student headshot

Arathi Suresh

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am an international student in my second year studying Theatre and Performance at the School of Performance and Cultural Industries. I was born in India, raised in Oman, and was living in Malta for a short while before moving to Leeds. I was first introduced to storytelling by my parents enacting bedtime stories to the fussy two-year-old that I was and then putting me on stage at the age of three.

I come from a very traditional theatre and dance background specifically Indian Classical Dances before starting Theatre and Performance at Leeds. Which is why learning about a different culture and exploring new perspectives to look at performance really excites me here.

Other than dance and theatre, my hobbies include trekking, painting, and playing badminton.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

When I first begun to look at universities, I wanted to do English Literature for my undergraduate. I stumbled upon the Theatre and Performance course at University of Leeds and one look at the course content and a couple of videos online, I knew this is what I wanted to do.

Why this course stood apart from other courses and other universities was how vast it was in terms of the curriculum and how it let me explore all the different aspects of Theatre and Performance from light design to directing. Moreover, I was also very impressed with how we have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in different forms of Theatre whether it is musicals or immersive experiences.

I had also contacted alumni and current students studying at the University of Leeds, to enquire about the city and university life in general. I found Leeds as the best place to spend my undergrad years as it had the perfect blend of culture and city life that was very welcoming as an international student.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I have always been a storyteller. From narrating bedtime stories that my parents told me back to them to acting out Indian mythological stories through dance. I am specifically interested in storytelling through all the different mediums there is.

However, I have recently found myself passionately immersed in bespoke, interactive performances. What I really love about theatre is its ability to evoke emotions in people and I aspire to create authentic productions that remind today’s world the significance of true human connection.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?

At the end of my first year, my performance project group did immersive theatre.

Although, we had to cancel all our initial plans due to the pandemic and restart the whole process to make it Covid- friendly, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment making the show. Having had no experience both as an audience and as a performer in immersive theatre prior to this, this was a completely new learning experience for me and I have developed some close friendships while also learning to adapt and be resilient even during the pandemic. Not only did I get to explore a new form of storytelling but also decided to continue our work and have started a new Covid-friendly, interactive theatre company.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

The weather! Although I did know it would be quite cold, I only found out how unpredictable it could be once I got here. Other than that, I was really surprised how friendly and welcoming everyone here is! I have met some of the kindest, most loving and generous people after coming here and I absolutely love their Yorkshire accent!

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The School of Performance and Cultural Industries has some of the best professionals in the industry, and all of them are more than willing to support the students in anyway they possibly can! The facilities at stage@leeds are amazing! They’ve got plenty of rehearsal rooms, really good lighting and sound equipment and also technicians who go above and beyond to ensure the performances go well. Even during the pandemic, both teaching staff and technicians have turned the buildings to a very safe environment and are continuously making sure that we are able to continue our in person classes and getting the best education we possibly can during these strange times! But more than anything else, what I love most about the School is how it is like a small community within the university and how supporting all the staff at both the School and stage@leeds are!

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

The union has always got lots of stuff planned whether that is wellbeing activities or society planned events. I have been part of multiple theatre societies and their shows in my first year. It gave me a lot more hands on experience in Theatre and gave me something to do during the evenings. Joining societies is one of the best decisions I made last year, because not only was it an opportunity to do something outside of my course but also was a great way of meeting people who had similar interests to mine. Apart from that I have attended a few other Give it a go sessions and wellbeing events like Pet Therapy and Yoga, which I highly recommend. The union has over 300 societies, so there is always something for everyone! On a normal year there would be regular Fruity on Friday nights which I would say is the best way to end your week.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I would say definitely apply! It is one of the best decisions I have made. Both, the School of Performance and Cultural Industries and University of Leeds is very warm and welcoming. Even as an international student, I have not once felt out of place or left out! The course is very hands on and focuses on practical learning and give you plenty of opportunities to explore every form and aspect of theatre and also is a platform to connect with likeminded people and professionals from the industry. In just my first year I have learned so much and have acquired so many transferable skills that has opened up so many doors for me already! You will come to find that the course will not only teach you Theatre and Performance but also help you find yourself as an artist.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I aspire to work in the entertainment industry after I graduate but I am still figuring out what sector I would like to work in. I am finding myself torn between dance, film production and theatre directing, which is why I am trying to gain as much experience I can during university to find out what I enjoy the most. Along with that I also want to grow my interactive theatre company, Hitcher Encounters and create accessible immersive work and provide a platform for people to connect with each other, especially during strange times such as this. I am also considering getting a masters in Laban, but I am still quite unsure about this! I think university provides you with a safe space and ample resources to explore and experiment without the fear of being right, so that by the time you graduate you have a much better idea of what you really want to do. But more than anything, I strongly believe that with this opportunity with I have learnt to effectively combine my skills and my interests to visually narrate a story that sticks with the audience long after the curtain falls