Actor, writer and new grantee Ben Noble has been performing for years, and is finally read to commit himself fully to his craft.
A Cultural Trust grant will assist Ben in studying Contemporary and Classical Text (Acting) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which will see him undertaking a residency at Shakespeare's Globe in London as well as collaborations with Playwrights Studio Scotland and University of Edinburgh's Playwrighting Masters in the development of new work.
Tell us a bit about your artistic practice.
I am an actor, writer and teaching artist who is currently living in a very grey, cold and wet Glasgow surrounded by Christmas Markets and Scottish accents while studying my Masters at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’m one term down. Exhausted. Excited. Tired. Oh, so tired. Resilient. Inspired.
I’ve previously trained in shorter courses at St Martins Youth Arts Centre, Atlantic Theater Company Acting School (New York), Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (London) and participated in workshops and master classes for Australian Actors Equity/Media Entertainment Arts Alliance, Brave Studios, Equity Showcase Toronto and 16th St Studios.
As an actor I have worked in independent theatre, television, commercials and film across contemporary, classical and more abstract work in Australia, Canada and Scotland. I have collaborated with new writers and established plays at venues and festivals like The Butterfly Club, The Store Room, Playbox, Adelaide Fringe Festival, Toronto Fringe Festival, Tarragon Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Melbourne Fringe Festival, La Mama, Theatreworks and Gasworks Arts Park.
You’ve been performing for years, though it’s only recently that you’ve committed yourself fully to your craft. What precipitated this?
I’m not sure what the initial spark of curiosity was but I have a feeling performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year played a major part in it. Being in the biggest international arts market in the world made me question my choices, in terms of what I was contributing to the industry at large and more personally, as well as where I was on my own journey. Acting is heavily reliant on people giving you a job to do your craft. And they are very hard to come by. So, you make your own work. You do it over and over again, and sometimes you just need to stop for a moment and reassess. So you become reliant on other work coming your way. You start getting called into “the room” – the magical place where great auditions and job opportunities can happen but you don’t progress forward a lot of the time. You don’t get a call-back. Or you don’t get the job. Or worse, you don’t get called in to that specific room again. It’s the nature of the practice. You’re not going to work a lot of the time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons are not within your control: you don’t look the part; you don’t have the right hair colour; you remind them of their past boyfriend. Sometimes those reasons are in your control. I was a lazy actor. I called myself an actor and did the basic work to get by. I said my lines with some feeling and emotion but I didn’t give it my all. I didn’t commit to my craft the way I wanted and needed to. I didn’t ensure those lines were perfectly memorised. I didn’t do my research. I worked so many other jobs to supplement my practice. I didn’t hold it as a high a priority as I should have. I didn’t give over to it. I realized I’ve never really given over to it 100%. And that was a hard but wonderful epiphany to have. I needed to change that up and commit to being the best I can be.
How have you juggled creative pursuits with work over the years?
It’s hard to navigate the balance of creative pursuits versus paying your bills. When you find those jobs where they are encouraging and supportive of your dreams and aspirations outside of the daily grind, keep them as long as you need them. But also don’t take them for granted. I’ve worked alongside the industry in arts management, marketing, ticketing, and teaching so even if my creative pursuits weren’t going strongly, I could always be inspired by what was happening around me. And I was lucky. I had extraordinary managers and bosses and colleagues who helped support me and allowed me to take some time off for auditions and gigs. But finding those jobs is difficult. Sometimes you have to leave a job because you book a job in your actual profession. And it might be only for a day, or two days on a set or rehearsal or something, but you have to find the way to see what is right for you at any given time, and navigate that balance.
What does it mean for you to be emerging as an artist?
I feel like I’ve been emerging forever to be honest. So the term emerging feels like something you do. We are always emerging as artists. You’re constantly striving for something, diving into an unknown and trying to put your best foot forward. You’re taking what you learn into action. Growing. Building on your foundations. I used to really think emerging artist was only for the young. To me it had a time limit on it. But I don’t believe in that consensus anymore. You can always emerge from somewhere, no matter where you are in your life.
What led to you applying for the Masters of Contemporary and Classical Text (Acting) at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland?
I wanted to work on my own foundations. I had been learning on the job and in classes and workshops over the years but I never really went to school to be an actor and I always wished I had. I needed to shake things up and commit myself to my craft and train to my highest potential. I wanted to no longer be that lazy actor but someone who strives for improvement every day in my craft. I thought if not now, then when? I started researching further training programs around the world and came across the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and its Masters course. It’s ranked in the top three schools in the world for arts education. That sounded fancy, I thought. But to be honest, it was the course itself that lured me in. With a residency at Shakespeare’s Globe in London as part of the program, and collaboration with Playwrights Studio Scotland and University of Edinburgh’s Playwrighting Masters working on new work as two highlights, it contained a breadth of styles and projects that would elevate me in my craft. I was also curious about training overseas: to really surround myself in a place I don’t know and allow myself to work consistently with one focus without distraction. It's also about the level of training here. Australia is so far removed geographically from the rest of the world, so having access to so many companies, shows and consistently working artists as teachers is a huge bonus. I’m very grateful I was accepted in a class of 23 Actors and 4 Directors from 13 different countries, and to represent Australia in this cohort.
What do you envisage for the next stage in your career?
This year-long program is tough. It pushes you in every direction and you are consistently working on such a variety of projects, but I’ll be coming out of this program with the skills and experience of working every day on my craft. I’ll be a different actor than when I went in, and that’s an exciting position to be in. I’ve always believed my career would be suited for when I’m a little older. I didn’t fit the castings for younger men. I didn’t have the right look for roles that were written or being produced at that time. I think now I’m coming into that work and I’m excited to go back into the industry with extra tools in my tool belt to see what comes out of it. It’s an exciting adventure that is unknown but here’s hoping there is fabulous employment at the end of it.