Drama School Stories: Oxford School of Drama

Maimuna Memon shares her advice for those considering formal training, and her experience of studying at the Oxford School of Drama

Part of our series of perspectives from members on formal training as an actor, Maimuna Memon discusses her time at the Oxford School of Drama. With plenty of great insight on offer in this series, read the rest of our advice about different drama schools across the UK.




Acting is very subjective. Your tutors and peers judge your work based on what they feel is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that can be really difficult to face. It doesn’t change when transitioning into the professional world either! But in my opinion, as long as you work hard and have a willingness to learn, it gets easier to accept that subjectivity is just part of the process.
Maimuna Memon

Why did you want to be an actor?

I decided that I wanted to perform from quite a young age. My mum was very musical, and so she always encouraged me to be creative. I started learning music when I was four and a few years later decided to try out my youth drama club in my very small home town up North. Going there every Tuesday was the highlight of my week. From then, I was sold. 

What made you decide to pursue formal training? How did it come about?

I ended up moving to Australia when I was fifteen, so my last three years of education were quite tough. I was adamant that I would move back as soon as I graduated from secondary school and that’s what I did. I applied for drama schools and was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Foundation Course at the Oxford School of Drama

This was a blessing in disguise. I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten in to any three-year courses, but I realise now that I wasn’t ready, nor was I well equipped to jump straight into that. I was eighteen, it was the first time I had lived away from home, it was good to learn about what I was getting myself into before I made the commitment of wanting to pursue a three-year course. I had always loved singing, and so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do musical theatre or if straight acting was for me. I realise now that you don't have to make a choice between the two. A lot of courses give you extensive training in both. Doing six months at Oxford gave me a real insight into what drama school might be like, and I realised then that I wanted formal three-year training. 

What made you pick the programme /school as opposed to others?

I applied to a lot of schools, but I fell in love with Oxford the moment I saw it. Of course, I had already spent six months there, so the idea of spending another three years there was comforting and exciting to me. But also, the fact that it was in the countryside, that it was small, unique, out of London and extremely welcoming, made me sure that I wanted to go there. There was a warmth to it that made me feel very at ease. I was young and I know now that I certainly was not ready for London (I was barely ready for London when I graduated!). 

Acting is a long game; there is no rush.
Maimuna Memon

What were the benefits of studying drama there?

The Oxford School of Drama is a small school, there are only about eighteen students per year group and so the training is very concentrated and personal. It means that the tutors have very individual relationships with you, and the training itself is quite intense (in a good way), and brilliantly challenging. It also means that the school itself is like one big family. I was lucky enough to be in a year group where there was a lot of love and support. Two years on and we are still each other’s biggest advocates and supporters. We are always looking to help each other and create work together. I made my best friends in those three years. 

The surroundings were also extremely uplifting and detoxifying. We were able to work on our passion without distraction. The school itself is situated on a farm about half an hour out of Oxford, in the beautiful countryside; it is so secluded that we had to catch a school bus every day from the city centre, and if we missed it, well, we were in big trouble then!

What were some of the challenges?

Of course, three years of training in acting can be extremely tough. It asks a lot of you, emotionally and physically and it isn’t for everyone. I found my training exhausting! There were times in those three years when I wasn’t sure I would get through it. It is also expensive. Unfortunately, we live in a time where fees are extortionate.

Many students are awarded DADAs (Dance and Drama Awards) and grants, but many students aren’t. I unfortunately was not, and so I had to work a lot out of school hours to afford to stay there. Take that into account when deciding where to go. There is nothing worse than not being able to enjoy the experience and get the most out of your training because you are constantly tired from working a part time job and stressed about money. The training itself is challenging enough!

Working during drama school helped me to manage time well and be organised, but it would have been nice to work fewer hours in the pub and be able to put a few more hours into sleep or work for school. 

Acting is very subjective. Your tutors and peers judge your work based on what they feel is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that can be really difficult to face. It doesn’t change when transitioning into the professional world either! But in my opinion, as long as you work hard and have a willingness to learn, it gets easier to accept that subjectivity is just part of the process. 

How has the training helped you since graduating?

The biggest thing Oxford instilled in me, and for which I will be always grateful, is humility, a strong work ethic and drive. They give you the tools to create your own work, to find work, to write to people, to be prepared and to always be grateful for the opportunities you are given. 

Any final advice for those wondering whether to train/where to train?

For those who want to/ are interested in training I would say that every school is different, and you will naturally be drawn to particular schools. Research, ask others who might have had experiences at other schools. Look up actors you like and see where they trained. Look on websites and see what each school has to offer you. Have a look at grant schemes and financial help. 

But most of all, don’t give up if you don’t get in the first time. I didn’t get in the first time I auditioned, and neither did a lot of people I know. Sometimes an extra year or two of experience does a world of good, and will translate really well into your training. Acting is a long game; there is no rush. Some people peak young and for some it takes time. But hard work always pays off. 

Maimuna Memon is a Lancashire-born actress and musician, recently graduated from The Oxford School of Drama. She most recently played Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar at The Open Air Theatre. Other credits include Lazarus at the Kings Cross Theatre, The Buskers Opera at The Park Theatre, Winnie and Wilbur at The Birmingham Rep and Into The Woods at the Manchester Royal Exchange. She is also a keen songwriter and gigs around London frequently.