Hugh Bonneville Visits Itchen College

Creative Arts Academy

Itchen College welcomed Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville to its drama studio to work with some of our talented student actors.

The visit came after the Theatre for Life (TFL), which is based at Itchen, was successful in partnering with the actor’s former theatre, the National Youth Theatre (NYT).

Hugh worked with the Itchen student actors, speaking to them individually as well as in a group about his journey as a professional actor.  He imparted wisdom and tips, sharing personal stories of working with the acting elite, Julia Roberts and Kate Winslet were some of the celebrity stories he shared with the young acting students.   

His visit inspired the actors to believe that they too can succeed in the acting industry despite financial hardships. Hugh enriched the young actor’s lives as he watched them perform their monologues for him and gave them feedback. He described the group as "talented and passionate about theatre".

The visit represents the NYT's ongoing commitment to outreach and access.  Hugh spoke about his passion for the Auditions Access Fund, supported by the National Youth Theatre’s grant of £37,500. This grant will support free participation in workshops and auditions over three years at 30 schools and youth groups across the country. TFL is one of those 30 groups nationally. Itchen, through its partnership with TFL, will become a regional centre for the NYT.

Students were also interviewed by a professional crew from BBC Digital who asked what it was like to be a student actor and how the partnership would help them.

TFL made Itchen Sixth Form College its new home after being encouraged to relocate their youth theatre as their ethos on promoting social mobility aligns with the college’s. 

The performers in the TFL company are all Southampton based, aged 14-25 years, from low income households and other minority groups such as BAME and NEET.  21 out of the 25 students are from Itchen College and they rehearse every Friday from 5pm.

The TFL group will be able to audition for NYT at Itchen for free. Should they be successful they will be helped financially to perform in the NYT in London.  They will also train with NYT directors at Itchen ahead of the audition day.

This means that TFL and Itchen have opened up the opportunity to audition for the NYT in Southampton. Previously this was not a possibility for Southampton residents without commuting further afield. Link to information about the access fund can be found here.