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You may have heard our Level 3 Acting for Stage and Screen students are once again taking part in Connections, the National Theatre’s annual, nationwide youth theatre festival. This year they’re performing, Old Times by Molly Taylor, with their first performance having taken place on 16th March in our very own Margaret Armstrong Theatre!

One of our second-year Acting students, Morgan, has taken on the role of director after deciding to form a second cast from the play’s understudies. Morgan said “From the second I read the script, I knew I wanted a directing role. Usually, when reading scripts, a character always stands out, but on this occasion, I was thinking about what I could do with it.”

Morgan explained how the cast for this production was small and so there was a full cast of understudies. Once the cast list dropped, Morgan approached Kelly and put it to a vote for the understudies to produce their take on the piece which was met with an outstanding YES. Morgan said he vividly remembers Kelly stating, “Well why don’t you make that your baby then.”

This is Morgan’s second year of involvement with National Connections, but his first project as director. Morgan said, “Acting is completely my passion and sometimes I itch to be back out there performing with the cast, especially on the approach to show day.” But this time Morgan wanted to take this opportunity to experience a move backstage.

It’s also the 23-year-olds first time working with a full script, “usually I’d only focus on one character but now I’m getting to run everything. It’s so rewarding, although my scripts are full of notes, on top of notes!”

When asked about what he has enjoyed the most about the experience, Morgan spoke about his growth throughout the project. “Working with the cast has been incredible, the group is amazing, they’re so switched on, and when I give ideas, they’re open to my suggestions. We’ve built great scenes together. Working with them has just made the job so easy” he beamed.

Reflecting on last year’s Connections project, Morgan said “It’s such a great experience. I was part of the show last year and loved performing in our home venue and then being able to take it to York Theatre Royal.” The fact that these performances move venue is something the students must consider when building scenes and designing their set. Morgan said, “The set this year has been kept simple, but it’s still very effective.”

With a lot of appreciation, Morgan said, “I have to give massive thanks to Kelly Fairhurst; course leader for Acting and Film, for giving me this opportunity, it’s been amazing.” He told us how well they’ve worked together, how they were able to give one another space and the freedom to create their own versions of Old Times. Morgan said, “It’s been amusing to see that Kelly and I think quite similarly, and some parts of our performances are almost identical.” Kelly has even included some of Morgan's direction in the main performance with the first cast, which Morgan said has been great to see.

Morgan will be leaving the college this year and has his sights set on a couple of universities including Leeds Met Film School. With plans to do a degree in acting, Morgan said his dream would be to work in screen and do stage as a side hustle hobby. The young actor is also considering teaching at some point in his future.

On the approach to the first show day, Morgan told us how nerves have been creeping in with some rehearsals going better than others, but he’s learned a lot from his first directing experience. He said, “It’s about giving the cast a balance, I’ve learned how to approach situations to keep the morale high even through periods of frustration.” He added, “There are times where I’ve known we can do better and are capable of more, and you do need to be tough at points but it’s all within reason and we have a laugh and a joke throughout as well”.

Morgan sat proudly and shared how confident he was with his cast's ability and how ready they are for their performance. He said with certainty, “They’re going to smash it.”

Course Leader, Kelly Fairhurst said “I couldn't be more proud of Morgan, his drive and ambition to see his team take to the stage is outstanding, his cast is a real credit to him and themselves, it's been an incredibly rewarding experience to see the group bring the piece to life independently showing a real understanding of their craft only 6 months into some of their studies and of course my own cast has been a dream to work with also, working hard, contributing ideas - again showing that understanding throughout. The future is certainly bright for these young performers.”

Morgan's cast of actors had the opportunity to perform their show in addition to the main cast as a bonus secondary showing to their friends, family, and supporters! For cast one, their performance is the first of their National Connections run and was attended by a Mentor Director from the National Theatre who then provides detailed feedback on their performance before they move location and perform again at The Fire Station in Sunderland on Friday 31st March!

Well done Morgan, your proactiveness, hard work, and determination haven’t gone unnoticed.

We wish all our young actors good luck with their future performances.

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