The Oxford School of Drama

Student Stories

Student Stories: Peter Stickney

The Oxford School of Drama

Peter graduated from the Three-Year Acting Course in 2004. In more than ten years as an actor he worked for, Theatre Royal Bath, Roundhouse, Southbank Centre, Southwark Playhouse, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and Vienna’s English Theatre to name a few.

He is now an independent producer and Artistic Director of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men; the UK’s premier all male theatre company. The company perform Shakespeare’s finest plays as he first saw them; all male, in the open air and with Elizabethan costumes, music and dance. They perform at some of the most prestigious, beautiful and historically significant venues throughout the UK and Europe.

For TLCM, he has produced and directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2019), The Tempest (2018), The Comedy of Errors (2017) and Much Ado About Nothing (2016) and was Associate Producer on Twelfth Night (2015).

He was Associate Producer on the UK tours of Habit of Art starring Matthew Kelly and The Night Watch for Original Theatre, and Deathtrap starring Jessie Wallace and Paul Bradley. He has also produced work at Southwark Playhouse, New Diorama and Hoxton Hall and has directed at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, Shoreditch Town Hall, Arcola Theatre, Union Theatre and Hoxton Hall.

In 2010 Peter was short-listed for the JMK Award, celebrating outstanding young theatre directors.

What made you choose the oxford school of drama over other schools?

I grew up in a small village in a rural part of the country. It was somewhere everyone knew each other and there was a really strong community. I got the sense that was something that would exist at OSD, and truly it did. It was important to be somewhere that felt familiar and somewhere that would lend itself to completely focusing on what we were doing. If I’d have taken up an offer from a school in a busy location I am not sure how I would have got on. I was also very lucky. When applying to drama schools it is very difficult to get a true sense of what the training will be like and the ethos of the school. Fortunately, I had some friends who were there just before me and I could talk to them about it. But really I was lucky that it was a perfect fit. It is so important to find out as much as you can about the schools that you are looking at. How will they suit you is as important a question as how will you suit them. Also, I really trust my instinct and as soon as I got on the school bus I knew I was in the right place.

What do you think makes the training at the oxford school of drama so special?

The size of the school really plays a big part, you can’t fake one on one attention nor should you under-estimate how important it is. The tutors really knew us as people and performers and could then really understand what we needed and how and when we needed it. Also, the approach is fundamental to marking the school out from others. There is an absolute requirement for honesty and truth and a requirement to understand what that means and needs. I believe that I was an incredibly ‘dishonest’ performer when I arrived. The school allowed me to rid myself of that and enabled me to find a way to access my own truth and that of the character. That honesty and truthfulness excited me then, still does now and is what I strive for in my work as a director.

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

All of it! There were particular moments along the way – good and bad – but, in retrospect, the entire experience felt so formative. Often times one’s experience at drama school might not be a succession of ‘penny-dropping’ moments, where the clouds miraculously clear and things suddenly make sense. And, furthermore, it’s ok if that is how it goes for you; it’s certainly how it was for me. However, if you truly commit to the process as a whole and allow yourself to be open to the possibility of change it can happen to you. I was very committed to the work during my time at the school, really pushed myself in every aspect of the training and I got a tremendous amount out of it. My time at the school really worked slowly on me and many years after the pennies keep dropping. It is a journey, as is what happens after, and the ability to be vulnerable and a willingness to learn and be open will really serve you.

Some moments of failure, though, were particularly significant; my continual inability to pass object exercises and a particularly strong talking to by a tutor really stick with me. They taught me to persevere, to really understand what being in the moment was and what it felt like and, most importantly, not to be late. I absolutely love that tutor by the way and she is the voice coach that I work with on all my productions.

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

Discipline, professionalism, hard-work, rigour, respect, honesty and cleaning…

As a producer and director my training at OSD completely shapes the way I operate. I picked up a lot from my years working as an actor, but now I am leading a company and making my own work, the mark the training left on me is particularly evident. The school demands all of the qualities I listed and because of its zero-tolerance approach requires them to become habits. The acquisition of these excellent habits will allow you to really make strides in the industry. I strongly believe that without those qualities you really will not succeed in this business; talent will only get you so far…  And, of course, cleaning! When I was at OSD we had to clean the spaces at the end of the day and the school at the end of the term. This really chimed with me as a way to connect with and respect your space and therefore brought about a respect for every aspect of the work, those you are working with and your surroundings. It gives you discipline, requires hard-work, rigour and honesty. It deepens your connection with what you are doing or making. My rehearsal rooms are always clean and tidy so that you can focus on the work without distraction and the company and I are jointly responsible for keeping them that way!