A-level drama but no crisis

An aspiring actor tells Marie Woolf how he found a college that was just like going to theatre school
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The Independent Online
NICK HINTON, 19, went to Lansdowne Tutorial College to retake after failing A-level Art. An aspiring actor, he opted for A-level Theatre Studies and achieved a B. In the autumn, he starts a drama degree at Royal Holloway college. He describes the experience.

"I WENT to Dulwich College and did fairly well in two of my A-levels. In French and English, I came out with two Cs, but Art was a bit of a downer. I got an N in that. I was pretty disappointed. I didn't want to settle for mediocre universities just because of that grade. Last year, I worked in a video shop through the summer and saved the money to do a year's retake course. My parents also helped me out quite a bit.

"It was by chance that I found Lansdowne College. I saw a friend of mine on the steps. The thing that drew me there was the Drama A-level course. They had a professional theatre programme, with real actors. I was very much into acting, so I replaced my Art with a Theatre Studies A-level.

"The subject was fantastic, it was like going to drama school. The course was a mixture of practical theatre and essay writing. There was a two- hour lesson in the morning and a two-hour practical session in the evening, and we had the chance to perform to our class or direct. We tried to stay away from Shakespeare, which was good because I'd done A-level English already. We did some Berkoff and some Chekhov, and we studied the avant- garde. We were learning theatre as you learn history - it was fascinating.

"The college atmosphere was relaxed, with everyone on a first- name basis. The teachers were on the whole quite young and were always available. You could approach them whenever there was a problem.

"The teachers really push you, but it wasn't like being at school, where they said if you don't do this you get a detention; they pushed your potential at Lansdowne. They said: "You're getting better, just carry on." It was definitely more motivating than school. To be honest, I learnt more at Lansdowne in the past year than during the entire sixth form at my last college.

"There were about 12 students in my class. Some of them were doing a two-year course and had been there a year. I was one of the few people only doing one A-level, others were doing two or three, so I had quite a lot of free time.

"I kept my job in the video shop to earn extra money. I didn't study during the day. I'd start when people were going to bed at 1.30 in the morning. I was able to do this because I had only two and a half days of classes a week.

"I aimed to get an A but in the end I only got a B. But I'm still very excited - it's a big improvement from an N. It still hasn't sunk in that I got my B."