How a Bolton acting school aims to find the Hollywood stars of the future

PUBLISHED: 00:00 03 November 2015

Simon Trinder (right) with ICAT tutors (all working actors), left to right: (back row) Prue Gillett, Colin Kilbride, Jenny Carson, Julia Rounthwaite (front fow), Karen Henthorn and James Edgington

Simon Trinder (right) with ICAT tutors (all working actors), left to right: (back row) Prue Gillett, Colin Kilbride, Jenny Carson, Julia Rounthwaite (front fow), Karen Henthorn and James Edgington

chris tofalos

Students at an acting school in Bolton are being taught by some of the best in the business. Emma Mayoh meets founder and award winning actor, Simon Trinder. Photography by Chris Tofalos

Young company members with (seated left & right) Simon Trinder and Game of Thrones actor Joseph MawleYoung company members with (seated left & right) Simon Trinder and Game of Thrones actor Joseph Mawle

‘As an actor I was really bored. I was doing great jobs in amazing theatres. I found myself sitting next to Judi Dench and Simon Callow at the RSC. There was the most amazing line-up in the room. I was doing my dream job. And I was bored.’

Most actors would give their right arm to have even half the roles and experience Simon Trinder has had. During his early career he appeared in dozens of plays for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service and since then he has working continuously in mainstream theatre including RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Court, Birmingham Rep, Barbican, Young Vic, Bristol Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre, Soho Theatre and Hampstead Theatre. He was the first actor to play Puck at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where he spent several seasons; he has won numerous awards, has appeared in a number of films and television programmes and has directed Henry V for the RSC young company with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

But it was during the time spent with that famous line-up during his appearance in the Merry Wives the Musical at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre that he realised he needed a change. The 37-year-old, from Bolton, had already been teaching at several prestigious schools including the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where he attended. But he decided to set up on his own. At first, he held a ten week course in London and held others for five years after that. But the call home to Bolton to be with his family was too strong to ignore.

He launched the Independent Centre for Actor Training in Bolton three years ago and it has become a prestigious training school for budding actors. He also has a school in London. The story about how he fell out of love with the stage is the first story he tells new students.

‘It sounds really arrogant to tell people that are first starting out that I was bored,’ said Simon. ‘I was in an amazing situation. It shocked me when it happened. I was really grateful but I also realised it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be. I had everything I wanted but it wasn’t quite enough.

‘My students are really shocked when they hear that. When I started teaching I found that spark again. I was in the room with people who were like I used to be when I started out. And it was fantastic.’

Since setting up ICAT, Simon has enlisted an army of friends who are established, successful actors to teach and mentor students on the two year course. These include Ann Ogbomo who appeared in Hollywood blockbuster World War Z alongside Brad Pitt as well as being a recognised force in classical theatre. The school also has advisors Gregory Doran, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and director Mike Alfreds, who Sir Ian McKellan described as one of the best in the country. There are also many other actors who visit the school for masterclasses. It is a course that people who are serious about getting into acting apply for. And they get experiences that money can’t buy. But while some schools might be all about promoting success, Simon and his team want their students to fail.

‘Failure is good,’ he said. ‘Most people think it is bad. But we want our students to fail. And it’s also about having the confidence to fail. Students might get things wrong but they will only get better and better and will end up amazing actors because they are not afraid of failure.

‘We are teaching them the skills to go into an audition and get the job. We don’t want them to get bit parts on Hollyoaks when they can do better than that. But it’s also about showing them that rejection is part of the industry too. But you move on. We are having some brilliant successes and people are getting agents and that is incredible. So many people who go to drama school just don’t get that far. We’re very proud of our pupils.’

Simon, who lives in Blackrod with wife Louise, 13-year-old stepdaughter Jade and daughter Molly, three, has not left his stage days behind. In fact his passion for treading the boards has been reinvigorated. He recently appeared in a critically acclaimed production of The Oresteia alongside Rome actress and Mancunian Lyndsey Marshall. It was one of three productions that gained a lot of attention during its staging at HOME in Manchester. He has also recently appeared in popular ITV drama Midwinter of the Spirit with Game of Thrones actress Kate Dickie. He is also teaching at other venues including Shakespeare’s Globe, Advanced Performers Studio LAMDA, National Theatre Drama School Melbourne and McDonald College of Performing Arts Sydney.

He said: ‘I have a much better appreciation for what we do as actors now, much better than I had been feeling before. Having a family has changed me too and in my acting I’m much more available emotionally.

‘I have had some amazing jobs recently. The Oresteia was really exciting, as was Midwinter of the Spirit. I’m very happy with how things have turned out. I’m very lucky because I’ve had some amazing people help and be involved with ICAT. It has been a lot of hard work. But worth every bit of it.

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