Chichester students ensure the show goes on in Worthing...

The only thing lacking was the audience as the University of Chichester Conservatoire’s regional touring company took to the stage with their production of Oklahoma!
Izzy Formby-Jackson who played Ado AnnieIzzy Formby-Jackson who played Ado Annie
Izzy Formby-Jackson who played Ado Annie

They were being assessed on their performances towards their final degree – and there were people around the world watching with the show being livestreamed.

But the auditorium at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre was empty – a strange experience, admits Izzy Formby-Jackson who played Ado Annie, one of the principals.

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“It happened with a show last year. They were doing Guys & Dolls just when this was all kicking off, and I was helping out and I saw it all crumble away from them.

“But it was strange knowing that you were going to be playing to no audience, especially with a comedy role and you knew that you were not going to get any laughs!

“But it was really fun. And I am surprised quite how well we managed to pull it off. We only had something like ten days’ rehearsals to put the show on, and it was just amazing what we actually managed to achieve. I think it just really pushed us to know just how little time we had to prepare. We all had to know the intentions of our characters and our lines, and we knew all the risks we were facing, but we just wanted to put on the best show that we possibly could.”

The company were all in the third year and were being marked on the show. Following Oklahoma! two other companies within the year have also got shows coming up, in May.

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Then the students will also be offering a graduate showcase towards their degree: “That will be on film. We are not going to be having an audience.”

But no, Izzy really doesn’t feel cheated by the year that we have all been through, however tough it has been: “It has obviously not been the same as face-to-face teaching, but the creatives and the technical people have been very proactive about getting us back. It has been a bit of a struggle being at home (in Middlesbrough) and trying to find space in our living room, but I was able to come back for the show.

“I have spent five to six months in Middlesbrough doing my training, and it has been great in one way because I have been able to spend time with my family.

“Being so far away can be quite difficult, and I had that quality time with my family so you have got to look on the bright side.”

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And yes, Izzy still believes she is going to be ready for the big wide world out there when she graduates soon: “I have been very lucky. The university provide lots of experiences towards the start of your third year like practising agency auditions. I sent off some self-tapes to an agent and she signed me in January this year. I have been very, very lucky. We have already started talking about getting me ready for auditions. I feel very fortunate.”

At this stage, not many people have got agents: “I know a lot of agencies have closed their books at the moment. But I do know a couple of people in Oklahoma that have asked agencies to watch the livestream and they are just waiting now for responses.”

It has been a testing, challenging year, for sure: “But it has shown us where our drive lies. I have come into this thinking that I am going to fight for it. Just being at uni, let alone what has been going on with Covid, definitely tests you, and I think for some people it has shown them that it is not for them.

“But for lots of people they have really had the time to do lots of things that they wouldn’t have had the time to do otherwise, like making self-tapes and finding monologues. It has been hard, but I am feeling reasonably confident.”