Meet our Theatre Production Arts Student: Conor Thornton

Meet Conor Thornton, our third year FdA/BA (Hons) Theatre Production Arts – Lighting student

What attracted you to this business?

I’ve always been interested in lighting for theatre and live events. My memories of going to the theatre when I was younger are of me always being more interested in what was going on above the stage rather than the actual performance! I would go looking for the lighting desk after the show and look at the crew thinking “that’s what I want to be when I grow up”.

How are you finding the course?

I absolutely love my course at Mountview. I’m now in my third and final year and I’ve learnt so much and met so many great friends and industry contacts. It’s not an easy course by any means, you have to be committed to working long hours to get shows up and turned around. Particularly now more than ever with the situation of the pandemic. We have been putting on a new show every two weeks in our main house theatre at our new building in Peckham. There are no audiences, but we are filming and streaming each show for free. This is a perfect example of Mountview’s commitment to give us as much in-person training as possible, as well as giving the public a chance to see our work online.

What work experience have you had so far?

I have worked on many of our shows at Mountview in various external venues as well as our own two theatres. I have been Follow Spot Operator, Board Operator, Programmer, Production Electrician, and most recently, Assistant Lighting Designer.

I have also had the opportunity to gain work experience in the West End on shows including ‘Come From Away’ and ‘Waitress’

Who has been your biggest mentor/s?

I’ve built up my knowledge with the help of many, but I’d say the people who’ve helped me the most are Andie Dew, Louisa Smurthwaite, Adam King and Adam Mottley.

What’s the best career advice you’ve received so far?

This isn’t specifically related to the industry, but I truly believe it’s one of the most important things. Be nice to people! In theatre we work really long hours and often with the same people over and over again. Who wants to work with people who aren’t good to work with? Nobody. It makes working so much more enjoyable and productive if we all respect each other.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?

Always ask the question. If you’re unsure about something, don’t be scared to double check or ask someone to explain something again. If you try to do something when you don’t completely understand, it’s probably going to cause a problem in the long run when you’re all trying to frantically problem solve. The best thing about asking questions? You’ll always learn something new.

Who would you most like to emulate?

If I ever go down the route of designing, I’d love to become someone as well respected as Howell Binkley. I think his work is absolutely beautiful. The way he tells stories through light is such an incredible thing. I’ve heard he was also an amazing person to work with. What a great legacy he’s left behind.

What would be your dream project to work on?

I’d love to be part of the original creative team or crew on a big new musical. I think it would be so special to be a part of something new from the very beginning.

What’s the toughest thing about entering this business?

For me, it’s the unsociable hours. Not being able to attend things with family or friends who work a ‘regular’ job is something I really struggled with when I started working on shows. It’s frustrating but you get used to it, and in the end, it doesn’t matter because you’re doing what you love! You can always work around it!

What’s your experience of the industry’s attitudes towards students?

I think the industry is really open to new people coming in, particularly people who’ve studied intensively at drama schools. Mountview has a great reputation in the theatre industry and I’m proud to be entering it after training here.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

If you really have a passion for this, do it. My mum read me a quote years ago and it said, “choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”. That always stuck with me. I encourage anyone coming out of school to apply to colleges that do a technical course, apply to drama schools, apply for jobs at your local theatres, work for free, get as much experience as you can! Never let an opportunity pass and stay positive. It’s not easy, but it’s so rewarding.

What do you want your job title to be in 10 years’ time?

I’d like to be Chief LX on a West End or touring theatre production. By that point I’d also like to have programmed a lot and maybe even have a design credit or two.

Find out more about Mountview’s FdA/BA Theatre Production Arts – Lighting