We Are Essex

Josh's story

Josh Duckmanton headshot

"You should always use theatre to help situations, to counsel, to persuade, to provoke, to get people out there to vote, to change the world"

I’m a typical ‘drama kid’ – been involved in theatre since I was young – from am dram, throughout school and went into professional theatre when I was in my late teens. I’m someone that watches TV and film and then googles/IMDb’s everything about everyone who’s in it!

The first year I auditioned for drama school I didn’t get in, but I got in the second year. The first year I auditioned I was just like, “I can’t come here, this is too good for me, I’m never going to get in somewhere like this” and then I got through to the recall and got through to recalls at some other places and I was like, “oh god, maybe this is possible!” and then it wasn’t and I was like, “told you so”. I had a massive chat with my mum and she said to have the year out and apply again next year. I applied to a lot more places the next year and then got into a couple of places, but there was just something that drew me to East 15. I still have to say to myself – “I’m at East 15 Acting School”. Somewhere that I thought wasn’t possible for me.

I was originally looking for a BA Acting course, but when I looked into World Performance, I realised that my love of travelling and love of learning about other cultures could be combined – especially because we do a political theatre module when it gets to third year and that is like my dream - I love politics. My A-Levels were in English, Drama, Performing Arts, Politics and Political Sciences.

The course combines theatre, dance and music. The ethos that we’re taught is that it’s ever evolving and never sort of ‘static’ in terms of where it draws its information and training from. It uses theatre styles from around the world; from Japanese, Butoh and Noh Theatre, to South American/Brazilian dance, comedy, French clowning, and Malaysian styles. We also do a module in Indonesian dance.

There’s three travel opportunities offered at the moment – they’re currently looking at expanding that – you now also get the option to do an Erasmus in the first term of 2nd year in either Bucharest or Spain. We also have an arrangement with two training programmes – one in Bali, Indonesia and one in Moscow, Russia with the GITIS School, which is the Russian School for Performing Arts (it’s like the equivalent of their top Drama School). I did the Moscow programme last year and it was literally the most life changing experience ever. I loved it. I can’t wait to go back!

We were working with this director who was Russian-born, but she had worked in Europe and America, so she was really good at translating the ideas of Russian theatre to make it relevant to us. She was just incredible – she’d worked in film and theatre, so she was giving us two courses in one go – Acting for Film and Acting for Stage. I don’t know if many 22-year-olds can say they’ve spent a month in Moscow – I was so grateful for that opportunity.

My goal would be to write and direct theatre. I’m slowly moving away from the performing side of it – not shutting that off, but part of the course is to create theatre and the Head of our Course talks to us about being theatre-makers, so it’s very much at the heart of our training. We’re constantly encouraged to make our own work. I’ve got an original piece of theatre at the Camden Fringe Festival coming up this summer, so that’s hopefully the start of a career in writing. It’s about the loss of a really close friend of mine and my grandma. Theatre, theatre-making and writing has always been therapeutic for me. I went over to Calais to help with the refugees out there, so I’ve also written a play about that from a volunteer’s perspective. You should always use theatre to help situations, to counsel, to persuade, to provoke, to get people out there to vote, to change the world. I’m always about that.

You’ve got a lot of rejection in theatre. From the moment you start applying to drama schools, to auditioning, to applying for funding – there’s even rejection in reviews when you’re famous. It’s constantly an uphill battle. Mental health in outgoing people like performers and theatre-makers is difficult, but it’s also more talked about, so it’s more solvable. My advice to someone looking to go into this would be to enjoy how scary it is because it makes you realise that you love it.

 

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