UCA’s aspiring actors learn
from theatre’s leading lights

Acting and Performance students have had the opportunity to learn from three of the country’s leading theatre companies – Talawa, Improbable, Complicité – as part of their second year module covering equality, inclusivity, and diversity, and giving them a grounding in how they can play a role in their future careers to improve fairness for all.

20 Dec 2023

Above, students performing a short movement piece at the end of the Complicité workshop.

Representatives from Talawa, a leading proponent of Black British theatre, Complicité, a touring theatre company whose work is built on human connection, and Improbable, whose working process is underpinned by improvisation, all held workshops at UCA Farnham to help each student become a “conscious practitioner”.

Each of the workshops focused on a different area of personal development, providing food for thought and effective tools to take forward both in study and career.

Talawa workshop
For this workshop, students took part in warm-up exercises before taking part in a discussion about unconscious biases. Without judgement and in a confidential space, they could speak freely about personal experiences.

Students sit in a circle with Abigail Sol, from Talawa, to discuss sensitive issues in a safe space
Students discussing unconscious bias with Abigail Sol from Talawa.

The students came out of the experience with fresh perspectives.

“I learned a lot about things that I wouldn’t usually think about, and made myself aware of things most people don’t have to worry themselves with,” said Ben Greenstreet. “Subjects were brought up that hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

Rebecca Reeves added: “I’m going to go home and write up everything so I can take it forward with me. For me it was a lot of self-reflection and learning to be more patient and understanding.”

Abigail Maria Sol, director,  dramatherapist and founder and CEO of Deya, ran the workshop. She said: “It's great that there's an increasing focus within the sector, not just  on our creative outputs, but also our processes. UCA's integration of the Conscious Practitioner module speaks directly to this, ensuring their students are primed to consider how to create inclusive environments and how they would like people to experience working with them. It was a pleasure to meet the cohort and plant seeds that will sprout in their vibrant future careers.”

Students present work at the Improbable workshop
Students presenting ideas at the Improbable workshop

Improbable workshop
A week later, students took a different approach with Improbable co-artistic director Lee Simpson, who introduced the model of “Open Space Technology”, which teaches students to follow impulses, and trust that this leads to the best work.

Open Space Technology was created in the 1980s by Harrison Owen, a civil rights campaigner and Episcopal priest. Its central tenets are:

  • Whoever comes are the right people
  • Wherever it happens is the right place
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it is over, it is over.
Lee Simpson, from Improbable, outlines an element of Open Space Technology thinking
Lee Simpson, from Improbable.

Lee said: “Today was really nice, the students were very warm and giving with their time and talent.”

More than anything, the workshop appeared to build confidence. Millie Vince said: “I loved Improbable’s attitude and perspective – that we should bring the best version of ourselves.

“As someone who struggles with their mobility, through Improbable’s ethos, whether it’s a good day or a bad day, then it’s OK, that I am the right person they (casting companies) want to see.”

Harroon Azam added: “Modern acting companies – they care so much, and make you feel like you’re enough. This workshop was all about these modern philosophies – that they’ll work with you, rather than around you. They’ll take you as a whole and welcome you as you are.”

Complicité workshop
For the final workshop, students were encouraged by workshop leader Jo Daxter to work individually and as a team to create quick-fire performance pieces that told a clear story. Using the acting tool of the “seven tensions”, the students learned about how body language and the correct tensions can change the way a line or monologue could be consumed by the audience.

Sara Casanova said: “We were on our feet the whole time, so it was very physical, and vocal, too. We were able to put everything we’ve been discussing and learning from our previous workshops into this one and came into it with confidence and a sense of free will.

“Overall, these three sessions taught so much but for me, the biggest takeaway was learning to remain yourself throughout, connecting you the person with you the actor, and keeping a part of yourself present in any performance.”

Andrew Pritchard, Programme Director for BA (Hons) Acting & Performance, said: “We are thankful to Complicité, Talawa, Improbable and their associates for visiting and working with our Year 2 students, as part of our commitment to providing our students with a diverse range of opportunities to learn from industry professionals.”

If you’re interested in UCA’s range of performing arts courses, visit our course pages.