Performing Arts student Rhiannon Thomas has shown that a can-do attitude and a hunger for learning and developing new skills can get you noticed.
The Excellence Scholarship winner from Halifax has gained experience in a wide variety of industry-relevant disciplines, as well as opportunities in theatre and television since beginning her degree at Edge Hill University.
“I looked out for any opportunity I heard about through teachers or friends, and got involved,” she said. “I helped with the performance of The Devil’s Wall by the Wives’ Tales Theatre Company, took part in two Circus Intensives and performed to local schools and residents. From there I made sure to keep in touch with people!”
Rhiannon has not only managed to gain representation with Mint Casting, from which she has worked as an extra on shows such as Hollyoaks and ITV’s Girlfriends, but has also been given the opportunity to work front-of-house with the Box Office in the Arts Centre at Edge Hill.
“They gave me great experience of taking direction and being on camera, as well as of working within the industry itself, giving me an idea of the checks and tasks that need to be carried out in a working theatre.”
Other theatre work has given Rhiannon a further taste of the industry.
“I helped with Joanne Tremarco’s The Birth of Death as a performative helper – and I also had the chance to not only help stage manage a show, To You To You To You by Lisa Alexander and guests, but also to create a three-minute physical theatre performance piece in response to a provocation written by Lisa.
“Although this was the first show I had helped to stage manage on top of performing my piece, it was a great look into the world of professional theatre.”
Research and development has also come Rhiannon’s way thanks to a link-up with respected artistic director Jen Heyes and performance artist David Hoyle on their Hedda Gabler project.
“Through these sessions I got a better understanding of what happens when the process surrounding the creation of theatrical shows starts, and what the company focus on or develop to begin with.”
Rhiannon has performed from a young age, although she had to overcome some hurdles before pursuing her goals.
“I had done ballet, tap and jazz dance as a young child, but drifted away due to nerves and lack of confidence. But I knew that I wanted to perform again and so just before college I attended some drama workshops.
“These allowed me explore new performance types including masks, Brechtian drama and physical theatre. I realised this was something I wanted to do, something I wanted to take further to help me regain confidence.”
The Performing Arts course on Edge Hill’s website fitted the bill for Rhiannon.
“I was drawn in by the choices: the aerial, circus and drag modules. This made me realise how great the course would be. Also, upon coming to my audition and seeing the campus and how beautiful it is, I decided that this was the place I wanted to spend my next three years.”
Rhiannon’s Circus Intensives reflect a growing interest which began after she spotted an opportunity with a pole and aerial society at her Fresher’s Fair.
“I attended pole fitness lessons, then once I’d become more confident I began to take lessons in aerial hoop and silks. Towards the end of my first year, I taught myself to juggle for an assessment, and really began my love for circus skills. I began to practice diabolo, devil sticks and spinning plates as some beginner skills.
“Throughout second year and this year, I have explored unicycling, cigar box juggling and club juggling.”
Rhiannon has also helped build links with Tate Liverpool.
“Initially, as the scheme is new, I was involved in the discussion of how to get the students more interested – especially through offers such as free entry into the paid exhibitions and the discounts in the cafe and shop. Within these discussions we talked about events that would appeal and let them know more about the Tate itself.”
Post-university, Rhiannon has one main aim on her mind, an ambition near the top of most performers’ wishlists.
“I want to create and perform my first theatre show at Edge Hill’s Arts Centre, with the ambition to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe and further locations around Britain.”