Two new innovative degree courses in performance are now on offer at Wimbledon. The courses, for which there are no audition fees, or indeed auditions, are:
- BA Acting and Performance
- BA Contemporary Theatre and Performance
David Crow, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges said, “By concentrating on delivering courses related to performance, screen and theatre arts our students will be able to collaborate in teams and work side-by-side with their complementary skills to provide a rich, integrated approach to making performance.
“We will provide our students with opportunities to work alongside some of the most talented professionals at work in the UK performing arts industry, as well as some extraordinary visiting artists.
A college at the heart the world of performance
Wimbledon College of Arts is at the heart of the world of performance. Everywhere that you look across performance media today, whether on screen, on stage or beyond, you see the skills we have taught, and the creativity we have inspired. You see them in a movie like the Churchill-era Darkest Hour, Oscar-nominated for its production design by Wimbledon graduate Sarah Greenwood which created an atmospheric leading role for the Cabinet War Rooms.
In offering the teaching, the facilities, the experience and the connections to develop talents like these, Wimbledon is unique. We nurture the creative skills of performance, production and design, alongside the technical arts of screen performance and the digital space. And we make a collaborative environment, in which those who want to design, create or perform can work together to realise their potential.
“As with our technical courses,” continues David Crow, “we are confident that the performers at Wimbledon will appear on awards lists in the future, and that we will create partnerships in the college that will be sustained in professional life. We feel our accessible and rounded approach to performance will equip you to focus your creative talents towards a fulfilling career in the arts.”
An integrated performance environment
Simon Betts, Dean of Performance, brings a multi-disciplinary background to Wimbledon. And it shows, in the direction of the courses under his remit, and the unique way in which acting, production arts, costume and theatre design all come together at Wimbledon.
“What we offer is a very integrated performance environment, with a relationship across all of our courses. And that is absolutely two-way traffic, it’s ideas and performance development working both ways, between actors, technicians, designers and producers. We encourage students on the different courses to work very directly together, so that their sense of what’s possible becomes deeper, and they get a much more holistic, integrated experience.”
“There is a historical connotation to terms like onstage and backstage, that one is superior to the other. And what we’re doing is saying no, they’re of equal value, and their interrelationship can be critical in terms of how live work evolves and develops. The skills required are different, but it’s when they come together, in an equitable and inclusive way, that the magic happens.”
It’s not just about acting..
Performance has appeal for a broad range of students. “It could be someone who writes poetry, and wants to perform it. It could be someone who’s read Shakespeare and wants to stage that. But it could just as easily be someone who raps in their spare time and wants to take that further. And they will have different ways of communicating, and different audiences that they want to talk to.”
Acting is founded upon an education in the traditional techniques of performance. “We have core staff, with a focus on those core skills, and a daily discipline of voice, movement and all the things a performer would be doing anywhere else, like a career musician doing their scales every day. And we bring in different, interesting people, actors, directors and voice coaches of a high calibre, to do some of that work”
“We never lose sight of those core skills that are needed by any acting student – it’s what we encourage them do with those core skills that makes us different. The next layer is to use that work, to use those emerging skills, to start making personal interpretations of texts and narratives.
“We’re also interested in how students see acting and performance when a technology is an actor as much as the student. What does it mean to perform with a piece of technology, or a piece of software? We start to blur some of the edges of what might be considered ‘performance’.
Which ultimately leads to that collaboration between all of the Wimbledon disciplines. “When the students have covered all that, they’re able to work with each other on projects. The lighting technician can work with the costume designer, the actor can go and pick out the animatronics. There are spaces in the courses where collaboration is the most important project. “So as well as those hardcore skills, there are opportunities for collaboration, and reflection. Underpinned with a very strong contextual critical input which helps all of our students to understand what it means to be involved in performance now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
A fresh approach to selection
That twenty-first century approach is reflected in Wimbledon’s attitude towards recruitment. “The issues around inclusivity and diversity are crucial in providing a space where everyone’s ideas and stories are heard, where the canon is challenged, and where students feel they can make work that is more hybrid. They’ll work with students from diverse backgrounds, and international students, and we encourage discussion around those differences, to end up with work that challenges a lot of people’s perceptions.” Similarly, a major difference between the acting courses here and elsewhere is that Wimbledon does not require auditions. “We think auditions can encourage applicants to fall back on some notion of what they should be doing, rather than coming without that kind of clutter. So we operate workshops, which involve members of staff and some of the current students. And what that does is allow the applicant to feel much more at ease, because they’re here to do a piece of work, with some like-minded people, rather than stand up alone in front of a panel and perform what sometimes feels like a party piece. From the get-go it signals a new way of doing things.”
“Young people have got a lot to say. We need them to say it. And we’ll help them to say it.”
A way which he believes is unique to Wimbledon. “There is an exciting energy about this campus, about its combination of students. It’s an opportunity for young people wanting to be engaged in theatre and performance in different ways to really rub shoulders and work closely together. And by having this integrated environment, you can spend time working with, say, a sound guy, or acquiring technical skills, or developing digital skills, and what you can do on leaving here has suddenly opened up.”
Wimbledon’s courses explore the very form of performance – and so do its students. “Is performance something that’s ‘entertainment’? Or is it something that can play a role in really changing people’s attitudes, and their understanding of the world, and actually be a force for change? “Out there, across the globe, performance work is becoming much more political. Young people have got a lot to say. We need them to say it. And we’ll help them to say it.”
To find out more about Wimbledon’s performance offer, why not sign up to one of our open days?