Alumni news – Emma Manton

Emma Manton reflects on her time here at college

This week I caught up with Emma Manton, not only a well known established actor but also an ex-student!

WC:   What was your next move after leaving college?

EM:  I went to Sheffield University and studied for a BA in English Literature. 

WC:   What was it about that particular move that attracted you?

EM: I had tentatively applied for drama school and had auditioned at RADA but they told me to come back when I was older!  I fell in love with Sheffield when I visited for the Open Day.  Sheffield didn’t run a drama course, but they had their own fully equipped student theatre which is run by enthusiasts from all departments.  It felt like a wonderfully inclusive environment and was a well-respected course. 

WC:   What was the most interesting part of your courses at college?

EM: I studied A Level Theatre Studies at Guthlaxton and loved every second of it!  We were taught by the dream team of Carl Jeffrey and Mark Crossley.  They were an extraordinary pair and even managed to include a few weeks where we studied Antonin Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’.  I’ve since described some of our classes to colleagues in the professional theatre and it seems it was equalling anything that is studied at drama schools!  I also remember falling in love with Shakespeare in my English classes with Miss Lemon.  I can’t remember what she did to so inspire us, but I remember the whole class hiding behind twigs and branches so that we could surprise her by being ‘Burnham Wood’ whilst we were studying Macbeth! 

WC:   How did you get your first professional job?

EM: After I graduated from Sheffield, I moved to London and got a job working behind the bar at BBC Television Centre.  I summoned the courage, one day, to march down the corridor to introduce myself to the casting department.  The first door I knocked on was Tracy Gillham’s who, it turned out, was looking for a few actors to play small parts in a new comedy series.  She asked me I was interested and, of course, I was!  That was Ricky’s Gervais’ ‘The Office’ and I went on to play the same small role in 2 series and the Christmas Specials.

WC:   What other activities do you get involved with at the moment?

EM: I have recently discovered running and ran my first marathon earlier this year.  I will be running the London marathon in 2016 in support of the UN refugee agency, so I am heavily involved in fundraising at the moment.  I am also involved with a movement called ‘Solidarity with Refugees’ who organised a march on parliament in September attended by 100,000 people.  And I have a 5-year-old son, Teddy.

WC:   Can you give any words of advice to our current sixth formers/budding performers?

EM: There are many, many different routes into this business.  People become actors through universities, drama schools or by simply walking into the right office on the right day!  The most important thing is to keep practising your craft and keep making work.  It’s incredibly easy to make a short film on an iPhone or put on a play in a village hall.  If you keep making good work then, sooner or later, people will notice.  I’ve also found that it helps to have a large list of ‘extra skills’.  I play the flute (thanks to Guthlaxton!), dance, sing and dabble in aerial circus.  My highest profile jobs have come my way because of one or all of these extra skills.  

Emma can be seen in the West End soon with the Royal Shakespeare Company – keep checking back for more details as they become available!

We thank Emma for her time and wish her, and her family, all the very best.

Interviewed by
Helen Guest-Guinnee