Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Barbra Streisand and Kristin Chenoweth have bagged six Oscars and two Tony awards between them, but the furthest that I have ever got to this is receiving a miniature plastic trophy for my school’s drama competition. They have all had successful long-standing careers in film, television or theatre, and I have wanted to follow in their footsteps ever since I was young.

I cannot pinpoint an exact time when my obsession with the performing arts began, but it was always in my blood. My great grandfather ran an amateur dramatic society on the Isle of Wight, staging Shakespearean productions in local theatres with his wife and three children – one of whom was my grandfather. My grandfather, a self-proclaimed saint as an old gent, ran away from school when he was just fourteen years old to try his luck as an actor in 1930’s London: he had caught the acting bug, much like I did some sixty years later.

Growing up, most children my age spent their free time riding bikes or playing on the monkey bars, but I had my head buried in the fancy dress box, directing and starring in my own plays, performing to friends and family, and anyone else I could get to watch. From that early age, I got a great pleasure from observing the faces of others who were thoroughly impressed or immensely amused by my performance. That feeling of raised self-esteem and rush of adrenaline was like a drug, and I was hooked. In the words of Oscar Wilde: “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

Seeing my clear passion for creativity, my parents signed me up to ballet classes, followed shortly by a Saturday theatre school.

I greatly expanded my knowledge on the discipline, learning that it isn’t all fun and games but takes serious commitment and patience. I was taught that, just like any job, it is important to have practical experience as well as a knowledge of the theory behind the art form. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) states that “a vocational training establishment equips student actors, stage managers and technical craft specialists for careers at the highest level in theatre, television, film and radio”. With that in mind, for research purposes, I arranged a tour around one of London’s many dramatic and performing arts colleges that offers courses on acting, dance, literature, stage production and design. On entering the college building, I saw students prancing around wearing pointe shoes; tutors carrying musical instruments; and operatic voices echoing down the halls. I felt at home.

Eventually my extra-curricular activities became too much for me to cope with at the same time as studying for my A-levels, so they had to be sacrificed for the good of my academic achievements. However, that was easier said than done. Whilst revising I sometimes found it hard to concentrate and drifted away into daydreams, visualising myself standing in front of an audience roaring with applause, my face plastered with stage make-up and sweltering under the spotlight having just completed a polished dance routine.

The problem with performing arts is that it is a hugely competitive business to break into. Thousands in the UK strive to make it to professional “star” status, but even more do the same job for free in order to obtain the credits. As Woody Allen once wrote on the industry’s harshness: “Showbusiness is not so much dog eats dog, as dog doesn’t return other dog’s phone calls”. Many actors and dancers find it hard to remain financially stable in their creative roles alone, with 52% of Equity (arts and entertainment union) members earning less than £6,000 a year, so it is important that they have the flexibility to be able to work in more traditional jobs when out of work and as a back-up plan.

This is why, as most of my friends were going onto university, I went straight into work to drum up some savings and to enhance my CV. My more “traditional” working years rolled on, but my passion for stagecraft never wilted. I practically became a Royal Ballet and West End theatre season ticket holder, looking up at the stage in awe of the spectacular productions and emotional acts. I regularly attended conferences and workshops on theatre and film; and spent select evenings watching “behind the scenes” DVD extras to get tips on direction, but I was longing to get further constructive experience.

Although I was working full-time at my local hospital, I made a commitment to do something every evening which was one step towards achieving my ambition. I joined a drama group and undertook Ballroom, Salsa, Jive, Ballet and Street dancing on every night of the working week. I had the opportunity to perform in shows and at charity events, giving me back the buzz of performing and a sense of achievement that I was doing something towards my ultimate goal. I also filled my weekends with other activities such as horse riding, scuba diving, plane piloting and vocal coaching, to better my chances of getting a casting call if a production team was searching for a candidate with particular skills. Thereby, I would be able to step up to the mark, as I signed up to audition alerts from entertainment newspapers and websites.

Although I am gaining a vast performing background, I am yet to have a paid part in theatre, television or film. It is estimated that just 8 percent of UK-based actors are in professional work at any given moment, and those in work are only employed for an average of 11.3 weeks per year. From my time spent around other artistes and creatives (some more successful than others), I have learnt that conquering the industry is not just a case of “following your dream” but takes hard work, determination, proactivity and perseverance.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.