UWTSD Theatre Design and Production graduate praises links with industry


Ashley Phillips, who recently graduated from the BA Theatre Design and Production course at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) made the most of the course’s links with industry as he undertook a work placement with the prestigious Welsh National Opera.

Ashley Williams

Ashley Phillips.

Back in January of this year, Ashley was heavily involved in the staging of the students’ final year main house show, ‘Rage’ and having enjoyed the experience of working on a large scale production, he relished the opportunity to work with the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.

“When the opportunity came for work experience with the WNO props department I couldn’t turn it down,” said Ashley.  “It was originally supposed to be a week’s unpaid placement, but I ended up being asked to stay for another week and being paid for my work! Whilst there I worked on constructing scenic elements for upcoming productions set to take place this summer but unfortunately, they were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” adds Ashley.  “Although I didn’t get to see my work in action, the skills and knowledge I gained from Working with Andy and the rest of the team at WNO are invaluable and I hope to work with them again once the industry gets back to its feet.”

In February this year, the WNO embarked on a new, ambitious project “Singing in The Seasons” which aimed to involve members of the professional company, the Community Chorus and all sections of the Youth Opera.

“It was quite literally, a cast of hundreds,” says Andy John, Head of Props at the WNO. 

“The newly commissioned piece was to incorporate many areas of the Wales Millennium Centre, both public and performance spaces. With a heavy workload already taken up with a busy main scale schedule, the offer of a work placement to help with the ‘Seasons’ project was very gratefully taken up. Ashley Phillips came to us with a recommendation from UWTSD Carmarthen….We, the department, were immediately put at ease as Ashley asked intelligent questions and offered useful and constructive comment, comprehending various aspects of the project. 

“After surveying the variety of performance areas, Ashley was given responsibility for a particular aspect of the design. This involved not only the interpretation of the design, but also incorporating this with the surrounding architecture, as it was to become a feature of the public area. Ashley considered every aspect of the work involved; the overall message it was to convey, its aesthetics, the construction methods and materials required to fulfil the task. He was at ease with the use of materials, tools, machinery and operations required to put all aspects together. 

“After working with us for a week, it was clear that Ashley was not just a ‘helping hand’ more, a real part of the team, taking command of his responsibilities within it. Consequently, it was with pleasure that we were able to offer him a contract of employment to complete the work. This he did in a most professional manner, belying his student status. 

“It was a pleasure to have had Ashley working with us, apart from his skills and vision to have undertaken the aforementioned work, his cheerful enthusiasm and personality should be welcomed in any creative team,” adds Andy. 

Throughout their three years at UWTSD, students on the BA Theatre Design and Production programme experience a range of opportunities that equip them with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in this competitive industry and offer them a varied range of opportunities to develop and grow in the respective fields. 

“The BA Theatre Design and Production degree in Carmarthen is designed to make students industry ready during their studies, not upon graduation. When industry reaches out to us asking for student placements I always send the student who will gain the most development from the experience as well as someone who will represent the quality of training they have undergone,” says Theatre Design and Production lecturer, Dave Atkinson. 

“Ashley represented UWTSD and himself exceptionally well - and for WNO to offer him paid work from his work experience says it all. We are proud of the long standing relationship between the WNO props department and the Theatre Design and Production degree which demonstrates the good reputation the course has amongst the theatre and entertainment industry,” concludes Dave.

The BA Theatre Design & Production degree offered at UWTSD’s Carmarthen campus is a practical, hands-on programme designed to build upon a broad foundation of production skills, right through to producing performances and events.

The course enables students to explore, design and create exciting new work alongside industry professionals and its key principle is to develop students to be skilled in more than one area so that they’re ready to engage in the wider performance sector.

Throughout the degree, there is flexibility to allow students to specialise and explore their own pathway whilst offering a variety of work placement opportunities to make sure students gain the experience required and the support needed to help them as they enter the world of work.

Ashley certainly feels that he’s benefited from a range of experiences which have allowed him to progress and to work in new and exciting forms of theatre.

“I had an absolutely incredible time working with the WNO and I’ve gained a new found love for opera, an area of theatre I’d never considered before, which wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the opportunities I’ve accessed through doing the theatre design and production course.”

Further Information

For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies, Principal Communications and PR Officer on 01267 676908 / 07449 998476 sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk