NEILSON’S COLUMN (July 23, 2015): Sometimes we need help finding the right career

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My last column ended with me saying that I had been auditioning for pantos and that I might have news in my next column.

I’m happy to say that I’ll be playing Dame Dotty Derrière in Beauty and the Beast at Chatham Central Theatre alongside Sue Holderness (Marlene from Only Fools and Horses) and Stevi Ritchie (X-Factor).

I’m really looking forward to this one.

Last week our drama school performed their end-of-year show at The Hawth Theatre, Crawley, and it was a cracker.

Each class performed their own play and we closed with every student on stage performing in the finale.

It was great to see the stage packed with budding actors just like I used to be. I remember going to drama clubs and taking LAMDA exams years before I even thought of becoming a professional actor.

I was part of the Surrey County Youth Theatre in the late ’70s performing at the Yvonne Arnaud and simply loving it. To my mind then, becoming an actor was something only the kids of wealthy or well connected parents could achieve, so I was going to be an architect.

In those days the SCYT was run by a wonderful woman called Kay Dudeney. I told her that I was going to technical college and she asked me if I’d ever thought about going to drama school. I replied that I had thought about it but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

At this stage I had also missed the deadline for getting a grant and the final round of auditions were about to take place at the Guildford School of Acting.

She walked me to her office in North Street and filled in my application for a grant. She then phoned GSA and arranged for me to be seen.

I went to the audition. I did a speech, sang a song and was told at the end that I had been accepted but I’d missed the deadline for grants.

“I have my form here,” I replied as I presented it to them. I must have seemed terribly arrogant but I was only following instructions and at seventeen, I was a bit naïve.

To cut a long story short, I went to GSA and I haven’t looked back.

Sometimes we need someone in our life to help us find the right career path.

Thank you Kay Dudeney.

Follow Michael Neilson on Twitter @michael_neilson