Postgraduate Lives: 'I was fascinated by Joe Orton's comedy'

Samantha Read, 25, is doing an MA in contemporary theatre at the University of Essex
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The Independent Online

My first experience of drama was going with my nan to see pantomimes in Clacton. I was about five years old and I loved all the audience participation. When I did my undergraduate degree in English literature and drama at Essex I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the drama side of things.

My first experience of drama was going with my nan to see pantomimes in Clacton. I was about five years old and I loved all the audience participation. When I did my undergraduate degree in English literature and drama at Essex I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the drama side of things.

I'm in the second year of my MA, which I'm doing part-time because of my five-year-old daughter, Chloë. I want to drop her off and pick her up from school each day because I think that's important. The MA is 50 per cent practice and 50 per cent dissertation. First I had to pass two courses and produce two 6,000-word essays. The first one was "Theatre: Form, Purpose and Effect", a course that gives an overview of theatre history and touches on some key theories relating to theatre practice. I found Aristotle fascinating. We've also studied more contemporary, "in yer face" theatre.

For the practical side of the MA, I've chosen to direct, although I could have chosen to write or act. I've done a fair bit of acting so I thought directing would be a new challenge in terms of working with a group of people, both cast and crew. I got performing rights to six plays, and picked Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw. I studied it in my undergraduate degree and it's a fascinating comedy.

We are putting the play on at Essex University's Lakeside Theatre in early March. I get evaluated by a board of examiners who come to the show one night. Afterwards, they interview me and discuss my journal (I've been organising rehearsals since last November and have had to keep a journal throughout).

At the moment I'm getting ready for opening night. I have prop pick-ups, I need to work out lighting and sound cues, and I have meetings with the crew and the theatre manager. Doing a Masters practical is hectic and I need to be well organised to keep on top of everything - which is why I'm an avid list-maker.

I switch off at 3.30pm when I pick Chloë up, take her home and cook her a nice meal. She's a fantastic tonic. You have to switch off - you can't discuss your work with a five-year-old, though she does ask me, "How were your rehearsals, mummy?"

I'm also a scuba diving instructor. I set up a club at the university last October, and it's another way of unwinding. You can't beat the smiles and excitement of people's faces when they get in the pool.

I've applied to do an English SCITT, the school-centred initial teacher training, in Colchester. In the future, I might think about teaching drama.

My daughter is the age I was when I first went to pantomimes. Chloê loves the theatre too, and is a member of the Jellybean Club at our local theatre, the New Wolsey Theatre, in Ipswich. She's definitely coming to see my show.

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