From our first mumbled “There’s no room at the inn”, to our greatest oration, we make a thousand mistakes and learn a million lessons. So how do we get there? By practising of course! Performance skills are like any other: with careful and constant training they will improve, but with neglect and apathy they deteriorate. So how exactly do you maintain these skills between performances?

Obviously if you’re lucky enough to be in constant employment this will be less of an issue, as those performance muscles are being regularly flexed in warm-ups, rehearsals and performances. Equally, for those in theatre companies and collectives there is ample opportunity to polish your creative capabilities.

The most popular methods of honing skills will be a variety of courses; from week long to part-time, from masterclasses to workshops or weekly classes. Whilst these are a fantastic means of training, they’re not always cost effective. You can find some fantastic deals through a range of websites, the most notable in my neck of the woods being TheatreBristol.net and South West Acting Courses. The fact of the matter is, while workshops are perfect for introducing you to new methods or brushing up on old ones, they can be quite pricey if you’re just looking to maintain your skills on a daily or weekly basis.

On the other hand, there are a lot of venues (and not just theatres) making rehearsal spaces more available for general use. Mostly I imagine they’re used for rehearsals, R&D, and the aforementioned workshops. But I wondered if many individual artists are making use of them for personal training? Or are there other spaces that individuals can use without paying through the nose? I’m interested to know how other people go about keeping prepared for work in those inevitable stretches between employments that many of us face, without racking up the costs.

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while, in terms of my own practice. It’s all very well doing my research, reading volumes of plays and theoretical books, seeing new and old works and attending the odd workshop within my budget, but we all know that practical training is essential, and rehearsing in your bedroom mirror on your larry just doesn’t cut it! Theatre is a two-way process, so it makes sense to practise in this manner too.

I wondered about finding a partner, a fellow actor with whom to do my stuff, give and receive feedback, and bounce ideas off. But since speaking to a number of the artists who attended The Tobacco Factory and TheatreBristol.net’s ‘Open Space’, it’s become apparent that there are a lot of people looking for similar things: somewhere to practise, people to practise with, and people to advise and guide them in their creative development.

I’m now in talks with various organisations and individuals about establishing an opportunity to facilitate all three of the above, and am intrigued to know what other opportunities are already in existence and what format they take. If you’re part of something similar it would be great to hear all about it. Having looked online, I haven’t really come across anything that specifically caters for this on an artist-led basis, that isn’t within a theatre company and doesn’t involves long term membership payments etc. Perhaps I’m not looking in the right places.

I’m curious to know if people would be interested in group sessions that are purely for practise. If I were to say I had secured a regular space for performance practise, what would you want, need and expect from it? Or are regular classes and workshops all we need? Perhaps your answer will be to tell me to go back to my mirror… All the same, I look forward to hearing how you keep up your skills. After all, we’re all different.

Image by Lin Pernille