Welcome to Cygnet Theatre
Cygnet Theatre is a unique training, where young actors are given every chance to develop their individual qualities. Working as part of an ensemble (Cygnet Company), they are committed to public performances from day one, learning from expert professionals, their peers and their audiences. The influence of our patron, Peter Brook, introduces a simplicity and directness that is often not discovered by actors until they have had considerable professional experience.
Truthfulness and a feeling of ease grow out of Brook’s approach and the work of Michael Chekhov. Character and situation in context are accessed through the use of the creative imagination linked to a growing technical knowledge and assurance. Improvisation and acting exercises form part of the in-depth rehearsal process, creating a seamless continuity between the three elements of the acting course: learning, rehearsal and performance.
Cygnet has been offering a full-time professional training for thirty years, and our graduates have gone on to work successfully for stage, film, TV and radio. An actor’s work is interpretative and creative. An actor’s tools are his/her voice and body, the hands, feet, face, energy, emotional range and not least, his/her capacity for human understanding. Training these aspects of the performer is a very individual matter and teachers, directors and actors at Cygnet work together to recognise the realities of the raw material available and understand its workings very thoroughly.
Our Three Year Professional Acting course is an on-going developmental process. Student actors learn technical skills and key approaches whilst playing increasingly demanding roles in front of a paying public. Students gain practical experience of various theatrical styles from Ancient Greek theatre to classical and modern works including devising and new writing.
Each term scenes are prepared for performance assessment under audition conditions. The preparation encourages the practical application of all areas of the classwork and a focus upon the individual’s growing technique.
Acting needs as much training as any of the arts and the training must be both practical and precise. Three years is only a beginning: the learning process continues throughout life. Student actors in the Cygnet Company are given the opportunity to do highly disciplined work. They are expected to be ready for this.
Cygnet Theatre plays a key role in the region’s arts scene, supporting local artists to present their own work at our venue and with over 60 performances in professional venues in Exeter and on tour: Exeter Northcott, Poltimore House and The Actors Centre, London. In addition, touring to local communities, reaching over 3,000 people on our summer tours of the West Country bring the Theatre School’s work to new audiences in the wider and varied communities.
Short courses are run for those wanting to develop their stage or screen acting, whilst the Theatre School’s thriving youth theatre, Cygnet Youth Theatre, runs throughout the year to engage with school age young people. These activities build self-confidence and team working as well as instilling a lifelong love of drama.
‘So rehearsal, listening to the others, getting closer and closer to the partner, improvisation and then the presence of an audience are all the tools for sharpening the actor’s inbuilt sensitivity. This is method without method.’
PETER BROOK Patron
Actors need to be multi-skilled Actors find employment in a wide range of disciplines including the fields of education, business and commerce, by using their transferable skills in presentations, workshops, role play, and corporate videos. Acting skills are used increasingly to enhance the visitors’ experience of living history in museums and other cultural attractions. Cygnet actors are encouraged to take opportunities to practise these skills as they arise.
WORKSHOPS are organized as part of the presentation of Cygnet productions for schools, especially when a play is a set work on the school’s curriculum. Experience in the presentation of and guiding participants in such workshops has stood many actors in good stead in their future careers.
TECHNICAL BACK-UP is an essential area of experience for Cygnet actors. All have the chance to learn the basic-skills of Stage Management and will have the opportunity to run at least one show during their training. All actors join a technical team, working either on set, costume, props, or lighting. Everyone is involved with setting up and touring each show.
Cygnet graduates leave with confidence, skills and experience in all the areas that a modern working actor needs; a personal discipline about keeping up the physical and vocal skills the craft demands; experience of at least twelve productions played to a paying public audience; experience of touring to a variety of venues; knowledge of how to set up a company and to make their own work; experience in showcases in a variety of venues in the South West and London; a show-reel of film clips (original work); the opportunity to make a voice-reel with our resident radio expert but most importantly a network of working Cygnet actors (Swans) with whom to share experience, information and contacts.
Cygnet Theatre is a sympathetic performance space (100 seats), which can be set up as a proscenium theatre or in traverse or in-the round formations. Above the theatre is a large, sunny studio. The theatre has a loyal public and a dedicated support group, the Associates of Cygnet Theatre (known as ACT). This group raises funds to support the work of training and is warmly encouraging to the young professionals of the Cygnet Company at the start of their careers.
As the only vocational professional training in the South West peninsula, Cygnet enjoys all the advantages of Devon’s beautiful countryside, moor and coast, whilst being easily accessible from London or the Midlands. Exeter life is a little more relaxed and less expensive than the larger cities, but it also has a vibrant theatre scene, which is becoming more exciting as the city develops and grows.