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Technical Theatre Apprentice: Nell Allen

Woman on wooden theatre set fixing hanging light

Technical Theatre Apprentice: Nell Allen

February 2012-Feb 2014

Why did you apply for an apprenticeship?

I was good at school, but never saw myself as very academic all my favourite subjects were more practical. I didn’t apply to go to university, like all my other classmates, as I didn’t really have that one thing I wanted to study so I got a job and worked hard for five years in hospitality. I enjoyed it, worked my way up the ranks but wanted a change, something different. I knew I was practical and that I wanted to work in the arts.

The great thing about apprenticeships are you get to work and learn doing the job. I think that’s the age old problem with some jobs, they want you to have experience, but you can’t get the experience without doing the job...
 

Did you find the apprenticeship useful for your career path and skills development?

Taking on an apprenticeship was a way to go in a completely different direction. I didn’t have an end goal when I first started looking at jobs in the arts. In fact, I probably didn’t even realise that all these jobs in technical theatre existed before I started my apprenticeship.

Doing the technical apprenticeship, working and learning in so many different roles and on such a wide range of projects in theatre and at the National, has shaped my career. The skills I acquired I used, I built on and developed, gaining more experience in technical theatre and I am now Senior Stage Technician in the Olivier Theatre.

Since I finished my apprenticeship, I have worked on amazing projects and in a great deal of theatres, I’ve taken shows to New York, Edinburgh Festival, have worked in the West End and done community theatre projects.

 

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for an apprenticeship?

Do it! You are going to learn something, meet new people and have some great times and experiences. Even if you don’t end up in that industry, the fundamental skills you learn as an apprentice are invaluable.
 

Any advice for someone starting in an apprenticeship?

Observe, listen and jump in. If something interests you, ask to be a part of it, even if it’s slightly different to what’s in the plan, you never know where that might lead. Ask questions and always try and be productive.
 

Do you think it is important the NT offers apprenticeships?

Absolutely, I really enjoyed my apprenticeship, was lucky enough to work in all three spaces (Olivier, Lyttelton and Dorfman Theatre) as well as taking Curious Incident into the West End and doing New Views in Westminster Hall.

The NT has the resources and facilities to teach and train a new generation of theatre makers, whether directly in the theatre or working in another department in the building. The experience and knowledge that the NT can give is second to none.

I love what the National Theatre do and coming back and helping to guide the new apprentices has been such an amazing experience, and I hope I can impart some of what I learnt to them and help them realise their next step, in theatre or beyond.