Guest Blog Article by Luke Shaw
So, picture me if you will, twenty years younger, several pounds lighter and full of the unbridled optimism that both these characteristics imbue. I had completed my three year acting course at LAMDA and our final day of term was spent in the prestigious Duke of Yorks theatre in London’s West End, giving our all (twice) in individually prepared and lovingly rehearsed solo speeches. My vision was naturally one of being cascaded with agents’ calling cards, all dying to represent me, and being waltzed off into the sunset. As I picked my way through the cold finger buffet that my dear Alma mater had spared every expense on, and waited for the inevitable tap on the shoulder, it eventually came just as I was picking bits of ham off the ‘non-meat’ pizza. I turned in anticipation and was greeted by one of London’s leading agents, “Hi, were you in the show?”, not a promising opening but I gamely responded in the affirmative, “Could you tell me where I might find Paul Hickey?”. And that, as they say, is show business!
The next day I was now considering life through the prism of having no agent and having to be master of my own destiny. My weighty life choices were balanced finely between whether to dress up as a dog for fifty quid for a mate or temporarily suspend any form of responsibility in finding a job by donning a backpack and disappearing round Europe for a month. A few weeks later and fifty pounds richer (woof!), as I was being strip searched on the Swiss-French border, I took a moment to reflect on how significantly 24 hours had changed how I viewed my life. On my last day of term as I marched confidently up as speech number 43 in front of a bored and diminishing audience, I had been a feckless and carefree drama student, safely cosseted in the lovingly protective arms of his nurturing college, the next day I was a wretched and troubled unemployed actor.
As I look back on it now I can laugh at the naiveté I displayed in my expectation of employment, like there was almost some entitlement to a living. Ha! Pathetic! I can hear the demands now, “I should have a job!”, “I have to be successful”, “I must do better than Paul Hickey!”. Even now I feel a growing wave of tension as I recall the historic catastrophising (how could anything in the world be worse than this?!). Of course now I am more mature and sanguine about such events, whereas at the time I naturally went out and blew lots of money getting paralytic and attempting to sleep with anyone who’d let me…. Ah halcyon days!
Fast forward to the present day and the safety of a new college, where my major discomforts were where to sit in the class each month and who will notice if I have too many of the biscuits that Beverley has lovingly provided. Of course I’m not trying to diminish the potentially troubling journey through the diploma, but as a comparison to actually qualifying and plying one’s trade in the same way, it is, when I look back, (even to the depths of weekend 7 when I spent most of Saturday blubbing like baby (apologies if you haven’t done that one yet!)), a considerably easier time. And so again having travelled the Rubicon through those critical 24 hours spent re-evaluating my circumstances during which I went from a cocky and largely comfortable CCBH student to just another troubled unemployed therapist, I have to report that the greatest challenges lie beyond the completion of the course. As I look back on it now I can laugh at the naiveté I displayed in my expectation of employment, like there was almost some entitlement to a living. Ha! Pathetic! I can hear the demands now, “I should have a job!”, “I have to be successful”, “I must do better than Paul Hickey!”…. wait a minute… something seems familiar here….
So my message, for anyone who cares, (and of course I don’t if you don’t, in a fallible way of course not a nasty way), is to enjoy the course, it is truly fantastic. And suspend any awfulising until after graduation (or better still, dispute the hell out of it before then!). Meanwhile I’m off to challenge my limiting beliefs around self promotion and the procrastination that prevents me from trying to.
Luke Shaw (Class of 2011)