The Return of Nativity Plays in Schools

Nativity Plays

Christmas tends to be a huge talking point in primary schools, not least because it provides a great opportunity to get children engaged with new and exciting activities. School nativity plays have been a staple of many school calendars for decades, although over the past 10 to 15 years it hasn’t necessarily been quite as traditional as it used to be.

As the religious significance of Christmas and even the nativity story itself has been dulled over the years, many end-of-year school plays started to become more varied and generic. Much of this shift has been put down to being more inclusive for children who don’t come from Christian backgrounds. Many of these alternative Christmas plays for schools would be focused around other, more modern festive characters such as reindeer, snowmen, elves and so on.

However, recently there has apparently been more of an interest in the more traditional religious stories instead. Companies that produce and sell nativity plays for schools, usually offering traditional and non-religious options, have reported over the past few years that stories based on the birth of Christ have significantly risen in popularity again. On average, these traditional nativities have increased in popularity by up to 25% over the past few years. Continue reading The Return of Nativity Plays in Schools

Courses, Classes and Tips To Improve Your Acting Skills

If you want to improve your personal skills when it comes to acting, whether it’s theatre drama you’re interested in, screen acting or any other specialism, there are plenty of different things you can try to gain experience, knowledge and qualifications. Not only can you choose to tackle a range of different course formats at various institutions in the UK, but there are many less formal things you can do besides in order to build up your skills. Here are just a few ideas to consider.

Take a one-year or two-year course. Many full time courses offer everything you need to gradually develop your talent over a year or more. Film drama courses and film acting classes in London are particularly popular, though they are competitive. Despite that, a full-time, intensive course may be the best way for you to get all the background knowledge and one-on-one tutoring you need to become a trained actor.

Take a crash course. Alternatively, if you aren’t able or ready to commit to a full time educational option but you want to learn the essential basics fast, a crash course might be enough for you. Often these may be around one week long, giving you a solid introduction to the theory behind acting for TV or theatre, as well as a great chance to practice. Continue reading Courses, Classes and Tips To Improve Your Acting Skills

Theatre lightning for school productions

stage light

Setting up a school production is a big task. There are so many things that create a successful set including the stage set up, music list and stage lighting. One of the most crucial parts is getting the lighting right. This part can make a big difference to any performance whether its musical, comedy or drama. To help you set up the best lighting, we’ve got some useful tips below.

Lighting Equipment

Before getting started with setting up your lighting plan, it’s crucial to learn more about the current lighting equipment that’s already in place. Find out what each device can do and if they are still intact. Once you know how to use the equipment, you will then be able to plan out the perfect lighting setup for the performance. If you find that some device is not working, you may then look into a better replacement.

Light Patterns

You can also add lighting accessories including pattern attachments to create different kinds of patterns through your lighting. There are plenty of shapes that you can incorporate to match with your upcoming show. Shapes including animal patterns and even weather shapes.

Different Colours

Different light colours will be useful for setting various kinds of moods during the play. You can use dark colours and bright colours to portray the mood you’re looking to present. If you’re looking for a cheaper option for lighting colours, you can buy different coloured filters for your current lighting.

Add Special Effects

There are various systems that you can add as a special effect with your lighting. For instance, you can incorporate a bubble system and even a fog machine with your lightings to create different effects. There are even movement tools that you can use for moving your lights around the stage.

The best schools for screen acting in the UK

screen acting

Screen acting is not as visible and popular in the UK compared to stage acting. So it can be difficult to find a screen acting course when you want to get started. To help you with your research we’ve listed the following screen acting courses in the UK.

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

The school specifically targets experienced actors who want to improve their skills on-screen acting. There are a variety of courses including acting in television, film or a similar media. The school is located in Swiss Cottage London. Furthermore, the classes are very practical and allow for students to interact with other professionals including tutors, professional actors and film directors. Many students who have gone through the courses were able to participate in short films, and some were even able to start up their own production companies.

Robert McKee’s Story Seminar

Robert Seminar is a three-day intensive course that targets aspiring screenwriters. Although the course is specific for screenwriters, many well-known actors have known to have gone through the course as it’s proven useful for their acting careers. Famous actors including Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore have known to have taken the short course. McKee’s class is currently located in London, Regent Park.

National Youth Theatre

The theatre is perfect for young aspiring screen actors who want to start their training. They are open to anyone from the age of 15 up to 25 years old. As it’s a beginner course, there isn’t any audition required to get started. The course provides you with the necessary techniques and personalised feedback to help you improve further.

University of Chichester

The University of Chichester recently opened a degree course for Acting in Films. The course includes a variety of training that is essential for acting in front of a camera. They also include various technical skills with working on a camera and essential information in the film industry. It’s mixed with practical and non-practical courses.

Finding Inspiration For A Short Film

If you’re a film maker, or simply an actor with some free time and an interest in broadening your skill set, consider producing your own short film from scratch. You don’t need any fancy equipment, and you don’t even have to produce anything particularly amazing, you just need plenty of motivation to learn and develop.

Since getting started with a fresh idea can be the most difficult part of the process, here are our top tips for finding inspiration when you’re thinking about a project like this.

  • Read and watch as much as possible so you can get excited about the art of storytelling and start thinking about what you’d like to create. Books, plays, TV shows and movies can all be equally inspiring.
  • Talking about your ideas with close friends and family can be hugely beneficial. You might find that just a few prompts are all you need to start openly discussing your ideas and finding the missing pieces of the puzzle.
  • Try to make a habit of keeping notes every day. Before you go to bed, write down any ideas that are currently forming in your mind. If you haven’t got anything good, write down something you think is a bad idea. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely sources.
  • Don’t shut yourself away to be creative, because this is somewhat contradictory. Get outside and experience the real world to feed your mind and absorb new sources of future inspiration.
  • Look at something in more detail to find a hidden story. You can start by examining an everyday object and finding meaning hidden beneath the surface.
  • Ask people about their stories and life experiences. Often the most impressive fiction will be inspired by a real story.
  • Create contrast with your characters by putting opposing archetypes against each other in a difficult situation. To get an idea of how contrasting viewpoints can oppose each other, try arguing about topics with your friends or others.
  • Try rewriting a classic story and re-telling it in a completely new way with an added layer of depth and meaning. Some of the most famous stories and films are actually based on the same starting point.

How To Land More Challenging Acting Roles

For anyone trying to make a career out of acting, the dream is usually to portray a wide range of different characters. After all, leaving your comfort zone can push you to develop your skills and become much better at what you do, plus it can be a lot more fun. But how can you break free of your current routine and be successful at something that’s a little more outside the box?

Alter your approach

If you’re looking for roles yourself or using an agent, you may have fallen into a routine over time and this can be hard to break. Even if you really want to try acting in more difficult or unusual roles, does your agent know this? Do your applications put this across? Maybe your own attitude to your work needs to change in order to come across as someone who’s capable of stepping up to the challenge.

Practice on your own

You don’t have to wait until you land an audition to experiment with a piece of drama that you have no experience with. Try picking out a tricky scene from a piece of work you’re not familiar with and simply practice acting it out. You can either choose a monologue or work with another professional to push each other’s limits.

Find new inspiration

You should certainly devote some time to reading and watching new, varied sources to find acting inspiration. If you’re very familiar with a particular actor’s style, try watching something where they successfully played a completely different type of character so you’ll notice more of the subtle changes they made to their acting style.

Assign yourself a role

As an exercise, choose a book or play and pick one character that you think would be the ideal challenge for you to play. After you’ve studied them and practised acting as that character, watch how someone else did it in a stage show or on screen. You will probably learn a huge amount about your own acting style by doing this.

Don’t be afraid of complex writing

A classic example here is trying to learn, understand and act out Shakespeare. Many people are put off at first by the difficulty level of the language used, but persevering can be very rewarding and provides a gateway into portraying highly complex characters.

Focus on being better

Balancing decisions that are good for your career in the short term and good for you as an actor in the long term can be difficult, but ideally you should always consider opportunities to improve your skills even if you know they might not directly lead to big money. If you want to succeed as an actor, the most essential thing you need to do is constantly work to improve your abilities.

Alternative Day Jobs For Actors

Alternative Day Jobs For Actors Top logo

If you’re in the acting profession, it’s likely that you will need another job (or more than one) to keep you busy and pay the bills in between gigs. Maybe you’re waiting for your big break and you need something to tide you over until that comes, but you want to be making good use of your performance talents in some shape or form.

Children’s Entertainer

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but perhaps you’ll find that being an actor lends itself well to getting into character for providing the entertainment at kids’ parties. You don’t have to be a clown to create a popular character, and you could make more money than you think. There’s no shortage of great children’s entertainers in Manchester and similar cities around the UK where a relatively high proportion of people are interested in the arts.


If your main strength lies in writing stories or scripts, you might find that freelance work as a writer works for you. A little practice in any niche can allow to write like an expert in many different fields, which is great for businesses looking for quick and professional copy for any purpose.

Promo Modelling

You don’t need to look like an actual model to do this – in fact, looking like an unremarkable, average human being might be ideal. You can get work posting for photographs or events, and although there might be no prizes for acting talent, it’s easy money when you can find it.

Graphic /Website Design

If you have a bit of creative flair, you can probably turn your hand to any artistic skill. This may include design, whether this is for printed promotional materials or online use. You could even start designing company branding and logos, or turn your hand to website design if you have the basic technical skills. It’s possible to teach yourself and learn quickly in this field.

Interior Design

A different profession you might be able to turn your creative hand to is interior design. Most people with a talent for acting tend to be well suited to other artistic professions, and this is one of the highest paid options. It’s worth a try, and if you find you have a great eye for décor and furnishings, this could be the ideal second career for you.

Restaurant Staff

Okay, maybe this isn’t at the top of your wish list for a long term career, but it is a known fact that many people looking to become famous performers start out at a restaurant or behind a bar. This does give you the chance to practice some of your vital acting skills, like remembering long lists of special requirements when taking orders and perhaps even keeping people entertained while they wait for their food.

Theme Parks

This job is ideal for anyone who loves improvising and entertaining people. Working as a character in a theme park can be a lot of fun, and it’s an opportunity to try out your skills on a captive audience if you can corner a group while they’re waiting for a ride.

Event Security

If you have the skills and mindset, you could try out working as a security guard for live shows and other events at local venues. If you’re not quite built for that, maybe try something like collecting tickets or another hospitality role. This might help you make more contacts in the local entertainment scene, plus you get to see shows for free and potentially pick up tips.

Sales and customer service

In pretty much any customer-facing role, you’ll be able to try your hand at improvising on the spot and staying “in character” while dealing with potentially tricky people. Whether you’re answering the phone, working face-to-face on a checkout or managing a department in a retail environment, you’ll have plenty of chances to work on your speaking and presentation.

Speaking Naturally While In Character

Many people, even professional actors, are stuck with the notion that they have to adopt a strange voice when getting into character and performing. There is a sense that you’re not really acting if your voice sounds completely normal, but this is definitely an over-simplification of what it means to act and it actually rarely helps at all. In many cases, adopting a “character” voice can simply make your performance sound a lot more wooden and less convincing. Here are some tips and common problems in this area.

Don’t be too tense

Relaxing your jaw and neck is very important if you want to sound natural when you speak. You can sometimes even see from looking at someone’s face from a distance that they’re tensing their facial muscles unnaturally. Your speech will sound much better if you can train yourself not to do this. Good posture also helps you project your voice which is essential in theatre work.

Don’t over-simplify your character

Even characters that seem somewhat simple will come across much better if you allow them to have depth and complexity when you speak. Your voice gives you infinite ways to express yourself, so try to make as much use of it as possible. Never restrict a character to a stereotypical, laboured voice unnecessarily.

Don’t compensate for yourself

It’s hard to hear our own voices sometimes, and we tend to be highly self-critical. However, you are not necessarily the best person to make a judgement on this when you’re trying to play a character. Don’t let your own insecurities influence how you play a character.

Let the audience engage with you

Above all, the benefit of being as natural as possible is that you’ll come across as a human being that your audience can actually connect with. Whatever emotion they feel towards your character, this is only possible when they’re able to suspend disbelief and feel as if you really are that person, rather than an actor giving a robotic performance.

Diversity in British Drama Schools

There has been a lot of talk recently about the levels of diversity, or lack thereof, within the theatre industry in the UK. Many people and studies have highlighted the fact that stage schools, productions and professions throughout the industry are still predominantly white, with little being done to encourage diversity and some examples of specifically discriminatory behaviour being reported. We’ve found some interesting viewpoints while debating the subject this month, including the following.

Do the arts promote diversity? It is obviously good to see governments supporting the arts. This is especially important when local authorities are modelling ever deeper cuts to their arts provision, and there is significant fear associated with the future of arts education in schools.

However, there are problems in the rhetoric surrounding the celebrations of art history A level. The fundamental problem with connecting the arts to social mobility and workforce diversity is that this connection is seriously undermined by almost all the available social scientific evidence.”

The article above opens discussing the benefits of government support for the arts, including theatre specifically, but criticises the arts on the whole for “maintaining social divisions” as opposed to challenging them.

This perspective is particularly interesting, since it is supported by a surprising amount of archaic evidence. Based on the social class, attitudes and actions of the people who facilitate education within the arts sector, and looking at the disproportionate numbers of people studying and working in the field from privileged backgrounds, it’s not hard to make a link which directly counteracts the point of the original government statement being discussed.

In the last week there has been significant buzz generated on social media after a report was released on the state of diversity in the UK, backed by Andrew Lloyd Webber who made some damning comments blaming drama schools for the problem.

Call to action after theatre industry branded “hideously white” “Leading theatre directors have called on the British Asian community to do more to support performers and writers after a damning report branded the industry “hideously white”. The report, commissioned by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, said the odds are “stacked against minorities” as the lead actor is often white.”

The report looked in detail at the actors in London theatre productions as well as the demographics they were catering to. It found that extremely high proportions of people were white and from privileged backgrounds in both cases. Meanwhile, opportunities for black and Asian actors, among other minorities, were found to be few and far between.

On the other hand, many people still strongly believe in the power of drama, theatre and the arts in general as a force for bringing people together across social boundaries. In many instances it is certainly true that the impact of people from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds being on stage or on screens cannot be underestimated. The problem appears to surround the fact that opportunities for this to happen are too rare.


Why Superhero Movies Are Still Exploding In Popularity

If you look at the most popular movies released so far this year, and certainly the ones with the biggest marketing budgets, you might notice a trend. In fact, this isn’t much of a new development. In the past five years or so, superhero movies seem to have rapidly accelerated in terms of popularity and the rate that they’re being launched. But what’s happening here?

One thing’s for sure: comic book characters are firmly back in fashion, including many that never really cracked the mainstream until recently. The likes of Deadpool and Harley Quinn would have been barely known a couple of years ago for audiences who only know their comic book heroes and villains through big screen adaptations. Now they’re both set to be two of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2016, and their images (at least, those of their newest incarnations played by Ryan Reynolds and Margot Robbie respectively) have quickly risen to iconic status.

Perhaps some of this can be put down to nostalgia for comic books – simpler times, when entertainment was in the form of paper books (remember books?) and couldn’t be streamed over the internet. If you paid for a subscription, you had to wait at least a whole week for someone to literally deliver your next instalment to your door – a foreign concept to anyone raised on the likes of Hulu, Netflix and online piracy. So maybe not so much nostalgia, since most of the audience for these movies never got the memo about these characters the first time round. Then what? Continue reading Why Superhero Movies Are Still Exploding In Popularity