We caught up with Laura Thompson (MA Acting, 2017) to find out about her career in the arts and what she’s been up to since graduating.
Laura studied an undergraduate degree at Essex, later returning as a mature student to study MA Acting at East 15.
“From a young age I always knew I wanted a career in the arts. For me, performing is a form of escapism and exploration; the buzz I feel after a performance is just the icing on the cake! I wanted to be the best actor I could possibly be, but I recognised that without the right training, that wouldn’t happen. I knew I needed to apply to East 15 for my Masters. After my audition I instantly knew it was the place for me and as an Essex alumna I got a discount on my fees which definitely helped along the way”.
Although she was excited to take the next steps in making her acting career a reality, Laura was apprehensive about returning to education as a mature student.
“Changing career meant that there was more at stake for me, but it gave me that push to do well. I had some of the normal worries of how I would fit in with people much younger than me, but the students on my course were all different ages, so I didn’t feel old at all. I have to say that my focus and life experience meant I got as much out of the course as I possibly could so I’m glad I studied later; I don’t think I would have been as driven if I had done it when I was younger.
“The Masters was intense and fast paced. We were guided to be ‘industry ready’ in 12 months, learning every aspect of the industry from your craft as an artist, to how you need to have a business mind as you are, in fact, your own product. I love that East 15 focus on who we are as individuals and what we have to offer; they produce unique individuals who all have their own style – this is so important as it helps us stand out in such a competitive industry. At the same, they also gave us realistic expectations and honest depictions about how the industry could be when we graduate.”
Laura graduated nearly three years ago and told us some of the exciting projects she’s been involved with since then.
“I was very lucky to work on two different tv series, one for ITV called ‘Autopsy: The Last Hours of’ and another for Discovery ID called ‘Consumed’ where I played the lead role – it was a truly amazing experience. I was also the voice of the scone in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ commercial in 2018! I have been extremely lucky to meet and work with some really established professionals such as actor Ed Skrein, the inspiring Charles Leadbeater and great directors such as Ned Bennett.
“A real ‘pinch-me’ moment was when I started working as a director and actor with The Big House Theatre Company, an organisation that works with care leavers who are at a high risk of social exclusion, providing a platform for them to participate in the making of theatre and to have their voices heard. They asked me to represent them in Parliament and speak to a board of representatives as an expert in the field of youth participation and engagement. Current statistics show that 40% of young offenders are from the care system, so providing support and guidance to care leavers is crucial. Organisations like The Big House Theatre Company are supporting this cause, but there’s much more to be done. To have the opportunity to speak about such an significant issue was a huge moment for me, and has highlighted the importance of using performance to help tackle social issues.
“Since then, I’ve also developed a real interest in writing. I’ve written two plays this year and I’m excited to see where they go. My goal for next year is to get one of them produced.”
A notoriously competitive industry, Laura shared some of the struggles of acting.
“The hardest part of being in the arts is that sometimes you spend a small amount of time working in the jobs you want to do. It’s a hard industry to crack and the reality, for most, is that it takes years. It can be hard not doing the thing you love for a living all the time.
“Riding out the quiet parts, to dealing with the excitement of an audition and then not getting the role can take its toll. I do my best to stay focused and busy; I never sit around waiting for a call. I try and be as proactive as I can, making sure I’m doing everything in my power to be a success. It can still be frustrating, but I focus on mindset and trying to stay positive.”
Despite some of the struggles, Laura remains passionate about what she does.
“I absolutely love what I do. What I love most is the opportunity to explore a new character and tell someone’s story in the best possible way. I love that you can approach someone’s life, who is nothing like yours, and learn from them. It’s a great gift to be able to have and share.”
We asked Laura what advice she’d give to other students and graduates in a similar position or looking to enter the world of performing.
“Take a leap of faith and trust your gut, if you’re thinking about it then it’s probably because it’s what you really want to do. Don’t be afraid of going ‘back to school’! When you have passion for a subject it makes it easier to learn and, whilst it is not easy to get a degree, it is worth it. You will grow, not only professionally but also personally and it could change your life, it did mine.”
We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Laura.
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Communications and External Relations, University of Essex
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