Should I give up on my National Diploma?

Aimee is 19 years old and wonders if casting directors prioritise qualifications over practical experience.

​Unfortunately, I have not been getting on very well studying for my National Diploma in performing arts. Because of this I have decided not to continue onto the next year.

I have been thinking about working full time, training as much as I can in musical theatre and then applying to a drama school. I was wondering if, when you audition for things, they look at your qualifications or mainly at your talent?

— Aimee

Expert answers

Julian Bryant's reply:

​I’m sorry your present course is not living up to your expectations, but I’d advise you to stick with it and get the qualification. The final year of your ND should provide new challenges, and the standards you set for yourself you should encourage in your classmates.  But do recognise that not all of them will be able to meet that challenge.

Your ambition to go to drama school is well founded, as it will help you both with the range of your ability, and with making your acting career sustainable.  Don’t worry about your age – if anything most drama school will still consider you to be on the young side.  Life experience is important to the artist as well as learning and talent. There are also musical theatre courses at music schools such as RAM and Trinity Laban.

Finally, seize on every opportunity you can to learn about performing, both by doing and by seeing as much as you can.  Challenge yourself by seeing things you didn’t think you’d like; looking at other art forms such as music and visual arts to see what they are doing.  Look out for youth theatre and community arts projects in your area – there are some exciting things happening in Luton, for example, at the Hat Factory and the Carnival Arts centre that might be very interesting.  And look to keep developing yourself as an artist throughout your life – the shows that are on in London (for example) at the moment will not be the same in twenty years - except The Mousetrap of course!

Best of luck with your chosen career.

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