Q & A with Head of Acting Training, Dave Bond

In what way is the acting course at RWCMD different from the many drama and theatre courses offered by other universities and colleges?

The essential difference is that our students have already made the decision that they want to train as professional actors. That's not to say that they won't discover and develop other skills whilst they are with us - some students have gone on to be very successful writers, directors and film makers. The great majority, however, go on to be actors - and this requires an intensive training in vocal and physical skills, which is not a common feature of broader-based drama courses. On this course, it is not unusual for a student to be in classes and rehearsals for 30 or 40 hours each week. The course calls for a lot of stamina, but our students get used to (and enjoy!) the challenge this offers.

How many people are taken onto the course each year?

We have one of the smallest intakes of any drama school in the UK, with just 22 places each year. This is a deliberate policy because we very much value the close working relationship this affords us between our tutors and their students. The usual class size is just 10 students (typically with an even number of men and women) and this allows us to get to know each student as an individual and get the best out of them.

Does the College favour students that live in Wales?

In any year, approximately a third of our students come from Wales - with the other two thirds made up of a wide spectrum of UK students. There will also almost certainly be three or four students from outside the UK. We welcome diversity and, whilst we are pleased to attract highly talented students from Wales, we employ no quota system and recruit solely on the basis of talent.

Is Cardiff the right place to train to be an actor?

It's an excellent place to train and the advantages are clear. It is affordable and student-friendly, and a great place to spend three years. Wales has become a lively hub for independent film and television production companies - working in both English and Welsh - and is a favourite location for big budget feature films (Jurassic World 2, Show Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Dark Knight Rises to name a few). BBC Wales and S4C continue to show their confidence in the College by employing ever increasing numbers of our graduates (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Casualty, and Pobol Y Cwm) - a position mirrored by the National Theatre of Wales, Sherman Theatre and The Other Room. There is every reason to believe that, freed of the many pressures of London living, our graduates begin their career in very good shape and ready to take on the very real challenge of establishing a career in a tough profession - whether they decide to base themselves in London, Wales or elsewhere. It's a very happy College and the students often remark that, for them, the three years pass too quickly!

What do you look for at the audition?

Potential. Passion. Enjoyment. Instinct. Willingness to take risks.

Does the College use particular methods or systems of acting?

No. Our strength is that we have a very experienced and professional team of staff who will use whatever methods, ideas or systems of work they think are in the best interests of a particular student. What works for one tutor will not work for another, and the same is true of each individual student. It may well be possible to identify the ideas of key practitioners, such as Stanislavsky, Meisner or Michael Chekov in the teaching, but there is no single methodology which is championed by the course. The best method is the one that works!

How much of the course involves performance?

This increases with each year of the course. At first, the work is centred on the self and making essential relationships with other actors in the work space. The key elements are practice and rehearsal - allowing an actor to develop through risk-taking and moving outside of their own comfort zone. Later comes the opportunity to perform in the College's own spaces, outside professional theatres and abroad. All in all, the College will mount over 15 fully-realised performances each year - anything from a cutting edge three hander seen at The Royal Court to a large classic and specially commissioned new writing. The College has the great benefit of truly integrated training, with acting students working side by side with stage managers and designers, who are themselves in training.

I’m from outside the UK. How different will my experience at the College be from home students?

While you are with us it will be exactly the same – although American students will have an additional Showcase in New York following graduation. Conservatoire training in the UK is particularly well regarded in the US and we expect our students to return home with the appropriate skills to enter the industry. It is clear that the working relationships between the UK and US industries are rapidly evolving and we intend to keep pace with and influence such developments.

What kind of reputation does the College have within the profession?

We have every reason to believe that the course is considered to be amongst the strongest in the UK. Leading casting directors and agents regularly attend final year productions as well as our Showcase events at The Royal Court in London, Cardiff and New York (for American students), confident they will find the actors they are looking for. Our students are always well-represented in the UK's leading theatre companies such as The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), The National Theatres of both England and Wales, The Donmar Warehouse and The Royal Court. We are also very proud of our students' contribution to the success of Wales' own theatre industry, with its strong reputation for community and specialist theatre. The cast lists of major UK television, theatre and radio productions also bear witness to our students' talent and training. Our graduates regularly feature in leading roles in flagship television productions including Line of Duty, Crazyhead, Gotham, Casualty, Woldblood Secrets, Outlander, Poldark, Kiss Me First and Close to the Enemy, amongst others.

Radio, it should be noted, is a particular strength of the College, as evidenced by a string of successes in the BBC Carleton Hobbs Competition. Graduates can be found working for The Archers and Audible – Narrator of the Year.

Any final tips/advice/words of wisdom?

Whichever college you hope to train at, do your homework before you apply. Find out everything you can about the college from ex-students, current students and, critically, the profession itself. Ask the opinion of professional actors, directors, theatre and TV workers. Visit the college and imagine how things might be over three years. As for the audition, try and enjoy it. Sounds impossible, but it will make a great deal of difference. Good luck!