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Top marks Tyler

The job of an actor is to play someone else. But if you are an 11-year-old actor asked to play a father identifying their dead son, you may be assigned an impossible task.

Unless you are Tyler Thomas, who scored 98/100 in his Trinity College exam in June, playing that heartbroken father, a result his drama teacher hasn’t seen in 30 years of teaching.

Thankfully few of us have this emotional experience in our minds, so how did an 11-year-old get into the character of a father going through one of the most tragic experiences a human can go through?

Instead of pretending, Tyler plucked a painful memory from his past to create a bridge between the character and himself.

“I remembered when my uncle died a few years ago. It helped me do the part better. It gave me more emotion,” said Tyler.

His uncle Kory Thomas died from suicide in 2018.

“When I heard the topic of the play, I realised that I couldn’t draw the feeling from that character because I haven’t been through that experience.”

Instead he used his own emotions and acted out the foreign experience.

“I was putting it into the piece in my words.”

His nana Jo Gregory said his uncle would have been a big supporter of Tyler’s if he was still here today.

Although Kory is no longer alive, he has become part of Tyler’s story.

At Saint Mary’s School, Tyler won the speech competitions in years 4, 5, 6, where he spoke about mental health and had more than a few in the audience wiping their eyes.

Jo said drama came to Tyler at a young age.

From four years old, Tyler would “yabber on in the car” for hours while Jo was driving, so she asked him to make up stories instead.

He would go on for hours making elaborate stories, building new worlds and characters in the car next to his grandmother.

Then he started school.

“I started off with speeches at school and decided to do writing and stories, and I found I was a good speaker.”

For Tyler, memorising scripts and dialogue came naturally.

“I wanted to do more, so I moved on to (drama and speech teacher) Mary Cowper, who could get me more roles.”

It was there he started with Trinity College exams.

“If you get a good grade, that can help your future with shows, movies, acting roles,” said Tyler.

Mary Cowper says Tyler deserves the praise.

“Tyler has now achieved a distinction pass in all of his three Trinity College Grade examinations,” she said.

Tyler has been studying with Mary for three and a half years.

“While it is not unusual for my students to achieve marks in the 90s, his latest result for the grade 4 exam was an outstanding 98 out of 100.

“This is the highest mark ever received by a student of mine in 30 years of teaching speech and drama.”

Students are asked to perform different tasks, like reciting a poem, an extract from a play and reading from an article.

“Some things are read from a script, but much of the exam material must be memorised.

“He consistently produces mature, engaging work with flair and full ownership. He possesses excellent audience awareness, vocal skills and an acute understanding of the transformative power of performance,” said Mary.

Tyler is driven to succeed.

“I want to show people I’m not just a random person who’s not that good.

“I have a talent, and I want to show it to people,” said Tyler.

“I want to show them I can surprise them.

“If they’re thinking, ‘oh, that kid’s not going to be good,’ then that drives me.”

Although bright lights on the stage may be waiting in the future, Tyler is relaxed and taking life as it comes.

“I’m taking it day by day. I don’t know what the future holds. I could change. I might want to be a doctor or something.”

Nana Jo hopes that means Shortland Street.

BORN FOR THE STAGE: Tyler Thomas has come out on top scoring the highest marks his teacher has seen in 30 years of teaching speech and drama. Picture by Liam Clayton