The first of our interviews with actors who left drama school without representation but have gone on to achieve incredible things is with the brilliant Kristin Atherton @KristinAtherton.
Name: Kristin Atherton
What is your current/ most recent credit?
I'm currently in three shows as part of the RSC Rome season; playing Calphurnia in Julius Caeser (directed by Angus Jackson), Iras in Antony and Cleopatra (directed by Iqbal Khan), and the Nurse in Titus Andronicus (directed by Blanche Macintyre).
How did you find leaving Drama School?
Leaving drama school was such a rollercoaster of feelings. After three years together its quite emotional saying goodbye to people who have become your family (dysfunctional though that family might be at times), but it's also exciting to get back out ‘in the world’ and see what you can achieve on your own. Which unfortunately leads me to some of the worst feelings I went through; the fear and sometimes blind panic at the thought I might not ‘bag’ an agent. An audition. Or anything at all. Which I didn't. Not one agent called me for a meeting or even expressed a vague interest in me at any point. While two thirds of my year left with representation – some of them had six or seven agents fighting over them, or were getting multiple auditions at the Globe for major roles – eight of us were left out in the cold when July finally came around.
How did you get your first professional job?
I was insanely lucky. A casting director who saw me in one of my final year shows called me in to audition for the company Shared Experience. It was for a main role in a play about the Brontë sisters, and I remember feeling so under qualified – I didn't even have an agent to fight my corner. Turns out I didn't need one; I was offered a recall audition right there in the room. Then when I was down to the final three, apparently the director, Nancy Meckler, got in touch with one of my former LAMDA teachers, John Baxter. He’d worked with all three of us, and so Nancy asked him who he’d hire; apparently he said me, and from that job I got my first agent. I still owe John the biggest thank you pint for that!
What’s been your favourite job so far?
I've been so lucky that every job so far has been fantastic in its own way, but if I had to choose I think my second Shared Experience gig, where I played the titular role in Helen Edmundson’s play Mary Shelley. Originating a character like that is already such an honour, but Helen is such an extraordinary writer that even after we'd been doing the show for three months it still felt like unwrapping the best Christmas present ever every night we performed. And I owe Shared Experience my career and my professional development on so many levels.
What is the advice you would offer to young people leaving drama school over the next few weeks or the advice you’d give yourself looking back?
It’s easy to say, and I wish I’d known this myself, but you DON’T need an agent. At least not at first. They’re not the be all and end all. Casting directors are more important that agents, and in turn directors are more important than casting directors. They’re the ones who actually hire you. If you’ve worked with professional directors in your final year, keep in touch with them; they may hire you in future (or get you your first job)!
Making your own work isn't for everyone, but if you can do it then do it – Mischief Theatre, who created The Play That Goes Wrong are living proof of just how far you can go just from starting in a pub theatre. But people from my year have set up successful theatre and film companies from scratch in the 8 years since we graduated and I’m so full of admiration and respect for their drive and creativity – I know I couldn't do it!
And don't give up if things don't work out right away. I’ve come so close to quitting more times than I can count, but things can and do change overnight. A guy from my year after graduation for years barely worked, briefly became a baker, and now he's starring in a major West End musical. Before my current 14 month contract with the RSC I was almost totally unemployed for a year. But find ways to keep busy, write letters to people (trust me, it works) and know there's more luck than talent in most successful careers (but hard work is a big help up).
What do you think of (RE)PRESENTED as a project (is it something you’d have gone for)?
(RE)PRESENTED is exactly what I’m talking about when I say keep busy. It’s ideal as a next step into the industry and I wish something similar had been around when I graduated; I'd definitely have gone for it myself!
Kristin is now represented by United Agents
You can catch Kristin in the RSC's Rome Season in Stratford until September and then at the Barbican in London from November. For more information click here
To apply for (RE)PRESENTED please click here and fill in the online registration form. Applications are open until 1st November 2017.