Backstage and Beyond - Sophie Cosson, Principal
Welcome to Backstage and Beyond, a series of interviews in which we talk to theatre industry professionals to find out more about their jobs. Everyone knows what an actor does, but it takes a lot more than just the people on stage to make a show. Please join us as we quiz people in all sorts of cool theatre jobs on their work, what it involves, and how you could do the same. Next up is Sophie Cosson, Principal of Cosson's School of Performing Arts.
Which shows have you worked on?
After graduating from Guildford School of Acting, my first job was an international tour of Much Ado About Nothing. Straight after that I started rehearsals for Martina Cole’s Two Women, at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Other shows that followed include The Changeling, The Comedy of Errors, After the Party, which premiered at The Criterion, and The National Theatre’s production of One Man Two Guvnors. I’ve also worked in TV and film, including Doctor Who, Call the Midwife, Thor: The Dark World, Casualty and Downton Abbey. Alongside this, I worked in radio, recording plays for the BBC and appearing in The Archers.
Which one was your project, and why?
My favourite theatre job would be my first, as it was an open air tour; we were performing in the ruins of castles, in cathedrals and in market squares. It was such a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot from it. TV wise, I’d say Casualty was a real highlight, as I got to do some stunt work and had to fall through a roof! It also helped that the other actors were lovely, and the director was fantastic.
What made you want to open your own drama school?
I’m originally from South East London/Kent, from a working-class family, and when I was looking for a place to train, I wished there was somewhere affordable for someone like me. The drama schools I’d looked at were so expensive and in many ways exclusive, outpricing actors from low income families. Sadly, there is now a real lack of actors from those backgrounds in the industry. At Cosson’s we offer reduced rate courses, which are 100% practical and industry focused. There are no academic entry requirements, you only have to audition.
What does your daily schedule look like?
As the Principal, I make sure all my students are on time and are pushing themselves in their training. Each day starts at 9.45 AM, with classes back to back until around 5 PM. I also teach acting and voice classes, covering subjects from improvisation and devised theatre to sonnets, monologues and accents.
What are the best and worst parts of your work?
Being a Principal is all about managing people, students and teachers alike. I love working with the students and seeing them grow into skilful and informed actors. I also get to work with my faculty, who are all friends I have met through the industry. So far there have been no bad parts to my work, but as a new school we have a reputation to build, so ensuring our students are working and utilising their training is key.
What advice would you give to young people who are hoping to train at drama school?
I would say to really research the school you are auditioning for, find out what they specialise in and what you want from their courses. Also, don’t go to drama school if you just want to be famous: training is intense but gradual. It can be frustrating and demanding. You must want to learn your craft and how to be the best performer you can be, but that takes time and commitment.
What are your hopes for the future of your school?
I want Cosson’s to be a respected drama school, and to be recognised for our personal and inclusive ethos. I hope that we will be a school that people instantly think of when they are looking to train, as I believe we have something very special and unique. I hope our graduates continue to take their training forward and have long lasting, successful careers in the industry, and that they will be proud to tell others where they trained.