How to get acting experience
There are some options available to you, but by far the best thing you can do if you have no experience whatsoever is to join an amateur dramatics company, and go from there. There are huge amount of amateur companies all over the UK, with every town and village boasting at least one, and almost all professional actors across Britain would have started in amateur work.
If you check out:
you will find a list of a huge number of groups which runs to 298 pages, and the Little Theatre Guild:
is a good resource too, which my ex group is a member. You may be nervous applying or showing up for the first time, but don’t worry, if you’re passionate about performing you will find a group of like minded people who are as passionate about it as you are, and are prepared to take part for no pay but for the love of it. There is a very high change you will get on stage soon, and all the people there will be a vital resource if you want to get some further experience or pursue acting as a career.
If you want to get musical theatre experience instead, there are many musical societies out there as well. Expect much a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan and West End crowd-pleasers, but for gaining experience again there is no better way in. Google ‘amateur musical societies’ or ‘amateur operatic societies’ and see where you can find one in your area.
Another route in is an amateur company attached to your university if you are at one. Most people have heard of the world famous Footlights – the amateur company attached to Cambridge University, and just being a part of that company or other leading university company can be a significant leg up to a performing career. Experience can be gained in musicals, comedy, sketches, drama and improvisation/devising in these types of companies. Contact your university for more information and they will be able to direct you to the performing company attached to them.
To gain screen experience, this is a more difficult thing to get into as camera work requires equipment, locations, sets, props and a lot of time! So a good route in would be to make your own short films with a bunch of mates and star in them. Compare your work to what you see the professionals do and you’ll learn about screen performance and what is required. Again if you are at university, drop in on the media courses that specialise in film & TV production and talk to a few people, and see if they might want any actors to be in their projects. Chances are they’ll bite you’re hand off for volunteers. Put up a notice on their notice board as well, and someone might be in contact. I did this at Manchester University, and gained my first screen credit this way.
Finally, I’m not getting paid by them or anything, but it’s a good idea to get on Casting Call Pro, and apply for theatre, musical, screen or any other type of work they offer. Again if you are just looking to get experience, you will learn about applications, learning lines, audition preparation and what to do in an audition; and if you get the part, you’ll gain that experience as well! Check out the Opportunities or Unpaid sections for all the listings. There are hundreds of jobs out there, and so many options available to you. Again, it’s understandable if you are nervous/tentative when just starting out, but just take that first step and see how you feel. The first time I walked onstage, it was opening Taming of the Shrew in front of 600 people! And doing it was the best thing I've done.