Often, we start to hear about actors when they are cast in a major role and their career is taking off. However, before this moment can happen, there are the years of auditions, drama school and a lot of hard work. We wanted to know about what really happens in the early stages of an actor’s career. For this series, we interview a different actor about their career so far, about whether they went to drama school or not, and what they have learned along the way. This week: recent MA Drama graduate, Angelika May.
RC: Hi Angelika! How did you first get into acting, and when did you realise you wanted to make a career out of it?
AM: Hey! My mum was a playwright, she worked at the Royal Court so I grew up with a very liberal upbringing and was consistently pushed to be creative whether that was ballet, music, art or drama. I was more multi-faceted at school, however the state school system isn’t tailored to support this. So during GCSE’S and A-Level’s I had to drop art and music as they were in the same block as drama which led me to study drama through process of elimination.
RC: You studied Drama at Goldsmiths for three years. What made you choose the school initially and what did you like and dislike about the course?
AM: I kind of chose Goldsmiths on a whim, I didn’t get into any drama schools for my BA. I got very lucky as Goldsmiths was completely life changing, it was genuinely the best three years of my life (so far). I enjoyed the theory a lot more than the practical, the theory was heavily integrated with gender politics and anthropological studies which completely changed my perspective on theatre. Specifically how it’s not just surface level, it’s a way of communication for so many minority groups. I felt quite overwhelmed at times with the level of Dadaism, surrealism and bizarreness that was expected from you. On one occasion someone was crawling around campus stark bollock naked except from a gimp mask and a harness for arts sake. On another occasion, I asked if we were allowed to swear in a production to which I was told “someone shat in a bucket on stage so you should be fine” (pretty sure they got a first).
RC: You went on to do an MA at The Bridge Theatre Training Company to study a more traditional method of acting, what have been the biggest benefits in doing the master for you?
AM: The masters was incredibly beneficial as Goldsmiths didn’t prepare me for a career as an actor, it is more tailored to devised theatre and creating off-kilter theatre companies. The Bridge really provided me with the ground work to be a working actor, how to get an agent, how to use spotlight, auditions, stage combat, period dance. It’s also provided me with networking opportunities that have been invaluable.
RC: Having studied two quite different methods of acting, how has each school influenced your work?
AM: Goldsmiths taught me to be experimental and push boundaries, the Bridge has taught me that there’s methods to this madness.
RC: You just finished your graduate shows: what was the whole experience like? What did you enjoy the most about it?
AM: The past year at drama school has been one of the best and worst years of my life (due to it being such fucking hard work). The graduate shows were a really lovely reminder of why I’ve pushed through a lot this year, the euphoric feeling when the lights come up is indescribable. It was also a pleasure performing a Lorca play during Pride month. I do have to say that the dressing room culture is what I enjoy most about a show, the process of hair and makeup, everyone eating dinner together, warm-ups, holding hands five minutes before doors open is always my highlight.
RC: You write as well as act: how did you get into writing?
AM: I submitted a piece for Edinburgh Fringe (which didn’t get accepted but is now being made into a short) that was my first writing task and I continued it during lockdown as a hobby.
RC: You’re currently working on a short film based around feminist politics. How did the idea come about and why did you choose the short film format for the project?
AM: I chose the short film format as I think that it’s more accessible and as feminist politics is such an important subject I think it should be widely available for all. Also, the new re-writes have a lot of sex scenes which just wouldn’t be practical in the theatre. The story originated through an amalgamation of my own and friends experience of dating, sex and relationships. “7-10” focuses on a specific type of coping mechanism after sexual assault which is hyper sexuality, I wanted to speak about how complex trauma is as I felt that the media only depicts one side of the aftermath of sexual trauma. Also, I was known to be the serial dater of my friendship group, the original idea emerged from an accumulation of really terrible dates that were so bad you honestly couldn’t write it, so I did.
RC: As for the future, what are your biggest goals you hope to achieve?
AM: I’d say that what I want to achieve more than anything is being a part of something that has a social commentary, something important and timeless. It would be great to be part of something that defined a generation, like how a lot of 90s indie films provide information about wider society, much like “It’s a Sin” did this year. I think my time at Goldsmiths taught me that having something to say is the most important part of being an actor. Winning an Oscar would also be nice.
RC: Lastly, what advice would you give someone wanting to go into acting?
AM: Don’t. Haha (joking), don’t do it for money/fame because it won’t carry you very far. You have to be incredibly resilient and thick skinned and doing it for love of your craft is the only thing that’s going to keep you going. Also make sure you enjoy your survival job as 80% of your time will be spent there whilst looking for acting work.
Stage or screen?
All-time favourite performance?
Tim Curry as Frankenfurter
Joan of Arc
Best acting advice you ever got?
Use Vicks to help you cry.
Actor you’d love to work with?
Follow Angelika here.