“The National Youth Theatre is the reason why I’m an actor. It completely changed my life” - Matt Smith.
Finding out I had got a place with NYT was so significant for me… I knew how tough the competition was and though I had really hoped I would get a place, I was increasingly nervous as 6th May – results day – approached. It had felt a long wait!
NYT auditions all over the country in about 100 venues over several months; my own process started early this year when I first discussed it with Doc Brown, who was really encouraging and supportive as always. She helped me choose my monologue and helped me with coaching leading up to the audition, which for me was a Saturday in March in Manchester…the last weekend before lockdown!
There were about 40 of us at the audition aged between 14 to 25 and it consisted of a three-hour morning workshop with ensemble work, (such as having to anticipate and all fall to the floor at the same time-without talking!) devising, and different group activities, followed by individual interviews in the afternoon where we also performed our monologues with feed-back and direction. It was quite an intense day, but enjoyable; all my work with Doc Brown had helped me to feel confident and everyone was extremely friendly.
Before coming to Shrewsbury School, I had performed in some plays, but most of my experiences had been with musical theatre so the emphasis on drama, at school, was new to me, and it opened up lots of opportunities. I have really enjoyed being involved in the last two junior plays directed by Miss May and the emphasis on ensemble work has been very valuable – NYT stress how they are looking to put together a company, so that ability to work together and in unison is extremely important.
My performance in the school play Under Milk Wood, in particular, provided me with the chance to take on many different roles within one performance and the way we used the stage was an exciting challenge. I also got to work with Doc Brown on ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ which was absolutely brilliant, I loved every minute of that, and then A Matter of Life and Death - again, the level of detail and direction was something I hadn’t experienced before and rehearsals were always fun and something to look forward to. I have also really enjoyed, through all the productions at Shrewsbury, how to view things through a director’s eye, and coming up with interesting concepts to enhance the play.
I thought I would always be the musical theatre girl, but the more I did drama at Shrewsbury, the more I felt I was moving in that direction.
Drama GCSE with Miss May has developed my understanding of characterization and physical theatre which has been vital to help make me a better all- round performer. The opportunity to also participate in group and private dance lessons with Miss Archer has given me a great foundation for the wide use of physical theatre in NYT. Doc Brown has also helped and encouraged me while preparing for my RADA Shakespeare awards, and at that point I felt I was in a place where I was confident enough to give NYT a try.
The final turning point was being cast as Catherine in A View From A Bridge – it was the first time I had played a more mature role and I loved working with that set of people and realizing that as a group of students we could put on something really special.
NYT felt like the next step, and I’m so proud to be joining a group that has Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Derek Jacobi, Colin Firth, Matt Lucas and Catherine Tate amongst so many other amazing ex-students. So now for me I will have an intake course in the summer, via zoom due to circumstances, and I have already been involved in zoom talks with TV and film casting directors, a writer for television, and a director working within the RSC.
In the future, I hope I will be able to attend their residential courses and begin auditioning for NYT productions giving me the opportunity to work with influential creatives within the business.
Thank you, Shrewsbury, for the constant support and encouragement from all members of staff, and my Housemistress who is always so positive and reassuring.