A former pupil of Queen Elizabeth’s School in Wimborne has won a place at a theatre company which nurtured the talents of a string of famous names, including Dame Helen Mirren, Daniel Craig, Sir Daniel Day-Lewis, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Firth, Rosamund Pike, Catherine Tate, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Derek Jacobi, Matt Lucas, Matt Smith and Zawe Ashton.
Jasmine Ricketts is to join the National Youth Theatre REP Company.
As a performing arts student at the University of East London, Jasmine would spend her free time watching performances at the nearby Theatre Royal Stratford East. She took notes. She studied performances. She imagined what it would be like to tread those boards.
Now, in a classic case of life imitating art, the next time Jasmine enters the east London theatre it won’t be as an audience member, shuffling to find her seat in the upper circle, but on stage as an actor with one of the world’s most prestigious theatre companies.
After months of vigorous auditioning, Jasmine saw off stiff competition to be named one of 16 actors selected to join the REP. Its first production will be the Olivier award-winning ‘Gone Too Far’’ by Bola Agbaje.
Jasmine said: “It is so surreal. I cannot believe we will be performing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. When I found out, I just had to pinch myself. I spent my three years as a student watching shows there.”
Only a year ago, it was a very different outlook for Jasmine. Graduating when Covid-19 first took the country into lockdown, the fortunes of the 23-year-old looked bleak.
Jasmine said, “Our student shows got cancelled, and the theatre industry was treated awfully during that whole period of the pandemic. We didn’t know if the industry would be the same again. I felt so lost; I even applied for horticulture courses, thinking acting was never going to be an option for me.”
But her perseverance, determination and tenacity have paid off.
She said: “The audition process was vigorous. I had to prepare both classical and contemporary monologues; edit a 20-minute self-tape; I wrote a piece of spoken word; and even played school games in front of the panellists. It was versatility and adaptability they were looking for.”
As a child growing up in Wimborne, she dreamed of becoming an actress, always making home videos and putting on shows for her family. By the time, she joined Queen Elizabeth’s School, she knew that she wanted to pursue some aspect of performance, and set her sights on heading to the capital.
“I’m the definition of an extroverted-introvert and performing brings out both of those sides of me. I’ve wanted to be a lot of things but acting and performing is something I’ve needed, being a shy child it brought out my confident side,” she said.
“Growing up in Dorset, London seemed like this exciting and mythical place I always wanted to go to, especially as it’s central for the arts industry.”
Jasmine starts rehearsals for Gone Too Far in the next couple of months.
She said: “It’s such a wonderful play. It covers themes of racism, identity and divisions. It’s got us all super excited already.
“I don’t doubt that this opportunity will be huge for me, but more than anything it’s brought back my confidence and love for acting. It’s put me in the front line to do what I love again, showing me it is possible as long as you don’t give up hope.”
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