Cast of 'Soldier On'

Alumni talk about their careers and return to perform at the Exeter Northcott

Exeter alumni Amanda Faber (Education and Theology 1984), Jonathan Lewis (Politics and Society, 1985) and David Solomon (Maths and Statistics) recently brought their production of 'Soldier On' to Exeter Northcott Theatre.

The three were first on stage together at the Northcott for a 1982 production of Guys and Dolls and this was the first time they’d been back! We recently caught up with David and Amanda to find out how it felt to be performing at the Northcott again, and how their time at Exeter led them to their careers today. For more information about the ‘Soldier On’ production, visit the Exeter Northcott Theatre website.

How did it feel to come back to Exeter and perform at the Northcott again?

David: “I loved it! Exeter was a fantastic experience for me and I have so many great memories and good friends from that time. When we performed in London almost every night there were Exeter alumni in. I also love the city and countryside, as I live in London, being in that again is so refreshing. The Northcott is where I performed as a student in Guys and Dolls – another big cast production and it was an amazing experience. Being on that stage again felt like completing a circle.”

Amanda: “I have not been back to Exeter since I left in 1984 and felt a huge buzz returning and going back to the Northcott. This time as a producer rather than a student/ actor. I had a sense that I was coming home and felt very moved by it all. The theatre welcomed our company with open arms and were hugely supportive in every way.”

Has it changed much in the time you’ve been away?

David: “Wow yes! Bigger, more diverse, almost like a little town. That said, it was still reassuringly familiar.”

Amanda: “Yes I hardly recognised the campus. It looks fabulous with all the new buildings but they have still managed to retain its original character. It felt very vibrant.”

How did your time at Exeter support your career?

David: “I believe the degree I did – Maths and Stats – has always looked good on my CV. I train people in business so it gives me credibility and also helps me run my own business. I also did a bit of growing up (not too much but enough!) at Exeter so they were formative years in many ways.”

“I worked in the City for about eight months after Exeter, then went to RADA and trained as an actor, acted for about 10 years and then got in to Corporate Video (selling and producing). Through that I started doing face-to-face training and I now am a Corporate Trainer/Coach for Managers and Leaders.”

Amanda: “I did a B.Ed (Hons) at St Luke’s which I loved. I qualified as a teacher and then trained as a lawyer. After qualifying and working in a firm in Lincolns Inn fields, I went back to teaching and become a senior lecturer in Law at the College of Law where I found my teaching skills useful. After working as a legal presenter I moved into TV and worked in documentaries, news and current affairs and general factual at the BBC as a producer and director before moving into feature films and setting up my own production company. While working on my first feature I was asked to produce an international tour of a play The Two Worlds of Charlie F by Owen Sheers in 2014, and I have been producing theatre, film and dance since then. I still come back to my skills as a teacher when I can. I currently design and run educational programmes where veterans run workshops with young people so I still find it invaluable.”

What’s your advice to current students aspiring to work in theatre or television?

David: “Don’t! Well by that I mean it’s a really tough world. Being an actor is by nature a very selfish profession, you have to go where the work takes you, and often when you do it you are either away or working unsociable hours. That’s all good if you are single but if you have dependents, a family etc it’s tough. It’s also at times unfair, your competence and skill are not enough to guarantee any kind of success. If you want to do it my advice would be have a back-up plan, something that can earn you money easily when times are tough. I think that going to a recognised Drama School is still valuable as beyond training you will get exposure to agents and casting directors. And be ready to be resilient! That said, for some people their rise is easy and meteoric – you only need one great part to get you into the mix and performing is a real high!”

Amanda: “I would thoroughly recommend working in both theatre and television. They are both hugely rewarding. For TV there are numerous routes into the profession, so if you feel like doing something else first that is not a barrier in my experience. I found my skills as a lawyer were invaluable when I made the transition. I think for theatre the key thing is to get as much experience as you can and to run and act in your own productions as soon as you can. That way you can find people who you really enjoy working with.”

Date: 4 May 2018

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