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Why the Early Career Training Programme is the best thing I’ve done in years

Posted 25th Aug 16

I found out about the Early Career Training Programme from a friend who had already applied to enrol on the scheme.

At the time I was working in an inflexible and intensely tiring job, which left me short of time for extra endeavours that required any serious commitment. I also didn’t have any spare money to invest in my development. As it turned out, the programme was completely free and had been timetabled around people exactly like me, with other obligations that required accommodating. It was perfect.

Before I enrolled on the course, I already had a long history of theatre making (both acting and directing). I staged a two-hander production of Macbeth for a small festival at the University’s Lakeside Theatre in 2011, which in turn led in 2012 to a contract directing a large outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the University. Sadly, with dwindling budgets, those opportunities don’t often come around anymore. Since then, I’d busied myself with audio plays, working for a long time with Frequency Theatre as an actor, director and occasional writer.

Enrolling on the Early Career Training Programme earlier this year has benefitted me enormously. So much of it was invaluable, but for me the highlight was the work we did with our course leader Dan (Sherer). Everything he taught me has propelled my work forward with a new and evolving energy, based on the simplest and most elegant tenets. Put simply, everything makes sense. He’s a special kind of director and teacher. Thanks to everything I learnt from Dan, I’ve been able to complete a monologue that I’d been trying to write for five years. The piece is part of a larger solo show that has been gestating for some time and now, thanks to Dan, I’m making progress again. To summarise, I’m unstuck!

The Programme has also allowed me to establish a relationship with the Mercury that’s simply invaluable. Over the summer I was asked to act as Assistant Director on the Mercury Young Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet. It was an extraordinary show and I was so delighted to be part of making it. It’s testament to the theatre’s obvious commitment to the members of the scheme and their professional development that I was given that opportunity.

The whole place is populated with the friendliest and most helpful people, which has been a massive boon to me whilst I navigate the labyrinth of professional theatre work. Each and every person I have worked with has been indispensable.

The experience has also demystified the wider theatre industry for me and I now address it and my work with a new confidence. I’m now a full time theatre maker – in fact, after Romeo & Juliet I have a part in another Shakespeare with TWAS theatre (another connection I never would have made without the scheme!)

To anyone considering applying for a place on the new Early Career Training Programme, I would say: do it. You have nothing to lose and unlimited gains to make. It has been quite simply the best thing that I have done in years and I continue to reap the benefits. I cannot predict what happens next, and I can only hope that the work I’ve done so far for the Mercury has stood me in good stead, but I certainly know that I’ve had every opportunity to succeed that the theatre can provide – the rest is very much up to me.

Posted By Thomas R. Edwards

Thomas is an actor, writer and director who took part in the pilot scheme of the Early Career Programme. Thomas was Assistant Director on Romeo & Juliet in summer 2016.

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