Arts Sector Advice: Thinking about an acting career?

Date Created: 5th Jul 2019

A photograph of Annabel wearing a red cardigan and gold necklace

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Singing alongside one of the Beatles and portraying the lead role in classic Disney tale ‘Alice in Wonderland’ has equipped Annabel with an inside knowledge, both on what it is truly like to experience the high points of being a stage performer, as well as how to cope with the inevitable lows that any one within the profession will face. 

Annabel joined Artswork in March to begin the role of Head of Education, Skills and Enterprise after previously working as a freelance consultant working on a variety of projects; Coastal Economic plans, tender applications and a purple flag application.

Annabel would like to share her experiences for any young aspiring stage performers looking for a truthful review of the acting world. Read on to hear her exciting story.

From the age of 5, all I wanted to do was become an actor.  I spent many hours “entertaining” my parents’ friends with impressions, particularly Miss Piggy and David Bellamy, and I loved the sense of joy it gave me to see them laugh.

During my school career, I played a variety of roles in school productions and played the children’s roles in amateur shows locally.  I was also a member of Finchley Children’s Music Group, which was a prestigious choir and gave me access to a range of experiences including performing with Covent Garden Opera, London Festival Ballet and Sir Paul McCartney.  When I was around 14, I got to the last two to play the leading role of Flora in Britten’s opera Turn of the Screw with the Dutch National Opera.  I went on to study Drama at Exeter University before going to train at Mountview Theatre School, completing a Post-Graduate Certificate in Acting & Musical Theatre.

Throughout my training, I had had a wealth of leading roles so the biggest shock was to find myself out of work.  I was doing around 10 auditions a week and it was extremely hard to stay positive.  In one audition, the casting director didn’t even look up from the table; in another they said I was too short before I had spoken a word.  About six months later, I secured my first role as Gerda in The Snow Queen.  This was a touring production and very hard work.  We would leave from base each morning at 6am, drive to the first show, do the get-in, perform, do the get-out, drive to the next venue, and repeat, usually getting home about 10pm.  However, I loved every minute of it and it gave me the opportunity to secure an agent.

I went on to play a variety of theatre roles, with a small amount of TV.  About two years later, I played Alice (Alice in Wonderland).  It was during this time that I began to realise that the bit I enjoyed most was the rehearsal process.  This was the chance to play, to be creative – once the show opened and the tour began, it became really quite monotonous – saying the same lines, over and over again each day – 135 times in total!  At the same time, I was starting to realise that I had little control over my own destiny.  I could have a wonderful, leading role one minute –the next I would be back to auditioning and waiting tables and there was very little I could do about it.  So, I made the very painful decision to leave acting behind me.

Many of my friends have come to similar conclusions and have found new careers – and all agree that we use our training and creativity on a daily basis.  However, some have stayed in the business and continue to feel the extreme joy which, I think, you can only experience as a performer as you take an audience on a journey with you.

If you are thinking about acting as a career – my advice would be;

  • Be prepared for it to be a little bit more boring than you think
  • Make sure you train to act, sing and dance (not just one)
  • Make sure you are resilient – and get to love the word NO!
  • Do it because you love the buzz performing gives you – not because you think you will become famous



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