So, remind me why I’m doing this? Autumn. 2012. Up till now, I was in a pretty good place: twenty-five, living in Manchester (well, a slightly less cosmopolitan suburb of), good home, great friends, earning a not TOO shabby crust as an actor. Now, I’m giving it all up (except being twenty-five, which I’m fairly sure is non-negotiable) to move away and attend drama school to studying acting. And live with teenagers.
Excited? Check. Apprehensive? Slightly bigger check.
Twenty-five is a big year. Moving up an age bracket on the government tick forms, rounding yourself up to thirty (by the laws of basic mathematics), taking stock, perhaps of how your twenties are going and making an effort to right what’s – if not wrong – then not exactly as you’d like it.
It’s been a twisty-turny kind of life. At school, you’d have been forgiven for thinking I’d take the usual route: GCSEs, A-Levels, degree, probably end up teaching.
Something kind of told me things wouldn’t quite work out that way. Long story short, I did college twice, had two abortive degree attempts, worked full time, started my own theatre company (which continues in my absence) and managed to get myself some theatre and TV work. A fact I realised about myself in the process: expected route, not for me. So after a few “false starts” / valuable life experience (delete as per your viewpoint), here I am about to embark on my secret dream since childhood: drama school.
Not the bright lights, not the promise of “stardom”, just the opportunity – the chance, really, to do what I’d always wanted to do. Please don’t misunderstand, bright lights are alluring but the idea of studying the craft of acting is what’s always appealed, even to an overweight eight year old making a twice-yearly pilgrimage to the theatre and pouring over the biographies of the actors later at home. (That was me, if you wondered, not some random unfortunate child I’ve picked on to illustrate my point).
The age thing, as well, comes into play. Although I know many people who’ve come to the profession later in life and thrived, now seems like a legitimate time to go – still young enough to get away with partying, but old enough to appreciate it for what it is and work hard to honour the faith others have that you could “really make a go of this theatre lark” (thanks for the quote, Grandad).
Plus, graduating at twenty-eight means I still have a few years to dream that I may still be cast as an ingénue, if not on stage, then at least in an American sitcom.
What else? Working full-time at my age, buying things, socialising – it’s all very comfortable. Too comfortable. If there’s anything I don’t want to be, it’s predictable. It would be so easy just to carry on this way. But it’s safe – and safe is a no-no, for me. If I want to develop as an artist and keep myself creatively honed, I need to change and throw myself into new things and, yeah, develop my employability and my circle of contacts – no point pretending that isn’t a consideration.
It’s not without it drawbacks. As excited as I am about starting afresh, there’s a level of sadness about what I’m leaving behind. There’s my family, my friends and professionally, there’s my career, my contacts… There’s a definite sense of wistfulness, but it’s overridden by knowing what I have to do next.
Because finally, there’s the certainty. It has to be now. If it isn’t now, I won’t do it. And, seriously, I can’t do another year of working full-time, doing bit-parts on TV and theatre that I love but won’t pay the bills, dreaming about what I’d rather be doing. It’s soul destroying – like I’m Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, missing out on what’s hanging with Hamlet because I’m too busy hovering in the background.
So I’m taking this chance. It’s like the Olympic torch, only I’m not passing it on. I’m grabbing hold and running (okay, jogging – again, thirty in the not-too-distant) to a finish line on the horizon.
Looking back to January from here, getting through the audition feels like it was the easy part. Now I have to prove I deserve this chance, deserve to attend the school I fell in love with – and accept that it kinda liked me too. I’ve done everything I can do here – let’s see if I can do more elsewhere. Stay tuned.
Oh and about those teenage flatmates. Respect to them. No, really. Knowing who I was at eighteen, I couldn’t have done this. I wasn’t ready. I am now.
Image credit: Salihan.