My Way: Debbie Korley, stage and TV actress who works with the Royal Shakespeare Company
'Be yourself and keep relaxed in your audition'
Thursday 29 April 2010
What did you want to be as a child?
An astronaut, a nurse, or a journalist.
What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?
Probably nursing, because my mum was a nurse.
How did you get into acting?
When I was 11, we moved from Huddersfield to London and I went to a rough school. There was knife and gun crime, and they didn't offer dance or drama GCSE. But a teacher introduced us to Shakespeare; we put on productions in the classroom, and that gave me my first taste of acting.
How did you become professional?
I went to Sylvia Young Theatre School dance classes on Saturdays and joined their agency. At 14, I successfully auditioned for a chorus job at the Old Vic. Then I moved to the National Youth Music Theatre, and at 16 I appeared in a full run of Annie at the Edinburgh Fringe. I then went to Middlesex University to do a degree in performing arts.
And you carried on with the acting?
No, I wanted to take time out, so I worked at a blood-screening laboratory! It was completely different, but it gave me breathing space and I knew then I wanted to act. I did a showcase for agents: there was some interest and I joined an agency. I've been very lucky since – I've done operas, fringe plays, TV shows, a musical....and then my agent put me up for the RSC.
You seem to have worked non-stop?
At times, I've had to temp. After college, I did a secretarial course because of the uncertainty of an actor's life. I'd advise others to do something similar.
Do you consider yourself successful?
I think so. I was really scared when I joined the RSC. I come from a broken home, a northern working-class background and a tough school. I didn't think I could ever do it. So, when I got the contract I thought, well, it's one of the greatest companies in the world, that's it now. But there are a lot more ladders to climb.
What are your audition tips?
Be yourself, keep relaxed; the director wants to know if he or she can get on with you and if you can take direction.
How do I get to be where you are?
In this business, a lot is luck – some get spotted at 16 and their career is made. If you have the chance, go to drama school, or do a showcase and get an agent.
Who is your favourite Shakespeare character?
Lady Macbeth. She's a bit of a villain, but I admire her strength and ability to get her way.
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