Phil Gyford

Writing

Friday 20 May 2005

PreviousIndexNext The cast

Before my first acting class began I was apprehensive about my future classmates. I wondered if they’d all be overly-excitable, precious wannabes, desperate to become famous, rather than to develop any skills. I’m not sure where I acquired this image of drama students but, if it’s true, maybe it only applies to youngsters at proper drama schools, because most students I’ve come across in City Lit classes have been ego-free and down-to-earth.

I was also surprised at the variety of people in my classes. In the autumn of 2004 I did the Introduction to Acting class, three hours a week for a term, and had a good selection of classmates…

D, who looked a little like Jeff Bezos, was probably the oldest in the class and had been made redundant from his marketing job. He was also the only one in the class who could say he was a professional actor: after redundancy he’d headed to the Job Centre only to be spotted by a scout who liked the cut of his jib. D, with no acting experience, had been cast in a few commercials, and was now looking for some skills he could use in auditions.

H and K were both young guys and at different film schools in London. Both hoped to be directors and, wisely I think, thought they should get some insight into acting. They both made me feel even squarer than usual.

A was a student, and perhaps the best actor in the class. She’d done drama at A Level and seemed far closer to being another person when she acted, rather than just pretending like the rest of us.

N was a little older, let’s say mid-twenties, and she wrote and performed poetry. She was looking to gain confidence for her readings. Someone who uses the word “sassy” might describe her as sassy.

B was, I think, from Lithuania and had quite the smile. She was maybe 20 and had vague hopes, somewhere down the line, of becoming an actor.

T was maybe 30 and had a face even more expressive than D, the Bezos-a-like. He had the biggest grin and a crooked imagination that made working with him fun in unexpected ways.

J was doing more and more presentations at work and wanted to gain more confidence when showing slides of whatever it is she worked on.

S and her husband had decided they should spend less time at the pub and more time doing something. So they were both doing the Introduction to Acting class on different nights.

There were others too, although my memories of why they were there are even more hazy. Aside from the unexpected variety and pleasantness of my classmates, something else surprised me: they mostly seemed nervous about performing in front of the class. It hadn’t occurred to me that people taking an acting class would find this scary, when I couldn’t wait to get started.