Simon Burgess: My Trinity Drama Story

Simon Burgess, who passed his Trinity Grade 8 'Acting in Pairs' with Distinction, on being a 'double threat' and the virtues of eccentricity on stage

Simon Burgess: My Trinity Drama Story

By Simon Burgess

This time around, I passed my Grade 8 Trinity Guild Hall ‘Acting in Pairs’ with Distinction, alongside the wildly talented performer Tom Cole. Previously, for the same Trinity Drama course, I’d completed Grades 4, 5 and 6 with another talented performer, as well as Grades 4, 5 and 6 in ‘Solo Singing’. Therefore, it makes sense to say I completed the ‘Acting in Pairs’ in the ‘Acting’ art form, and the ‘Solo Singing’ in the ‘Singing’ art form. Stating the obvious, right? 

For our Grade 8 ‘Acting in Pairs’ performance, Tom and I decided that the strangest idea we could come up with was to complete them under the theme of ‘Men Portraying Women’. Also, this gave us the opportunity to dress up in dresses and heels. Every actor’s dream! How this topic came about, I’m not entirely sure. But with two experienced performers of the same gender, neither of whom had worked with each other before, what I good way to break the ice: by getting us to dress up and fool around on stage. 

Our three pieces for the course came from Shakespeare’s classic romance Romeo and Juliet, a comical farce called The Monster Hornet by playwright Steve Murphy, and finally, a translated script from French to English, called Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. These, along with a witty improvisation created on the fly, culminated in our outstanding result. For previous exams, I’d used pieces from Willy Russell's Blood Brothers, Steve Murphy’s Cinderella Dreams and Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

And what of my experience taking exams? Well, exams are always stressful – apart from these Trinity exams. Here, I’m being examined in something I really enjoy, so my stress level is practically extinguished by the joy of the performance. As actors, we live for the performances we give, and this is just another one of those moments. 

Trinity allowed me to express my slightly eccentric nature in an environment where I’m not judged for being me.

Hopefully my creative talent has increased exponentially since I was a slightly timid 13-year-old, standing in front of the examiner for my first examined performance. If not, then I’m not entirely sure why I carried on, or why I managed to achieve multiple, successive distinctions.

Personally, I feel like my performance skills, including public speaking and spontaneous improvisation, have sharpened through the examination process. Hell, I’d never even heard of spontaneous improvisation before these exams – or even knew how to pronounce it! Trinity introduced me to the bliss of performing for an audience. It allowed me to express my slightly eccentric nature in an environment where I’m not judged for being me.

What I Felt About Doing This Trinity College Qualification

From this qualification, the most valuable thing I took away was the ability to work with different people. Each person is individual in their own way, special in their own way, and completing these exams helped me work with different people. Even during the course of my Trinity qualifications, I’ve worked with four different directors and two different acting partners, each of whom looks at the situation at hand and deals with it accordingly. 

The people who I’ve worked with have inspired me in my daily life. They say that every person you meet shapes your life in a different way. With the people I’ve worked with then, they must have curved my life into a completely different direction to what I might have taken before. 

There are always challenges, no matter what you do. But the challenges felt, this time around, have always been looked at through that glass half-full kind of look, so they never seemed challenging. Also, challenges in a safe environment don’t feel challenging; they just feel like a new experience that needs to be dealt with.

My next step is to go to university to study a variation of Maths, so nothing to do with performing at all! However, I am going to find an Acting Society within the university, along with an Amateur Dramatic group outside of the university; so my performing ‘talent’ won’t go to waste just yet. I’ve always said I’d love to perform on a West End stage – but this won’t happen instantly. I will make it there someday!

Other Things to Mention

Initially, I got involved in drama when my parents dropped me off at a drama group. I wasn’t overly impressed at the time, but it grew on me (thanks guys!). And now look at where I am. Over the years, I’ve been involved in small scale productions of Robin Hood and A Slice Of Saturday Night, along with large musical performances of The Lion King and Cats, to name but a few. These opened my eyes to the wide variety of performing that you’re able to do. Becoming a ‘Double Threat’ in both singing and acting definitely helped me with everything that I’ve done so far, although I can’t dance to save my life!

For those people who are thinking about doing a Trinity College exam, I’d say don’t think that you can’t do it. No matter what your age is, or your experience in acting before, there’s a Trinity qualification out there for you. Also, if you think that you might be too crazy for performing, think again. The craziest people I’ve met have been performers, and we always get on fantastically. Being crazy means you’ll be a fantastic performer. Fact!

Header Image Credit: Simon Burgess with acting partner Tom Cole

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