Tom Cole: My Trinity Drama Story

Tom Cole, who passed his Trinity Grade 8 'Acting in Pairs' award, talks gender-swapping performances and the importance of trust in acting

Tom Cole: My Trinity Drama Story

By Tom Cole

In 2018, I began my first Trinity Drama award as I started to prepare for my Grade 8 ‘Acting in Pairs’ course. This being my first experience of a Trinity award, I didn’t know much about the process of preparing and performing a rehearsed theatrical piece; and taking up Grade 8 straight away only compounded the pressure. However, working together with a performer who had taken multiple Trinity exams before, I was able to compile my pre-existing experience with his to create three unique performances.

We chose to base our performances on the theme of ‘Men playing Women’. Being an acting duet of two men left us with little dynamic option when trialling scripts, so we designated one of us to play the female. The comedic nature we found in this allowed us to explore different styles of theatre and genres, before settling on three scripts. The three scripts we chose involved one where I played a male and my partner a male dressed as a female, a second in which we both played females, and a third in which I played a female and my partner a male.

This demonstrated an array of genres, from Farcical to Shakespeare and Pantomime, which allowed us to elaborate a wide range of acting techniques and characters, without appearing to specialise in just one. Though comedy was the main aspect of many of our pieces, we were able to incorporate elements of naturalism and authentic theatre to our performances through a diverse and varied form of rehearsal, including directorial and character-building exercises. 

The varied exercises we used during the development period built a strong trust between myself and my acting partner, which was essential for the highly physical and demanding elements of our performances. For me, trust is the most important aspect to a relationship between actors. This is because actors place themselves in a purposefully exposing position on stage and must rely on their co-stars to support them. As a result, my acting partner and I built a great friendship and trust between us throughout the process. 

For me, this community was also vital to integrating into the new Sixth Form environment I had joined, where people can work and build great relationships through environments such as those on stage. The Trinity award gave me the platform to present myself and my ability – and now, having worked with another group of actors also in the Trinity scheme, I have become part of a strong cast which regularly takes part in performances and arts events. 

For me, trust is the most important aspect to a relationship between actors.

The most challenging part of my Trinity experience was engaging in genres that I previously had little experience in. For example, having never performed a Shakespeare script before, I struggled initially with the pace and iambic pentameter of the script. While rehearsing other pieces, however, I learnt about how the style had influenced other genres and its intended effect within a scene or on an audience. Studying some of the theatrical theory behind our scripts also helped during the Trinity exam, especially when discussing the performances with the examiner.

This level of improvised and spontaneous thought was supported by a number of improvisation techniques we had rehearsed and were later subjected to in the exam. Developing these skills, of thinking spontaneously and developing a plan while on the move, helped me greatly and has provided me with vital techniques I will use throughout my life, whether during interviews or working in a team under pressure.

Personally, I have always seen acting and performing as an escape from the real world to a place of creativity with friends. Moving forward, I hope to continue performing as a leisure activity, particularly since it has provided me with priceless, transferable skills adaptable to any team-based working environment. Post-Trinity, I am still working closely with my Trinity acting partner, as well as with others involved, creating musical performances for our school. 

Header Image Credit: Tom Cole with acting partner Simon Burgess

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