We caught up with ALRA alumnus Andrew Armitage about his recent appearance on Eastenders and his experience in casting and shooting for it, what he’s been up to since studying at ALRA, and what he’s got lined up next.
We’re really pleased to hear from you and about what you’ve achieved so far. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been working on since graduating?
I was lucky enough to land some work on the first series of ‘Humans’ on Channel 4 not long afterleaving ALRA. It was a great experience to have straight out of drama school and I got to work closely on my Synth’s choreography with Movement Director Dan O’Neil. The substantial movement training I gained at ALRA came in handy.
Since then, I have spent a long time in theatre, mainly working with new writing. I didn’t wait for my agent to call me to get work and the commercial work I did in adverts (Rightmove, Google, Heathrow) allowed me to take on profit share projects. It’s been hard work, but you realise things pay off if you are consistent and persist. Always have the mentality that something great is just around the corner, as things can change for you very quickly.
What’s up next for you?
I filmed a short at the start of the year and a web series I featured in is being released soon. I have also just started rehearsals for a new play 'Among Angels' written by author Timothy Graves and directed by Peter Taylor. It opens at The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton in April for a four-week run. The play deals, in part, with the Chemsex issue in the LGBTQ community yet is also a poetic love story. 'Among Angels' experiments with theatrical form and invites the audience to explore their own ontological beliefs.
Can you talk us through the casting process for EastEnders?
It was very fast. My agent called me the day before to give me the character breakdown with a time and location for the casting. I didn’t get a script to prepare as they were given on arrival! Being dyslexic, I always turn up very early so I can have a solid amount of time prepping and running the script. Be bold and make some strong choices and they can always direct you to do it another way, which they did. I got called the same day saying I had been successful.
What was the rehearsal process and shoot like? Can you pass on any tips for someone going to work on a set for the first time? What particular skills did you draw on from your training?
I didn’t get any rehearsals prior to the shooting days. I learnt the script at home and rehearsed with a close friend of mine. When I arrived, I luckily met Sophia Capasso who played Evie in my scenes. We read the lines for the scene just before being called down to set and then again with the director when we arrived. We then got straight into positions for a take. Bruce Webb is a great director and gave me some notes after each take for me to play with.
I used a lot of my acting technique and script preparation taught by Linda Miller at ALRA: Stake, Action, Objective. Whenever I get a script, I make sure I do this first. I then break it into units and add some playable actions. Don’t get hung up on your ideas and the way you have rehearsed it; be ready for all of this to change when you are on set. You will get direction – just make sure you really work with the other actor and what they give you. It was a pleasure working with Sophia Capasso as she had been working on Eastenders for a while; she knew her character very well and what was expected of her. Know your lines inside out and even be ready for those to change, which they did a few times when filming.
What are your favourite memories of your training at ALRA?
That is a hard question to answer as so much happens over the 3 years. I think the movement training was brilliant: Animals Studies, Elements and Laban were highlights, and also having the opportunity to do extracurricular ‘Making Movement’ projects. I will never forget the shows in the final year as you get to put everything into practice, work as a company, have a stunning set and costume and finally get a chance to show your friends and family what you have been doing for the last two years.
What are your ambitions now, and have they changed from when you first graduated?
I have always wanted and still want to perform at the National Theatre. Theatre is my main passion as I love how intense and rigorous the rehearsal process is and then the live performances on the run are always exhilarating and very rewarding. However, the more TV and film work I get, the more I want to do this as well. The majority of my work since leaving ALRA has been theatre so I have been very lucky. I have found it all for myself and gained from all of it.
What advice would you give to students graduating this year?
Don’t worry if you do not have an agent or if your agent is not getting you the work you want. That will come in good time. I have been, and also know many actors, who have agents and are not getting work. It made me work even harder. I used Casting Call Pro, now named Mandy. I am rarely out of work for a long time. Also, do not be afraid to contact your agent and ask them for a list of castings you are being submitted for. Do not forget you are working together with them, not for them.
Finally, what advice would you give to prospective students who are auditioning for drama school?
Enjoy your training as much as you can even when it is very difficult and you are juggling lots of different projects, as you are still learning! You would be bored and complacent if it was easy. Throw yourself into it all and don’t worry about making mistakes. Drama school is a safe environment for you to play and take risks.