all doing that fills me with joy, it might be better kept in our imaginations.

It’s certainly something that I’ve struggled with. I could really do with a pair of metaphorical pom-poms. I was once told by a choreographer that if it wasn’t for us having worked together previously, I would have talked myself out of being featured in a dance break. It’s that dreaded ol’ “how is your [insert dance/tap/soprano/belt range etc etc etc here]?” question that gets asked in auditions and in the rehearsal room. We’re so terrified of sounding arrogant about our own abilities that we inevitably play them down and are quite likely to lose out as a result. In this example, I made a lucky escape. It’s an easy mistake to make.

Recently, I spotted something in the press called “Just Not Sorry”, a plug-in that alerts people to their use of apologetic language in emails. It’s a trait perceived to hold people back in their careers – especially females. Consequently, there’s been a lot of feminist backlash against the app (“Where’s the Just Not Arrogant and Over-entitled plug-in for men?” – Barbara Ellen, writer for the Observer). However, I think in our industry it’s a trait shared by all – in emails and in person. We’re a (stereo-typically English) apologetic bunch of numptys. We have this weird ingrained thought that self-deprecation will win people over. Sure, being humble and pliant will make you more likable over an egotistical counterpart but will it make a panel think you’re up to the job? It’s all about finding the right balance. We need a Just Not Sorry and Just Not Arrogant mash-up for our minds to counter the efforts of our inner demons telling us to people-please to the point of inadvertent self-harm.

I overcame the biggest hurdle presented by my self-sabotaging  demons right at the end of 2015. A production, with a director I really wanted to work with, sent out an initial breakdown that deemed me wholly inappropriate (high-level actor-musician, preferably string) and I quickly put the idea to bed. However, many weeks later I learned that they were still looking to fill the role and so I threw my demons, my inhibitions and a bit of my shame out of the window and put myself forward – despite playing a woodwind instrument to (what my demons told me was) a questionable ability. I tried my utmost to quash the Negative Nancy in my head and put myself on the line by saying (not in these words, but you get the idea): “This is what I can do. Who knows, it might be what you’re looking for. Ps. sorry sorry thanks for your time sorry”. (Apologetic language in emails is something I’m still working on. I might get the plug-in.) Much to my surprise, they did think that what I had to offer was of use and I got the job.  Huzzah. Ridout 1 – 0 Demons.

Then, in rehearsals, the buggers came back with a vengeance. I really struggled with the idea that I was good enough – despite being there and doing the job. The occasional squeaks from clarinet corner, whilst entertaining for my colleagues, were like a stab in the gut of my self-esteem. I felt like a con artist for quite a while. However, despite it being quite the emotional drain some days, these inner demons were the kick up the bustle I needed and it made me come out of the contract in a much better place. I worked hard to conquer my clarinet fears and, as you’d expect, I got stronger every day. I caught the actor-musician bug so much so that I am currently having flute lessons as well. Thanks, inner demons! It’s important to be able to identify when the negativity is springing you into, what is ultimately, positive actions or whether it’s tripping you up at important hurdles.

It’s not about ignoring negative thoughts. Sometimes they are needed as a devils advocate to help you fully assess a situation or, indeed, light a fire in your belly. So this year I am suggesting listening to your inner demons and trying to recognize when you’re paying them too much attention and standing in your own way as a result. Try to notice what language you use to respond to questions in auditions (eg. the classic trying-to-be-humble “on a good day” when you know you can, every day), make a note of what you say and try to think of alternatives for the next time you’re posed with the same question. Be your own “Just Not Sorry/Arrogant” plug-in and put this positively filtered version of yourself out there for the taking. You never know when what you have to offer might be exactly what they’re looking for. Wouldn’t it be awful if the only person stopping you was you!? We’ve got enough going against us in this industry already. Forget about everyone else. Don’t rain on your own parade. Don’t throw away your shot.

Happy tackling your inner demons!

carol-humbugs-cast-005.jpg

Imagining if I hadn’t been able to wear this costume because of denying my clarinets existence. 

I shall forever be imagining everyone sat in audition rooms giving themselves a personal pep talk to the tune of: “What you want, it’s clear. What you want, right here. What you want is right in front of you, front of you!”

– Rebecca Ridout

 

It’s true. The internet is really, really great for so many things. However, the more time I’ve spent on it recently, the more I’ve come to realize that it’s also really, really awful. The positives and the negatives are seemingly present in equal measure. For every genuine, positive, social interaction through Twitter there’s also a troll. For every pep-filled post on Facebook, there’s sure to be someone taking the piss. It’s because of this that we’ve become people obsessed with the public perception of ourselves. We’re so conscious of attracting unwanted, negative attention that we – quite literally, thanks to Instagram – filter our lives for the sake of others. Or, in some cases, create a whole new avatar/profile in order to express some opinions that you wouldn’t dare share as yourself (I’m looking at you Audition Pianist, Winter Strallen etc…#kisses).

Especially within our industry, we are constantly aware of how others may perceive us. Even though ‘public image’ is a term I would associate with celebrities, it’s becoming something that’s applicable to most with the rise of social media. Ninety percent of the people that I follow on Twitter don’t have private accounts which means that their profiles are open to viewing by anyone and everyone. It’s a public image. It doesn’t matter how active you are on social media (I’m a self-confessed addict), it’s still a public portrayal of yourself. Recently, I’ve become hyper aware of this and censor myself – although that might be hard to believe if you follow me on Twitter! I’ve been incredibly hesitant to post blogs if I’m not 100% happy with them. You should see my drafts folder. I know I don’t make enormous waves but I’ve become incredibly anxious of the reactions that they may receive. Obviously, blogs often open up debate and people have differing opinions. It’s not that kind of reaction I have an opposition to, but rather the negative personal reaction that could come in tow of that. After all, who is this Rebecca Ridout person writing all this stuff about the industry? WHO IS SHE!? It seems to me that negativity makes a much louder noise on the internet than positivity. Therefore, I panic at the thought of making even the smallest of ripples.

Case in point: I tweeted a small (sassy) rant about the result of the general election and made the biggest Twitter impression I will probably ever make. I’m one of the 46,420,413 people that voted in the GE2015 yet my tiny voice still made a bloody ripple.

Twitter

“WHAT IF SOMEONE I WANT TO WORK FOR IS TORY AND NOW HATES ME!?”*

*Probably the stupidest fear ever considering you work in the Arts, Rebecca. But it’s still a thought that ran through my head, a lot.

It’s no wonder we’ve all become our own Public Relations representatives and are only allowing our best bits into the limelight. Such edited excerpts aren’t an accurate portrayal of ourselves, yet we are all increasingly guilty of comparing ourselves to our internet-crazed peers. This industry, undeniably, fuels that comparison fire. We all know people who are regularly thrilled to announce a job (seeeeeriously though guys, what other industry does that!?! I want to know you have a job but I don’t want you to “announce” it to me – that’s reserved for babies/engagements #sorrynotsorry), people who publicize their audition diary so you know when they’ve been seen for that show and that show, and people that tweet, pre-audition, that they’ve already been to the gym (2001 Cathy from the Last Five Years would have been LIVID). But, who am I kidding, we’re never going to convince all those people to change their ways so instead you have to find ways to embrace these traits and keep strong in that favourite Ridout mantra of running your own race.

I recently read the book ‘Happiness by Design’ by Paul Dolan which points out that happiness and misery are contagious. You should do all you can to catch the former and avoid the latter. Basic, but sound, advice. However, choosing the right reference group of people is central to this. Social media has given us flexibility in choosing our peer group (hence all the confused, lefty, Arts folk who were bemused that we didn’t win the election, without realizing that we tend to follow like minded people). Dolan recommends that you prioritize a group of people whose behaviour you want to copy. SO HOLD ON! Don’t do that massive cull of people who commit the above sins just yet – they could be a positive influence on you. You just have to be realistic. You don’t want to look to and hope to copy people’s behaviours if it’s an unobtainable upward comparison – that might make you a whole lot less happy. After all, we can’t all be Cynthia Erivo! It would be silly to compare your career to hers, but she’s pretty damn inspirational so her filling up your news feed with joy is no bad thing. It’s about recognizing the difference between someone who is a tad annoying – because they’re ultimately advertising that they’re in a position you want to be in – and someone who is actually doing you harm with their social media behaviour. Ask yourself “Is this somebody whose voice I need to hear?”*. If you’re leaning towards a ‘no’ then you know what to do. That’s a glorious bit of advice I got from Marie Kondo – the author or ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I love a positive mind book, I do. Can you tell?

*Cue Ridout descending into sheer panic at the thought that people might read that and think “well I bloody well don’t need to hear yours, love”. Please like me, Internet!

My personal advice on this subject would be to just take everything you see online with a big-ass pinch of salt. People are, naturally, hiding their demons offline so it’s not worth even beginning to compare yourself to their selected showings. Try to soak up the positivity they put out into the realms of the internet and reflect the bits that you can. Plus, don’t forget that your Facebook-savvy Gran is looking to your updates for a glimpse into your well-being. Your posts – even if only your selected ‘best bits’ – make the people who love you smile. So keep at it and when you’re brave, maybe post something a bit more vulnerable and truthful. Don’t be scared to show both sides of yourself. This is my first step towards stopping the social media censor. After months of hesitating, I finally wrote another blog that will be out there for the internet to judge. Take that, comfort zone! I’ll leave you with my favourite quote ever. Heed this advice:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” – Dr. Seuss

Thanks, Dr. Seuss! You’re so right.

Happy social media lovin’!

Note: The photo below has been posted on my Facebook page. I was having a lavely old time with my friends on a Sunday for my birthday. The following day I was back at work in a call centre. Unless I was to #LiveTweet my life, I think it’s okay to be a bit selective.

I'm gonna use #blessed - but it's totally ironic.

I’m gonna use #blessed – but it’s totally ironic.

“Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet….HOORAY!”

– Rebecca Ridout

I’ve been listening to Joe Stilgoe’s album ‘New Songs for Old Souls’ on repeat* this week but there’s one lyric in particular that keeps on jumping out at me and it got me thinking – with a theatrical spin of course. In his track ‘Roll’ he says that “youth is wasted on the young” and even at my tender age I often wish I could go back and squeeze more out of my youth. I know, I know, some of you may be mentally (quite vigorously) shaking me right now saying “YOU ARE STILL YOUNG, WOMAN!” but I’m talking childhood/teenage years here. Youth is definitely something we all take for granted. It’s the ultimate never-knowing-how-good-you-had-it-until-it-was-gone scenario. Childhood was the best wasn’t it!?

*I seriously mean on repeat. I listened to it all the way home from work and I’m still listening to it. I just danced to my kettle, danced whilst making a cuppa and danced back to my laptop. I defy you to resist the jazzy goodness of that album. Please note: I’m not being paid to advertise it. It’s just that good.Trust me, you need it in your life.

Childhood is something we grow envious of with age. We get nostalgic for those carefree times and ultimately start resenting the present with all of it’s real-life, real-time problems. Having recently fallen back into the joys of actors funemloyment it would have been so easy for me to feel that way. However, I consider myself very lucky to have just spent the last 5 months working alongside endlessly energetic, lovely, talented kids. They’ve put a spring in my step that I can’t seem to shake. Seeing kids do the same job as you (or doing much more that you in the case of the Von Trapps vs. Nuns) but miraculously never tiring and loving every second is infectious. They were a burst of inspiration daily – both before the show and during. Granted, my track in the show had very little cross-over with the Von Trapp gang but as a consequence one of my favourite parts of the show was the party. Whilst Maria and the Captain were Landler-ing their way into eachothers hearts we’d all be out on the terrace and the kids would lift spirits and always make me crack a smile (perhaps because they named me and my hubby the very appropriate names of Colin & Shaniqua…). They never suffered on matinee days, they don’t want it to be Saturday because that means they won’t get to do it the day after and they live for every second. That’s how, when as kids we decided we wanted to become actors, we always thought we would feel and it’s exactly how we should be. I feel very lucky to have had that drilled into me by three teams of exceptional youngsters leaving me with enough mojo to keep me going until 2017 at the very least.

However, I understand that orchestrating being cast in a show with kids perhaps isn’t the easiest way to give your spirits a lift. Luckily, I’ve found something that is equal – if not better – soup for the stage-driven soul.*

*side note: if you haven’t read any of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ books you really should. They’re just that.

Instead of working alongside them, you just need to go and watch talented youngsters absolutely smashing a professional production out of the park. It will either inspire you or give you a good kick up the bum (“they can do THAT and they’re HOW OLD!?”) but either way you’ll feel better for it and you’ll want to get up and get at it.

You could go and see Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (unfortunately you’ve just missed The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and the hauntingly good performances from the girls in The Nether) but there’s one show in particular that, in my opinion, is guaranteed to revive your childhood spirit. You need to go and see Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about kids pretending to be mobsters that just tickles my funny bone beyond belief. I’m pretty sure that I grinned from ear to ear from start to finish. Firstly, it is ridiculously heart warming (sure there’s gang warfare but it’s ANGEL DELIGHT) and they resolve to all get along and give out love on the understanding that it will all come back around. Yes, yes and more yes to that you mini mobsters you. Add to that the most talented group of kids (nay, I could even say cast – you won’t believe the calibre until you see it) I have ever seen and you’ve got a surefire, life-affirming, energy-inducing hit. You’ll be propelled from your seat (initially for a standing ovation, then) with your new found enthusiasm for life and the industry.

I know that’s high praise and a lot of hype from Ridout over here, but I really don’t think it’s out of place. Those kids (and kidults in the cast) will astound you and they’ll make you believe, all over again, that you can be anything that you want to be.

“Think about it, says cast member Isaac Gryn, 16: “We all stand there singing to the adults in the audience: ‘You don’t have to sit around complaining ’bout the way your life has wound up.’” It’s a call to arms – just as long as they only shoot Angel Delight” – from Matt Trueman’s article, The Guardian

Remember, the creative adult is the child who survived.

Happy recapturing your youth and, if you know what’s good for you, watching Bugsy Malone!

Baby Rids thinking she could be anything that she wanted to be.

Baby Rids thinking she could be anything that she wanted to be.

“I won’t take no for an answer, I was born to be a dancer”

– Rebecca Ridout

Last year I posted a blog (‘No more questions, please…’) about the fear of being asked “what’s next?” as an actor. At the time it didn’t even occur to me that I was in the best possible position to be answering that question. I was a recent graduate (who am I kidding? I still am) and didn’t have the added pressure from previous successes begging the question of how long it would be before the next. It’s become increasingly clear to me – through working with some incredible people –  that after each successful stint you have as an actor many people expect that something else will automatically follow. The questions people ask you change from a vague “what are you up to at the moment?” to “what have you got coming up next?” (sometimes with an added time frame) and I  have started to put a huge amount of pressure on each step I take in the industry as a consequence. For instance, it has taken me weeks to write this post and writing isn’t even my profession! I found that the ‘pressure to please’ following the success (more readers than I could have imagined) of my last post ground me to a halt on what was to follow. If “what’s next?” had me shying away from writing, can you imagine the amount of ‘pressure to please’ I feel when the “what’s next?” is to do with my career? I’m sure many of you can.

To add to that pressure of instant success, there are many other pressures that I know people can relate to. At the moment I’m struggling with the fact that, in an industry as small as this one (there’s only one degree of separation instead of the usual six,) it’s impossible to not be connected in some way to the people up for the same job as you. When you’ve already built yourself up for having to succeed at that next audition, a la the opening of A Chorus Line, you then add to the pressure pot by directly comparing yourself to people you know in the room. “They know so-and-so…”, “They’ve got ____ on their CV already…”, “They’ve done a West End show. Kill me now” when really this might not be the right show for them at the right time but you’ve stuffed up your chances by psyching yourself out before you’ve even started. It’s a vicious circle of ‘not worked, wont work’ that I know many of my graduate friends are in. But there are also people who’ve been there, done it, got the cast sweatshirt and are out there looking for the next job (which people are expecting them to automatically get) who are just as in need as you are. That’s why you have to remind yourself that (*CHEESY METAPHOR KLAXON*) we’re all running the same race just at different paces and with different goals in sight.

In case you’re one of the people that read the last post and are thinking “hold up, Ridout, you’ve used that one before” it’s because I had previously aimed that cheesy metaphor (I do love a good metaphor) at people wanting to audition for drama schools but I believe that the same thinking can, and should, be applied to life on the other side of training.  If anything, training is only the starting line and you’ve got a whole marathon ahead of you to pace yourself for. In addition, like in any race, it is hard to take your eyes off the people running past you and focus solely on what you have to do. It’s easy to want to give up or to expect someone else (eg. your agent) to push you along but you have to do it for yourself – cheering crowds or no cheering crowds. I’ve certainly needed reminding of that in recent weeks and I hope that it strikes a chord with people in a similar situation.

Now that the cheesy metaphor and soppy bit is out of the way, I want to be able to share with you some stories of people at different stages in the race (okay, the metaphor isn’t over, I lied) so that hopefully you’ll feel comforted that you aren’t alone. To put some of these stories in perspective, I asked some friends of mine to tell me a bit about their experience in the industry so far and if they had any advice they’d like to give. In amongst the answers there are people who waited years for a West End debut, people who walked straight into professional work, an Olivier award winner, a National Theatre original cast member and people who are still running towards these measures of success that people (or, indeed, they themselves) put on them. They’re all doing what they love though. I say they’re successful before you even begin to read what else they have to say.

On running your own race…

No. 1 (guess who)

I graduated, signed with an agent and went away with the National Youth Music Theatre to work on their production of ‘West Side Story’ over summer. Somehow, I thought that was me set (clearly because I was playing the ever hopeful ‘Somewhere Girl’). I then didn’t work until Christmas. I did a revue show at the Jermyn Street Theatre and have since been very lucky to be swing in Molly Wobbly. No, I didn’t get seen this year for the show that I  had always intended to jump straight into but, do you know what?, that’s showbiz…kid. And by that I mean that everything happens for a reason. I’ve worked with some amazing people and I’ve kept my passion, that’s the most important thing. I’m in it for the long haul. 

No.2

I don’t know why we do this. We just don’t know whats round the corner do we? Even when we are lucky enough to be rewarded with a West End contract it can quite easily be ripped out from under us.  I mean, look at We Will Rock You and The Full Monty. It’s happened to me, I was making my West End debut and we were given our notice 5 months before our contract was due to end. At the time I was devastated. I’d have stayed in that show until they kicked me out. But looking back, it paved the way for the rest of my career. If I’d have stayed in that show I wouldn’t have got my next West End show. This was certainly a high point in my career, an original cast of a high profile show. I stayed in that company for 2 years and had a truly wonderful time. I was then out of work for 8 months. This was the lowest part of my career by far. Sometimes not getting recalls, sometimes not even getting seen for stuff. I recall auditioning and getting to the finals for the tour of Guys and Dolls, I’d convinced myself I’d got it. I’d looked up the tour venues, I’d practically spent my first few weeks pay checks. I can also unfortunately remember word for word the telephone conversation when my agent called to say “It wasn’t going to work out”…. I was stunned. I actually cried, TO MY AGENT. But yet again fate led a hand and within a few weeks I got my next West End job which has led on to other jobs since. I believe that things happen for a reason.

No.3

I remember being offered a Christmas show at the Tabard Theatre one year. I spoke to my agent who told me about the money, which wasn’t bad for a fringe venue. I could probably pay my rent but not much else so after careful consideration, I called my agent back to say I couldn’t afford to do it. I said I could earn more doing my reception job than the play, to which he replied, “But you’re not a receptionist, you’re an actor”. That was a lightbulb moment for me.

Of course the thing I wanted most was to work in the West End. I wanted to experience the community and live in London for more than a few months without going off on tour. But the longer I waited the more I started to give up on it. The prestige of it seemed unachievable. I felt like I was the boy who would always tour and do regional theatre, not quite good enough to do West End. At my lowest point out of work, a period of about 2 years, I was blaming everything and everyone. Then I thought to myself, ‘Oh fuck, it’s me’. I literally changed my whole demeanour. I was active. I changed agent, I quit my job that was taking over my life just so I could pay my bills and took a more part time position. I made more time to go to theatre, I started hanging out with theatre people I hadn’t seen in a while. But mainly I said YES to everything. It took me 7 years to finally land a job ‘in town’. I didn’t strive for it by then, it didn’t covet it as much as when I came out of drama school. But the sense of achievement was great. You know, the way your parents can say, “Oh, my son is an actor in the West End”. If I’m honest, I much prefer regional theatre than any other kind but I had to experience West End. I’m very lucky to have done so.

 No. 4

However much people wish to acknowledge it, pressure to rate yourself amongst the success of your graduating class is intense! This industry is competitive and solitary, fuelled by news and gossip. I’ve spent too many hours trying to analyse the success of others and apply myself to their given set of circumstances. ‘Who got what agent’, ‘oh… they got to that final’, ‘I never thought they’d get that’, ‘they were always gonna do well’. This way of thinking primarily comes from fear. Fear of not getting what this dream offered you when you first signed up. You can’t control the success of others, nor what those people on the panel are going to think about you, so why bother to think about it. The only controllable factor in all of this, is you. You look, sing, dance, act the way YOU do. I’m a big believer of acknowledging what I have to offer and staying true to that.

I’ve had a decent run since college. I got my first job before graduating. I’ve gone from literally thinking the sun shines out of my back side, to trawling through items to possibly sell on eBay. Which brings me to another key point. This is a money making business and every job will have its last performance. And I cherish the times in which I’ve been metaphorically burnt by this business as highly as I do the times in which it’s brought me acclaim. Why? – the lessons.

No. 5

When I graduated I did the fringe circuit – profit shares and unpaid work – and I learnt very quickly that it’s a difficult world and it provides no living! However, one of the greatest step ups was when a production I was in, unpaid, had a paid transfer and it was the right show for me to showcase myself – casting directors knew me for it for a while. I have since slipped out the loop mind and most work has been through recommendation and I’ve had some amazing opportunities and diverse characters to play. I used to want to jump into the National or the Donmar, but the more I’ve worked the more I have appreciated actually getting the opportunity to play. That is exactly what I’m doing and making a living from it. I’ve got my whole life to work at the National, whats the rush? All I want now is to be creative, learn, make  a living and meet amazing people.

No. 6

Having graduated from Drama School last year I was in the lucky position of moving straight into acting work. Rehearsing and performing in my first professional show was fantastic and I loved every minute, although in retrospect, and using the wonderful power that is hindsight, I can see I probably didn’t appreciate quite how lucky I was at the time!  After performing and touring for 5 months, the first job finished and I began the process of moving my life into London. My first experience of moving, was the sudden realisation of how poor I was going to be. And it is completely true what they say – that we do this job for the love of it, not for the money. And certainly not for the terrible jobs actors find themselves doing between jobs. Since graduating I have answered telephones, made cold calls, poured drinks and served food all over London and that is only a few months! I can’t say I have much experience living this life yet but I can say that doing all these terrible jobs will be worth it for when you nail that one audition and get the acting job you want. I read an article recently In the stage about acting being the “long game” and I firmly believe this is true, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first!

No. 7

After drama school I had 18 months agent-less & miserable. I did do 2 small jobs – a musical in Pontefract & then an unpaid musical at The Union (from which I signed with an agent). I took a full time job with Halifax on their phones, but then landed the BIG ONE – the West End contract that was the game changer. I had massive success, and then afterwards… For about 12 months, not much at all. Things have been steady since and I’ve ticked some things off my list. But everyone told me I’d be a superstar by now… But I’m not. Depends on so many things! (And depends on what you class as ‘superstardom’) I do believe a little bit in what will be will be and that we all have a path to tread, but that you also have to go out and make it happen. My 30th birthday is getting closer and I can say now, that life is about so much more than just booking the next job. I am a very happy lady (and Mama); still performing, and loving it.


When I first told people that I wanted to work in Musical Theatre I was told by my choirmaster (yes, my choirmaster) that a girl who attended the choir before me went into the industry and spent 5 years waiting for her big break. She may have waited 5 years but she did it, she got there, and is now doing famously well – and I mean famously (I’ve kept everyone else anonymous so I’ll keep this one anonymous too, even though it might be killing you). Since knowing that I’ve been determined to wait as long as it takes to do what I love but, sometimes, I need to remind myself of that when my self-belief starts to slip. Knowing that my friends have, and are, going through the same thing as me makes the rejections, the auditions and the waitressing in between jobs so much easier to handle. But not everyone likes to admit they are struggling (understandably) so I hope that in putting this out into the world some people gain some of that comfort they are otherwise scared to seek.

One last addition to the metaphor (I know, I’m sorry): ‘The Wall’. In a Marathon, runners attest to the existence of an invisible obstacle which makes you body and your mind want to give up near the end of the race. Many people experience it but it doesn’t have to be there at all. Research has shown that if you train and race intelligently you may cross the finish line without ever having to “hit the wall”. You need to find your pace and your target and stick to it. Apply that to your career and I think you’re onto a winner. Happy running your own race!

“My friends you have to run run-a, run-a, run freedom, run away!”

– Rebecca Ridout

Three days ago I was sat in a coffee shop comforting my friend following his unsuccessful drama school audition. He was keen to hear any advice that I had to offer him and my obvious response was “everything happens for a reason”. I did have to laugh at myself though as three years ago, when it was me in his place, I wanted to scream every time I heard someone say “everything happens for a reason”. It’s the last thing you want to hear when you feel like your reason for living* is being thrown back in your overly-enthusiastic full-out-performance face. But it’s now a phrase I find myself using daily and it’s probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt in my three years of drama school training – and I learnt it the hard way.

*cheesy phrases like this appeared in my personal statements c. 2010-11 – isn’t hindsight the best?

I am probably the most confusing drama school graduate you are likely to meet. The usual audition small talk of “where did you train?” is instantly regretted by the questioner when (where normally a 3-5 word answer would suffice) I answer with a short monologue. In brief: I trained part-time for a year at Arts Educational, full-time for a year at the Guildford School of Acting and finished with the most intensive one year imaginable at the London School of Musical Theatre. If you’d told me three years ago that that was what was in store for me I probably would have responded: “don’t be ridiculous, I’m not even going to get into one school” or “THREE SCHOOLS!?” and fainted shortly after. It certainly wasn’t what I had intended to do. I envisioned getting a BA at a CDS (Conference of Drama Schools) accredited institution and failing that I would have followed my ‘back-up’ plan and read Economics at university. The path I took, whilst rewarding in numerous ways, was also incredibly testing. I had three years of  ‘no’s (from schools that I was incredibly emotionally invested in) with the odd ‘yes’ thrown in to keep me biting. That’s what gave me my thick skin and my understanding of the phrase “everything happens for a reason” and now, sitting here as a graduate, I am proud of my pick ‘n’ mix path into the industry.

I was once told that training can be thought of like a necklace and you can only fit on so many pearls of wisdom – you have to pick which pearls work for you to make the perfect, individual necklace.

(I’ve also been told to think of training like a buffet but that is far less glamorous.)

Where am I going with all of this? Well, another advantage of my three years, three schools and numerous auditions is that I have met a lot of lovely people who’ve gone down alternative paths to get into the industry. So I’ve rallied the troops and have asked people from various training (or not training at all) backgrounds about their experiences and whether they were glad it happened for them the way that it did.

NB: This post is aimed at people auditioning (or wanting to audition) for drama school/professional work in the future but I do hope it is of interest even if you don’t fall into that bracket of reader. I won’t blame you if you don’t read the whole thing though. Feel free to skip ahead.

Path No. 1: ‘The one where they get into drama school first try…’

“I was lucky enough to get into my first choice of college straight from sixth-form. On reflection,  a gap year would have been nice to break up the courses and it would have given me different experiences prior to training. That said though, it’s an opportunity you can’t turn down. I was very much still in that educational mind set. My technique in acting, singing and dance had a solid base to work from and my fitness was at an optimum level to start training. I was grateful for getting in the first time because I knew other people who wanted it as much as I did, but were not as lucky in their first year auditioning. This spurred me on to work hard and value the opportunity I’d been given.”

Path. 2: ‘The one where they get into drama school first try but have to take a gap year…’

“It was actually a god send that I didn’t go to drama school when I was supposed to (I had to postpone due to funding) as it made me want it even more. I grew to love my passion all over again, when you have a knock back in your career you tend to have second thoughts, but working a normal 9 to 5 (I sang the opening to 9 to 5 the musical in my head when I wrote this) makes you realise that stacking shelves and selling TVS in Currys  is definitely not the life you want to lead. Although, the main reason I’m glad I had my year out is because I wouldn’t have met the people I now call my second family who I couldn’t live without. Fate is a strange thing. Everything happens for a reason.”

Path No. 3: ‘The one where they get put on the reserve list…’

“My situation wasn’t that easy at all. I was on reserve and was all set with my plans for a year out so when I got offered a place I was going to turn it down! So after the most confusing two days of my life I accepted. But because of all of the drama (and tears shed), I was hardly excited by the prospect of drama school, if anything in that first week I felt it had ruined my life…little did I know it would actually make my life! When I got my reserve letter, my singing teacher sang the line “some things are meant to be” from Little Women…this didn’t help, I was so upset. But he was right, ultimately everything happens for a reason.”

Path No. 4: ‘The one where they do a foundation course and then get in…’

“My foundation year enabled me to grow as a human being as well as a performer and afterwards, suddenly, somehow, I was grown up. I moved away from home, I trained in musical theatre all day every day and did that for the absolute love of the craft. Also, there’s a camaraderie you don’t get anywhere else and in such an intense environment, having friends do it with you is the best thing you can find. The year of training is also guilt-free – the pressure is auditioning and you get a heap of training in that department that you carry through the rest of your life – auditions are auditions, after all – and actually, subconsciously the displacement of pressure allows you to fly as a performer. You can do all you want to further your training without it being ‘the only training you’re going to get…’ On a foundation, it is yours. I would recommend a foundation year before drama school to anyone and everyone. I know my foundation year was the reason I got into drama school. That’s what worked for me.”

Path No. 5: ‘The one where they take a year out and try again…’

“When I got my rejection letters in the first year from auditioning I was distraught and it was only after I got my written feedback from some colleges that I realised just how much I had to alter about my preparation and presentation. I didn’t go on a course in my year out but I was lucky enough to have a great set of friends and teachers around me that offered honest guidance towards reaching perfect and solid performances. In hindsight, a year out was ideal. It meant that I could grow as a performer and save some money to help out with the fees! I was so grateful going into my course that bit older than most of my year as I knew that it was what I wanted to do and I felt really focused on the things I wanted to achieve!”

Path No. 6: ‘The one where they get in “third time lucky”…’

“I feel like my path to training has formed the performer I am even more than the actual training itself in some ways. If it weren’t for the 2 years of solid rejections then I would never have been so incredibly sure that this is the only thing I want to spend my life doing. It meant that I had the hardest times before my training even began, which made putting the pressure and intensity of drama school into perspective that bit easier. I sometimes feel like my appreciation of where I am it is on a different level compared to people coming straight from college. I also made some friends for life on our foundation course whom I would never have bonded with had I gone straight to my current drama school. If I could go back and do it all again I would do it the same, except I wouldn’t take myself so seriously and I would have had much more fun right from the start!”

Path No. 7: ‘The one where they go to a small performing arts school to get a performance degree…’

“I trained at a school which isn’t CDS accredited but you do get your BA (Hons) degree in Acting in 2 years. I could have gone to a well known school in order to get the recognition in the industry but  I could always do a masters somewhere later if I feel the need. I’ve learnt that you can build your CV and can have success no matter what school you go to.. Going to my school pushed me to work harder for myself as we were responsible for doing everything ourselves – writing to agents, sourcing costumes for shows, tech-ing shows, building sets etc… I’ve realised now that success and constant work doesn’t come from the name of the school, it comes from the amount of effort you put into the training. You only get out of it what you put in.”

Path No. 8: ‘The one where they go to university, get a degree and go to drama school for a post-grad…’

“I spent half of my time at University (whilst studying Geography) at dance classes, directing shows, acting in shows and singing such that when I got to my final year I was sure that there was nothing else that I wanted to do other than be an actor. That is when I decided to audition for drama school. As my course leader says it is possible to fit the training into one year as long as students are able to ‘burn the boat’ – you need to put the fact that you have a degree to ‘fall back on’ out of your mind. When you have something to fall back on you inevitably fall back – this often feels like the biggest hurdle of the process. Ultimately though being successful is about so much more than talent and I think as a postgraduate I can really use my experiences pre drama school to my advantage. Doing my degree is something completely different was still the right choice for me.”

Path No. 9: ‘The one where they didn’t train and went straight into the industry…”

“The first two years in this industry were the hardest for me. I had a plan to go to drama school and even got onto a musical theatre course but decided to take a job instead. I realise my successful start is rare and for a long time I felt a big hole where I felt my training should have been. I felt I couldn’t make any mistakes on a job because it would be recorded for all time by those who would decide future employment. That pressure wasn’t something I had thought about. However, as time went on I grew to appreciate the individuality I seemed to have developed that set me apart from others. Directors would ask where I had trained at auditions and would always be impressed by my perseverance and grounded attitude. If you don’t go to drama school you have to be prepared to put in the effort and access every resource you can and make up your own mind. I never let a month go by without a singing lesson or acting workshop. It’s part of the training you create for yourself. The pay offs to being your own boss and creator are incredible but there is much more chance of loss and heartache along the way. Whenever I am hit with a knock back that really makes me question my right to work in the industry I remind myself that we never stop learning. I don’t consider myself an untrained actor. I consider myself an actor that hasn’t undergone full time training…yet. I might still train full time one day. The moment you decide your dream is to work as a performer, you are one. Do what it takes to make yourself feel the part.”

Life’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t spend your time watching people run past you and letting that affect you – you could take them over again down the line. Just focus on your route and run your own race.

I hope that this is what all of these people’s experiences demonstrate – there is not one clear route into the industry and yours is what was/is meant for you. I had more replies and more people willing to share their stories with me and it’s such a shame I can’t include all of them because each one is individual and each one is inspiring. I wish these stories had been available to me, sat despondently in a cafe, three years ago. That is exactly why I wanted to share them now – for all those performers of the future who just need a little lift to get them through (as one of my friends brilliantly put) the bloodthirsty, incredibly pressurised and incredibly exciting arena of drama school auditions.

Throughout my training I kept log books and can now look back and read my (sometimes cringe-worthy) thoughts and track the changes in my mindset. Whilst flicking through them yesterday it surprised to see me that the biggest lesson I learnt (which I thought took me years to get my head round) appeared relatively early on in my musings. I titled an entry ‘Dooms Day’ (Dramatic? Me?) following a rejection that day and the very next entry was called “Contemplation”. In the middle of that page in big, fat, eagerly highlighted letters were the words “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON”! I truly believe that now and I hope that if you were skeptical before you may have been won round by some of these people’s stories. I certainly wouldn’t change my story for anything or anyone (too many re-writes for a start) and if you’re doubtful about yours at the moment, know that in a few years you’ll be thankful for the hurdles you’ve had along the way. Just try to be happy running your own race.

If you are auditioning (or thinking of auditioning) soon please feel free to ask me any burning questions that this post may have prompted. I’ll try to help out as best I can. After all, “When in doubt, ask Ridout” was the original inspiration for this blog!

Happy auditioning!

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Last day with my Arts Ed flatmates.

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First day of GSA: goals for the end of the year.

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Last day at GSA.

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Last day at LSMT.

“Just because you find that life’s not fair it doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it, if you always take it on the chin and wear it nothing will change. Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you musn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you. If you sit around and let it get on top, you might as well be saying you think that it’s okay and that’s not right. And if it’s not right you have to put it right…”

– Rebecca Ridout