Edward Richards, Alumnus, BA (Hons) Drama and Performance
While studying A-levels at Gorseinon college in Swansea, Ed Richards had, by his own admission, “little direction or drive to do anything in particular” and repeatedly failed to achieve in his exams before deciding to do a year-long BTEC course in Acting and pursue a career in something that he really enjoyed.
This led him to the Drama and Performance course at LSBU, which he felt offered a more holistic approach to the subject, rather than approaching it from a training perspective as at Drama school. “I was particularly attracted by the breadth of critical framework that was offered, not only to prepare us as theatre makers to create work, but to justify why we want to make work, why theatre is important and what the role of theatre is in the contemporary social-political context,” he says.
A thriving scene and atmosphere of support
Ed was attracted to LSBU's location in the diverse cultural hub of Elephant and Castle and at the heart of a thriving theatre scene that regularly creates opportunities for young people, as well as the staff on the course
The teaching staff on the Drama course create such an environment of support, not only academically, but you get the sense that these guys are really invested in you as a person
''I often hear stories from friends of mine studying elsewhere who could walk past their teachers in the street without being recognised, and I feel privileged to have had the opposite experience at LSBU. I think considering the nature of the course, and the nature of the arts, when often the work itself requires a great personal investment, knowing that there are staff always available for whatever sort of support you need gives you as the student a great freedom to feel safe on the journey you are taking with your studies.''
“If I had to choose a single event that stood out as the highlight of the course, it would be the end of year shows. Considering the context of the project, not only as your final major examination, but as a culmination of the experiences you’ve had contributing to your education at LSBU, the performances have a real sense of event, as a community of students, to the point you almost forget that it is an examination. The chance to share what you have achieved together as a year, and the atmosphere of support from the entire school, is really quite special.”
Putting theory into practice
During his studies, Ed had several opportunities for paid employment, most with Dirty Market Theatre Company on their Oxbow Lakes show as a technical co-ordinator. This involved five weeks of employment, building a theatre space in an old print factory, rigging the theatre, designing and sourcing sound for the show, being involved in creative discussions about the show with the company and running the technical aspects during a three-week run.
“As well as learning an array of new technical theatre skills, what I think was most valuable to me from this experience was seeing some of the concepts and practices we were learning on the course being practised in a professional context. When exploring alternative ways to make theatre, it can seem abstract to apply them in a professional context, but having witnessed it in action in a room of people who are practiced at the craft, I feel I gained a new insight. Not only did I learn about the process, but the culture that exists separate from the commercial theatre scene, and the work required to make theatre that is really driven by an artistic principle. This will stay with me for the rest of my career.”
Pushing the boundaries of theatre
Graduating in 2014, Ed is currently working with Obra Theatre Company as a physical performer and collaborator on their stage adaptation of Ted Hughes’ long form poem Gaudete.
“We recently completed a short tour of the show in the north of England, performing at venues in Huddersfield, Liverpool, Barnsley and the Lowry in Manchester. As a company, we investigated the text and devised the physical material, as well as exploring new forms of physicality to support the specific nature of the text of Gaudete. My LSBU course actually directly introduced me to Obra through a three-day workshop organised by the faculty. I visited once as a student in my third year, and then again the following year whilst completing an assistant director internship, before being offered the role. So, not only was I introduced directly to the company by LSBU, but I was first introduced to the whole form of theatre, which I previously didn’t know existed,” he says.
“I love working with Obra. I feel very lucky to be working with some amazing and talented people. Most of all I like that the work is challenging! Obra’s work is rooted in some of the principles and practices of the practitioners that I found most exciting studying at LSBU. The feeling that I am in some way contributing to a wider body of work based on this practice in my day-to-day work, and to be exploring and pushing the boundaries of what we think theatre can achieve, is one of the most fulfilling things I think anyone could get paid to do!”
Continuing his journey of exploration
Moving forward, Ed says that in the future he hopes to be working with his own company, producing its own work, and hopes to continue to develop and explore a physical theatre practice.
There is no doubt that my degree has already helped me achieve what I am doing. As well as giving me the skills and knowledge to pursue a career in my field, the course inspired me to focus my work on issues that I think matter. It gave me the confidence to try and fail and continue to try
“I hope to continue to learn from the network of people I have been introduced to and worked with through the course, and as a result of the opportunities created by the course. It gave me the confidence to try and fail and continue to try. It made me think of my education not as something that happens in the pre-allocated, pre-paid time you get at university, but that the opportunity to learn and grow is in every challenge and problem we may face. These are some of the values I learnt on the Drama course at LSBU.”