Everything you’ll only understand if you’re a Theatre student

The highs, the lows,and obviously the tears

Ah, Theatre. Whoever thought of taking something from a novel, biography, song, dream, idea and thought “Let’s make this into something physical and charge people to come watch it.” And someone did and here us Theatre students are.

The first thing to confirm is that Theatre isn’t a subject – it’s a lifestyle. If your passion for Theatre is real, you live, breathe and think Theatre. You spend your spare time making theatre whether that be for an exam, or just for fun. You adore making it.

You love the stress, the worry, the anxiety and above all, the thrill. I’ve had my fair share of these emotions and they usually occur within one dress rehearsal.

A production of the Alan Ayckbourn comedy.

Devising or script?

Either way, it’s hell. If you’re working in a group without a director, choosing what you want to make theatre on can be your first brick wall of the process and you haven’t even stood up yet.

The problem faced when working in a group, is if you all have this burning passion for theatre, there are so many ideas or thoughts about what you want to create flying around its very difficult to decide. Usually as a group you stumble across a theme/script/idea you all are knowledgeable about and are excited to do.

However, be aware of the one member who won’t be happy and will reluctantly go along with it for a while before realising what a fantastic piece it’ll turn out to be.

A cast read through of a recent production of "Mermaid"

Going to the theatre

Sadly, by being called to the brotherhood of Theatre, you will never experience the theatre the same. If you go with a loved one or friend who doesn’t share your passion, they may want to hit you by the time the play has finished.

As a Theatre student, you go to the theatre and comment upon absolutely everything: what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you’d have done, what you think the director’s dramatic intention was behind it, why did they do it like that? If you’re a techie, you will similarly be either in fury or admiration at the lights, sound, set, costume etc.

If you go with your Theatre friends, you can sit and discuss the piece for hours on end, bringing the wine out and debating and discussing. If you go with your other friends, they’ll tell you to shut up as they don’t care and enjoyed it because of the narrative. Pfft, amateurs.

Evie Appleson as Feste, in a production of Twelfth Night

The painful process

This is equally as stressful as coming up with an idea. The creative heads come on and actors begin throwing themselves around, engaging in devising strategies, doing stupid voices and having fun.

The most rewarding part of a creative process is doing something spontaneously and giving each other the “actors look” which means “Wow, now that was a good moment”. This happens multiple times within the creative process, lots of wow moments linked together. Before you know it you’ve got yourself a “cracking piece of theatre”, as my college drama teacher would say.

Laura Banks and Lucy Herbert playing "Blue" and "The Little Mermaid" respectably in a recent production of "Mermaid" by Shared Experiance

Life outside the theatre

That’s the point, you don’t have one. When creating a piece, you think about it morning noon and night. You lay awake at night going “Oh, that would be good” or “Oh we could try that tomorrow”.

You spend your breaks, lunches, evenings and weekends rehearsing to the point where you could do it backwards, and to the point where learning your lines is a distant memory, you now know them and can say them like you’re saying them for the first time. That’s the skill folks – If you haven’t gathered already, I wasn’t joking when I said Theatre is a lifestyle.

(from left to right) Luke Playford, Alicia Mason, Jack Tosney, Dominic Leonard and Rachel Horner as the cast of Gosforths Fete

The tech and dress rehearsals

This must be the most stressful part – because everyone is stressed. Techies, actors and directors unite once again and share a common emotion of ultimate stress.

Actors are nervous as they know they’re showing their work very soon, techies need to be crystal perfect after the tech and directors, well they’re always stressed. Your dress rehearsal can make or break your sanity. This whole “Bad dress, good performance” malarky makes me laugh – if your dress is bad it sets off an internal panic through everyone’s lower abdomens.

The nights out

People say a Theatre student can drink more than the most, probably to try and ease the stress of the process you’re going through. Of course, a night out with Theatre students is guaranteed drama. It just wouldn’t be a Theatre squad trip without a bit of drama.

Everyone pulls, usually each other andeveryone drinks an unhealthy amount before the bitching begins – secretly professing who they like and dislike, who’s easy to work with and who’s all round diabolically “wooden”. We’re all lying if we don’t know that one actor who thinks they’re the next Hugh Grant, when in actual fact they’re more likely going to be in a pantomime playing a tree.

If you’re reading this thinking “I don’t know anyone like that”, well…


The performance

Every theatre student knows the day of the performance the stress disappears and a mixture of anxiety and thrill begins. You are painfully aware of the fact there’s nothing more that can be done. As the lights black out and the actors bow, the techies rejoice and the directors say 12 Hail Marys , there is no greater feeling in the world.

"Mermaid" by Shared Experiance, Directed by Evie Appleson and Jack Tosney

So what do we do once a show has finished? We celebrate, we drink more and, the morning after, we nurse our hangovers and begin the process again.