My Four Day Acting Course

08/11/2012 16:18 GMT | Updated 08/01/2013 10:12 GMT
Alex Pitt/Walkabout Pictures

Ever fancied your self as being the next Jessie Wallace in Eastenders, or James Holmes in the BBC sitcom Miranda? Then the four day course at The Poor School is the course for you.

Twenty years ago, it was hard to find good training beyond the walls of the big drama schools. Talent went to waste for lack of access - except for the lucky few. The biographies of actors in theatre programmes today indicate that there are now many more training routes open to people who want to work in theatre. The four day course at The Poor School was full with a group of thirty individuals, some had acted before, and some were complete beginners. What can I say? We were all friends who had never met before. There is nothing like a good short course in acting to make friends and bond with people. This course is brilliant for deciding if you want to take up acting as a career. I was really nervous going into it. I've done a lot of TV presenting, but I've never really given thought to my posture or movement before. I've presented music shows but never sung in front of people - that only happens after I have drunk a pint of Baileys. I've never had to learn a monologue from Shakespeare before or learn a script from Harold Pinter. This course really covered the lot and with great success. Thrown in at the deep and head first we went from being shy individuals to A Company of Actors.

The Four Day Course began in 2007 and has seen over 1500 people. Some wanted to be actors, others wanted to spend a week in a different world. They have seen solicitors, pilots, train drivers, senior policemen, entrepreneurs, ex-footballers, models, TV presenters, housewives, stuntmen, businessmen. The age range is teenage to sixties and the average is 34. No-one, consequently, cares about age and Most have little or no experience. The course suits everyone and anyone willing to do a small amount of work and turn up on time looking awake. It is especially suitable for those who wish to be considered for the full time training and serves as a thorough audition for those who wish it to be. The course consists of a series of classes in the basics of an acting training; Voice, Movement, and Singing. You are given a short contemporary scene on your first day, and these are shown to colleagues and staff on the final afternoon. There are classes on Shakespeare, Stage Fighting, Jazz and Dialect.

Paul Caister is the founder of The Poor School. Paul started the school in 1986. He trained at the Bristol Old Vic, leaving in 1976. He directed on the London fringe and then spent five years acting, writing and directing in Australia. Paul is extremely approachable with a witty sense of humour. I have never known anybody to be as passionate as Paul Castier is towards Shakespeare. Paul's knowledge of Shakespeare is on another level. He is a complete perfectionist. Paul's magnificent directing and teaching brought out the professionalism in the group. Paul really gave a wealth of instruction. I was overwhelmed by his knowledge and understanding and the feedback he gave in his class.

Grantley Buck - Singing

Grantley was Head of Musical Theatre at the Urdang Academy in Covent Garden for seven years. He has worked for Arts Educational, The Roundhouse, the Globe Centre and spent two years as a principal in the West End production of GREASE. He obtained a BA (Hons) in Music from Leeds University and began teaching at The Poor School in May, 2004. He is the master at teaching you how to go from mumbling to singing in a very short space of time. Grantley Buck, believes that everybody is capable of singing, in just three lessons he took us from sounding like a pack of Hyenas along to Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific to a loud and jolly ensemble rendition of another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, Clambake, from Carousel; an amazing transformation that even Andrew Lloyd Webber would have been impressed with.

Alison de Burgh - Stage Combat

Alison is Britain's first female Fight Director. She has worked extensively in the West End, for the main subsidised companies, in regional repertory, on the London Fringe, in film and for the major opera companies. She was Fight Master at Webber Douglas for ten years. She is a fencing coach and an ex-national longbow champion. She taught us how to punch, slap and back slap somebody, making sure no one got hurt. Despite being slight, she is a girl who can definitely handle herself. Her class was full of fun stories.

Jenni Malarkey - Movement

Trained at The BRIT School, Dartington College of Arts and Central School of Speech and Drama, where she gained a 1st Class MA in the teaching of movement for actors. Movement teaching includes Middlesex University, Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, London Bubble Theatre Company, University of East London, and The Poor School. Movement Direction includes Richard III (Love And Madness Productions) and The Ghost Train ( Lost Theatre). Performance includes ʻAmphibiansʼ (NT Studio, Offstage Theatre), nominated for six Off West End Awards and Movement Director Lucy Cullingford's ʻRenaissance Body Projectʼ (RSC/Warwick University). Jenni Malarkey, loves to stretch the limbs, she moves across the studio oozing grace and style. She makes everything look effortless and elegant. She took some of us, ok I'll rephrase that. I'm a girl with limbs too long for her own body with what I can only describe as having two left feet who is not a natural dancer to doing a Elizabethan dance with rthym. And the boys loved her.

Christian Fellner - Voice

Christian trained initially as a classical singer at Trinity College of Music, London and privately in Moscow. He trained as a voice teacher at the Central School of Speech and Drama and has been coaching and teaching voice for over fifteen years working with both singers and speakers. As a performer, he has worked in opera and concert and continues to perform regularly as a recitalist. His has sung in Russia, Israel, Austria and Greece and given several recitals at Oxford University. Christian Fellner is what you would describe as a true English Gentleman. Christian gave us a scene from Harold Pinter's play Night School. We were put into groups of three and then had to learn the script, to perform to the rest of the group on the last day.

Trudi Rees - Acting, Movement, Jazz

Trained originally in classical ballet and later as an actress at the Poor School. She has worked extensively in the West End, regional theatre and on television. For the Poor School she has directed AN EXPERIMENT WITH AN AIR PUMP by Shelagh Stevenson and STEEL MAGNOLIAS by Robert Harling. Trudi is a genius when it comes to understanding good posture. She taught us all how to move holding our bodies in the correct position. I had never really given much thought to standing with my feet under my hips whilst sucking my stomach in whilst imaging that I was leaning over a beach ball. Trudi also has eye make -up to die for.

The course was very enriching not only as an introduction to acting but also in a personal level. It makes you realise how far you can get with your emotions and how your confidence can grow if you really allow yourself to do it with the right orientation. The teachers are all authentic genius's and they all have this special way of making you feel comfortable and love what they do with great passion. This experience will stay with me forever. It was a very friendly and easy going atmosphere. The learning experience was amazing. I have never learned or achieved so much in such a short time. The other students on my course were all varied ages the youngest being sixteen and the oldest being late forty's, all from different backgrounds, which made it a hugely interesting experience. I think it is good to have a mix such as that.