A summer of intensive international training
I’m in the Gielgud Theatre at RADA for a showcase. But this isn’t the usual drama school graduate job. No, I’m here for something far headier. This event is part of the first ever European Actors’ Continuing Training (ACT) programme run by the Actors’ Centre and the International Institute of Performing Arts in association with RADA and it marks the end of the programme’s first three weeks before it moves today from London to Paris.
And artistically the results are really quite extraordinary. It will be a long time before I forget the charismatic acting of P....os F...lis, Tunde Makinde, Jeanette Rourke, Laurie Burke and several others in ‘Scenes from new work with a global edge.’ They come from all over the world and most of these actors already have strings of professional credits to their names.
What claims to be the world’s first international certificate in professional development for actors runs for eight weeks with 280 hours of training in London for three weeks from 29 June to 17 July, in Paris for three weeks from today (20 July) until 7 August and then finally in Berlin for two weeks from 10 to 22 August.
The idea is to provide training for working actors who are seeking to broaden their skills, revitalise their careers and gain access to new professional networks. ‘We are proud to be developing an innovative form of international actor training which will pilot a prestigious new professional certificate as well as giving actors a massive career boost,’ says Matthew Lloyd, Artistic Director of the Actors Centre, who has every intention of repeating the programme next year.
The syllabus for the training is 60 per cent focused on advanced skills development and 40 per cent on networking and engaging with new work. The programme features leading specialists in the Meisner Technique and Alexander Technique, in Shakespeare and the European classical tradition, in improvisation and devising new work and in audition technique and casting advice. So participants are really getting all-round top-up training.
The list of visiting tutors reads like a Who’s Who of theatre and includes Natalie Abrahami, Trish Baillie, Cicely Berry, Selina Cadell, Margaret Eginton, Catherine Hubeau, Kelly Hunter, Gemma Jones, Niki Flaks, Muriel Mayette, Ian Rickson, Catherine Salviat, Larry Silverberg, Jeremy Stockwell, Janet Suzman, Patrick Tucker and Scott Williams.
They’re luck to have Matthew Lloyd too. Alongside his role as Artistic Director of the Actors’ Centre he is a pretty prominent theatre director whose latest hit is Duet for One with Juliet Stevenson and Henry Goodman currently playing at the Vaudeville in London’s West End.
Co-directors of the course are writer, director, translator and dramaturg Edward Kemp, the Artistic Director of RADA and Paris-based Aurélia Nolin, Director of the International Institute for the Performing Arts. Nolin is an actress and director who has played leading roles for Eric Rohmer and Gerard Oury, a leading exponent of the Meisner Technique and a pioneer of training that makes good contemporary practice available across geographical borders.
And so back to that showcase. I enjoyed the section of it that I saw, but I think there are lessons to be learned for Lloyd and his colleagues. I was invited and asked to RSVP saying which of three sessions I wanted to attend and told that tickets would be limited. So I chose the first and rang The Actors’ Centre to confirm. ‘Fine’ someone there said. ‘I’ll put you down for the first showing.’ Naturally I assumed from this that there would be three performances of the same material.
In fact this was, in effect, a three-hour showcase with two intervals and Matthew Lloyd clearly wanted people to stay - contrary to the impression given in the invitation. But I had made other work arrangements for the rest of the afternoon and so had to leave having seen only 13 of the 42 actors on the course. It would be useful if, for next year The Actors’ Centre were to sort this out.
There was also a problem with the printed (well, assembled on a computer) programme in which the introduction didn’t quite square up with the list of items and so was hard to follow. I know, of course, that ‘work in progress’ changes continually by definition right up to the last minute, but nonetheless the clarity and accuracy of printed material given to audiences does need to be a priority when you want to be taken seriously by casting directors, agents and reviewers.
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