You’ve heard it a thousand times before. The business is hard. There are a lot of people, not as many jobs and sometimes, being seen for an audition feels near impossible. Traditionally, a performer would go to theatre school and thus, be introduced to the professional world with contacts, skills and a shiny new degree.
What if you didn’t go to school to get the inside scoop? Maybe you decided later in life to pursue this crazy business we call show. Maybe you didn’t have the funds. Or maybe, like me, you did follow that suggested path, but then moved across the world where no one knows you, your credits or the school you went to. What then!?
Backtrack to July 2021. I’m new to London, I don’t know anyone in the industry and have no clue how to start. If this is you, I want to help! And have some hope, because I am currently writing this in my dressing room, having a great time in a great show!
Although this post uses UK tips and examples that I have found useful, the fundamental advice remains the same the world over. You will be able to find similar platforms and organizations wherever you are based.
Document Your Skill
First things first, document your skill. You will not be able to promote yourself to agents and casting directors if you don’t have something concrete to show them. These days, it is expected to have a clean, well-lit recording of yourself. Find a blank wall and choose two or three of your best contrasting songs to record in landscape mode. Make sure it is your best work as this is what will represent you to the outside world!
If you have past credits, set up a Spotlight account right away. This is the biggest casting platform in the UK and is a one stop shop for directors and agents alike. It offers performers a consistent platform to showcase your best headshots, credits and voice/video reels. From there, send out your spotlight to everyone and anyone who wants to see it!
If you don’t have the requirements to create a Spotlight profile yet, don’t panic. You can still put your face out via email. Assemble your three staples: headshot, CV and performance videos (these can be on an unlisted YouTube link for ease). Send them off with a quick cover letter (in the email is fine) explaining why you’re the person for the job.
Find that Agent
Unfortunately, the UK audition scene is very agent based. Unlike North America, it is highly discouraged to crash auditions (showing up without an invitation or designated time) and can be seen as quite taboo. Because of this, getting an agent is often the first step in being seen. But luckily, the UK has SO MANY agencies, there is probably someone out there for you! Make a long list of those you believe would be the right fit for you but be realistic. If you are just starting out, you probably won’t be signed by the top tier agents in London and that’s okay. Ask friends, join “The Hustle” Facebook group (great for gigs and questions about the industry!) or google away. Have a look at the work their current clients are doing to really understand how you would fit in their roster and email as many as you can. When I first landed in the UK, I emailed over 15 agents and heard back from 3. It’s a numbers game!
Get a Helpful Muggle Job
It’s true. Most performers have a second job while they pursue their artistic endeavors. I still smile when I hear Brits use the term “muggle job” to describe their work outside of the industry. Plus, the music theatre world can be slow moving at times and you need to pay the bills! So, if you don’t feel involved enough, why not get a muggle job in the theatre world? Two birds with one stone! These types of jobs (front of house in west end theatres, receptionist at audition studios, children’s music theatre teacher etc) will immerse you in the theatre world and allow you to meet many other individuals trying to make it, just as you are.
Get Out There
The biggest thing you can do now is to market your talent and make contacts! For me, this was the most important step. No one will hire you if they don’t see you!
There are a great range of training courses in London to teach you the ins and outs of the business (think of them as mini university programs). W1 Workshops and The Intensive offer masterclasses, workshops and week-long training sessions often attended by prominent casting directors. Associated Studios have an agent showcase at the end of select courses, where you can perform to said agents in the hopes of being signed. Prep Your Rep London offers everything from a 12-week intensive course to one-on-ones, to mental health sessions tailored to the performer in you.
Or, hit the cabaret circuit. Gigs like Kinky Kabaret, Mrs Riots, Roles We’ll Never Play etc are a GREAT way to get out there, meet like-minded performers and show everyone what you’ve got.
Take classes! Pineapple Dance Studios is constantly brimming with performers keeping their skills tuned. If you’re not a dancer first, have no fear. Dance for Actor/Singers (Mondays, 10-11am) is a safe space dance class targeted to those who might not be “dancer first” trained. I try to attend as often as I can.
Shoot For The Stars, But Be Realistic
It is so important to think big. Someone has to book that part you so desperately want, so why not you? However, be realistic with your wants and needs. If you end up in a West End show, great! If not, don’t despair. There is so much more; regional theatres, pantos, tours, cruise ships, fringe shows, all doing great work. It is okay to work your way up the ladder, no matter your age, experience or skill.
So there you have it, a few steps that might help you transition into the UK theatre scene. But please remember, it takes time and PERSEVERANCE. I have been here two years and am only now starting to feel at home. And do not forget, you are not alone in this crazy industry we all love.
Stick with it, believe in yourself, and show them what you’ve got!