The Oxford School of Drama

Student Stories

Student Stories: Charity Wakefield


Charity graduated from the Three Year Acting Course in 2003.  Her first stage role was in The Graduate at the New Vic Theatre and since then she has appeared in numerous productions at theatres including Chichester Festival Theatre, Old Vic, Hampstead Theatre, Bath Theatre Royal and The Park Theatre.  She was nominated for the Ian Charleson Award for her portrayal of Lydia Languish in Jessica Swale’s production of The Rivals.  On television, Charity has been in several BBC series, including Sense and Sensibility as Marianne, Wolf Hall as Mary Boleyn and as Julia in Stephen Poliakoff’s Close to the Enemy.  This year she was the lead in NBC’s series The Player alongside Wesley Snipes and Philip Winchester.

What made you choose The Oxford School of Drama over other schools?

I loved the teaching staff that I met during the audition process. Also, in the training you need focus, and you have to address your own personal truths as part of the process of learning to understand yourself, before applying character work. I had an instinct that it would benefit me to learn away from the hustle and bustle of London.  I loved the location of the school, being near Oxford with its academia and cultural hub and then the wildness of the countryside.

What do you think makes the training at The Oxford School of Drama so special?

It’s a very personal training. You are asked to be honest with yourself and truthful with others. There are many routes into character, and understanding or breaking down text and Oxford offers a huge variety of techniques and tools. The training is specific and multifaceted and the teaching staff are experienced in the industry and from differing backgrounds. This gives the students many perspectives, all bonded by the overall ethos of truth, trust and hard work. It’s a very safe space in which to make the discoveries about acting that you’ll take with you for your whole career. There’s a focus on self-progression, and after 13 years out of the school, I’m still learning and growing now. Still challenging myself.

Can you remember a time at the school that was of particular significance for you?

There were many breakthrough moments but playing Irena in Chekov’s Three Sisters was significant to me. The part demanded so much energy, so much hope, strength and emotional depth. We were working on lots of different aspects of performance at the time and rehearsals were tough, I felt overwhelmed. Our voice teacher Jaquie Crago did a fantastic voice session with me, which I now realise was about releasing and letting go physically, WITH emotional connection. It transferred into performance and I think it was the first time I felt totally immersed in character on stage, but with voice and body at my disposal so an audience could see and hear and feel it, not just the other people on stage with me.  It takes a lot of work to transgress all the technical elements in either theatre or on film and just be free and on the moment, and to be emotionally true. That’s when it feels electric, and the audience (or camera) are with you too.

Looking back, what aspects of the training do you particularly value now you are in the profession?

I value the body work. I am always looking to understand how my voice and body are working, and Oxford gives you a wonderful platform to begin connecting to movement and sound, and get strong, supple and supported in your core. I hugely value the integrity of the teaching. The honesty, even when it’s tough to hear. That has allowed me to know when I’m being truthful in my work, and to continue to ask questions of myself and my work. I also take so much from the inventiveness and resilience the school instilled in me. At the end of the day, it’s a hugely creative medium, that can be hemmed in by budget or difficulties in the real world. This has been true for me from the Brighton and Edinburgh fringe, to the National Theatre in London, to working in Universal Studios in LA. You have to be up to the challenges and stay loose, be energetic and think outside the box. The Oxford School of Drama is a small but mighty school. I remember it fondly and all the wonderful work I saw my classmates do will be with me always. It was an amazing time.