The secret to success in the theatre industry? Create your own work

In Features, Inspiring people, London theatre, Opinion by Susan ElkinLeave a Comment

When you talk to students, drama school staff and recent graduates the words on everyone’s lips these days are “making your own work”. Suddenly, in the last few years, a lot of people have woken up to the idea that being entrepreneurial and collaborating with people whose talents and skills complement yours – as well as keeping busy doing what you love – is a much better option than  passively waiting for your agent to ring. After all, these commitments are flexible. You can dovetail jobs with other companies in if they come your way. It isn’t a case of one or the other.

Many drama Schools now actively teach students how to create work of their own with the European Theatre Arts BA course at Rose Bruford being particularly good at it. Time and again I meet young, active, creative practitioners who’ve formed their own companies. Then I ask them where they trained and I wait for them to tell me it was ETA at Rose Bruford. I’m nearly always right too.

Or take the group of young LAMDA graduates who thought of The Play That Goes Wrong (picgtured) and ran with their idea. Quite a success story.

Another college which is very supportive of student and new graduate work is LIPA which will sometimes even help with small grants to help companies to realise their potential. Last week – for the third time – I saw LAGO theatre in action and they really are a talent to be watched. All LIPA graduates, they named their company after the pub in Liverpool where they used to hatch and mull over ideas.

This time they were at Tristan Bates for a short run with Wine, a two-hander written and directed by the very talented Jack West. An exploration of the way in which a fundamental moral, ethical and social decision can block an otherwise very promising loving relationship, it is both powerful and painful. The quality of the acting – two LIPA graduates – was very high indeed with silence used to moving effect. This lot deserve to go much further and I’m sure they will.

I was touched too by a recent conversation with Steve Green. Steve is the founder director of the training company Fourth Monkey and we were chatting over a cup of tea at the “Monkey House” near Finsbury Park. “Of course I’m pleased if one of my graduates gets a job with the RSC or The Globe but, do you know what? I’m even more pleased if someone says ‘No I’m not signing with an agent because I’m going to make my own work’. That’s what our training prepares them to do”.

In a vibrant, growing but overcrowded industry, which is also swamped with good young people desperate to be part of it, the ability to create work independently has never mattered more.

 

Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin is a former teacher of secondary English. She has also been a very active and eclectic freelance journalist for more than 25 years. She now focuses on education, performing arts and books, and was education and training editor at The Stage newspaper 2015-2016. Susan is the author of over 40 books, mostly on education and performing arts topics, including So You Want to Work in Theatre (Nick Hern Books). In 2016, she launched her personal website susanelkin.co.uk.
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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin is a former teacher of secondary English. She has also been a very active and eclectic freelance journalist for more than 25 years. She now focuses on education, performing arts and books, and was education and training editor at The Stage newspaper 2015-2016. Susan is the author of over 40 books, mostly on education and performing arts topics, including So You Want to Work in Theatre (Nick Hern Books). In 2016, she launched her personal website susanelkin.co.uk.