Life after Radford with Abbey Morgan (Class 2016)
Abbey Morgan (Class of 2016) discovered her passion for drama at Radford. Despite facing obstacles, Abbey's determination to pursue a career in acting has remained unwavering.
Abbey Morgan (Class of 2016) discovered her passion for drama at Radford. Despite facing obstacles, Abbey’s determination to pursue a career in acting has remained unwavering. After graduating, she embarked on a gap year to pursue the Certificate IV in Acting for Stage and Screen with Perform Australia here in Canberra. This experience fuelled her desire to pursue an acting degree. In 2017, Abbey applied to prestigious drama schools, the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), but was advised to gain more experience. Following this advice, she enrolled in weekend classes at NIDA Open, honing her skills even further. The following year, Abbey’s hard work paid off, as she was accepted into both drama schools. Recently, Abbey returned to Radford to conduct drama workshops for current students. She sat down with us to share her production experiences and shed light on the highs and lows of being an actor.
What inspired you to pursue acting?
I loved all things performing as a child. My dream was to be on X Factor as a singer-songwriter up until about Year 9, but then through doing drama at Radford, I realised I preferred acting. It quickly became my favourite subject; I felt really good about myself when I did it. Ultimately, I love storytelling and making people feel seen.
How did Radford prepare you for a career in acting?
Radford prepared me for a wide range of acting styles and taught me to be brave. Mr Nick Akhurst and Mr Jason Golding pushed me to play roles outside of those I would have picked for myself. In Year 11, I was cast as Mrs Cheveley, a villainous character, in An Ideal Husband. Then in Year 12, I was cast as Simon, a sensitive, withdrawn, small boy, in Lord of the Flies. We also devised our own works, which is really important for performers, because if you’re not getting work, you can put your own work on.
You studied a Bachelor of Arts (Acting) at WAAPA between 2019–21. Can you tell us about the course?
WAAPA was amazing. You’re there from Monday to Friday, 8 am–6 pm, and you get many performance opportunities, setting you up for a career in acting. There were only 17 of us in the cohort, which meant our teachers were really able to focus on each of us and meet our needs. We also got to work with some incredible people. One of my highlights was working with actor Kylie Bracknell, who was on the Netflix show Irreverent.
You also undertook training at NIDA Open in 2018. What was that like?
The NIDA Open course was held every Saturday in Sydney for a year. They split the content by terms, so term one was voice and movement, term two was screen, term three was Shakespeare and contemporary, and term four was a production unit. It was like a taste of the Bachelor of Arts and helped me prepare to travel interstate the following year. It was also helpful because I was able to get a taste of the NIDA course. I was so set on going to NIDA, but it turned out that WAAPA was very big on nurturing and ensemble, which suited my personality.
You’ve starred in 14 television and theatre productions over the past four years. Has there been a highlight?
Bad Behaviour, which aired on Stan, was a definite highlight. I was cast for that as I was graduating from WAAPA. I only had three weeks at home in Canberra between graduating and travelling to Melbourne for pre-production and shooting, so it was a whirlwind. But getting a Stan credit and a substantial TV role was at the end of the five-year plan I’d written in business class at WAAPA. So, to achieve that not even a year out of uni was huge for me.
I’ve been really fortunate with the roles I’ve had so far. I’m only a year-and-a-half out of drama school and have also performed in a state theatre show, in front of full audiences, at the Heath Ledger Theatre in Perth and recently completed a tour along the East Coast and in the Top End in the production CUSP. That was just the most beautiful play in which the actors and I could feel we were making a difference to people and making them feel seen.
CUSP sounds amazing. Can you tell us more about that?
CUSP is about three teenagers from a low socioeconomic background in the Top End. They don’t have a lot of support – one has just come out of jail, another is a First Nations woman facing a lot of pressure from community about what she should do with her life as she finishes school, and the character I played, Maddie, is pregnant at 16. They are all asked to grow up really fast without the support to do that safely. I knew it was a really beautiful play when we performed it in the eastern states but taking it to the Top End elevated it so much, because you could feel we’d brought it home and how much it resonated with the audience.
A week in your life must be very busy…
It depends on what I’m doing. For example, when I was doing the Stan show, I had my weekends off, but the weeks were packed with 12-hour days. Often I’d be on set from 6 am until 6 pm. I’d go straight into make-up and hair or costume, get microphoned and then taken onto set. Although there’s a saying “hurry up and wait” on screen sets because there can be a lot of waiting around, but then as soon as you’re called, it’s go, go, go.
However, that’s only in the on periods. I’m in an off period right now, so I’m back to auditioning. If I’m lucky, I might get a self-test or two per week. I’ve got a self-test studio at home, so I film myself, submit the video and hopefully get a call back. But in between, I keep myself busy with a lot of casual work.
So, what are you hoping is next for you?
Everything and anything. The main thing is I want to keep doing projects I believe in and work that’s hopeful, particularly in an era where humans are seeing major changes to the planet; I believe we can create hope through creative literature and performing arts. I’d also like to work for every state theatre company in Australia.
We wish you the best of luck with that. Finally, what would your advice be to other young people wanting to pursue acting?
Acting is full of high-highs and low-lows between the times you have work and don’t. You need to figure out how to stay grounded. For me, I stay quite philosophical about things; I have to trust that if I don’t get a role, it was never mine and was meant for someone else. I find great freedom in that. It’s a hard career but it’s really fulfilling.
There’s also no right or wrong path into acting. When I was at Radford, you either went straight to uni or took one gap year and went to uni. I was a bit nervous to admit at the time that I was taking two gap years, but I’m really grateful now that I was a bit older and had more life experience by the time I went to drama school.