Musical Theatre Graduate Makes West End Debut

Tyla Nurden made her West End debut in the Rocky Horror Show.

Oakfields College alumna, Tyla Nurden shares how she went from being a musical theatre student to making her debut on London’s West End!

Having recently emigrated to the UK, small town girl and Oakfields College graduate, Tyla Nurden’s life has been a whirlwind of success, and one can see why she is flourishing in this bustling environment.

Relocating between the small KwaZulu-Natal towns of Pietermaritzburg, Howick and Richmond, Tyla describes her childhood as fun but extremely busy.

‘My childhood was packed with gymnastics training and national competitions, long-distance running, dance classes and shows, bossing my cousins around and choreographing shows for our parents to Mambo No 5, Britney Spears, Spice Girls, Cher and Backstreet Boys!

If I wasn’t doing any of the above I was camping with my family, running around our farm with my six brothers or at sleepovers with my friends.’

Tyla started performing at age three by attempting tap-dancing routines to Shania Twain songs along with her brother Jarryd (who is also a performer).

‘My first bit of dancing ever was with Debbi Le Roux and I still have her unconditional love and support to this day. I also danced with B-Rock, and was involved in my high school dance company, which I became head of in my Matric year. All I knew is that I loved to perform and story-tell!’

This passion for performing was cemented in 2007 when her mom treated a thirteen-year old Tyla and brother Jarryd to a trip to Johannesburg to watch the Lion King, their first ever full-scale musical.  

‘I truly cannot put into words what I experienced that night. Both Jarryd and I immediately and without question knew this was what we had to do. We also dreamed that maybe one day we’d get to perform on that exact same stage. Years later we did AND we’ve done it together too!’

After matriculating, Tyla pursued her passion by enrolling in the Oakfields College Faculty of Musical Theatre and Dance. Since its inception, this faculty has established itself as one of the major and preferred feeder institutions into the professional performing arts industry in South Africa.

Her initial introduction to Oakfields College was a bit of a culture shock, but she soon found her feet, and while she found the long hours and discipline required of a musical theatre student quite challenging, Tyla believes this is part of how Oakfields College helped her develop into a versatile, multi-skilled performer.

‘Most people don’t understand the literal blood, sweat, tears and discipline it takes to work on your craft. It’s gruelling but, once you find your groove, remember WHY you chose this as a career, the impact you can have on your audience and start experiencing your own growth…it’s worth all of it!’

‘Oakfields College offered SO much that helped us expand in many different areas!! We had acting (from classical to contemporary), singing (filling our rep files with all genres) and dancing (in many different styles) and what I loved was that we were not only allowed but encouraged to attend extra classes that weren’t in our curriculum – this being the perfect opportunity for growth and to become a versatile performer which I totally grabbed by the horns!’

Combining all of this with a strong work ethic is her recipe for success, as she believes talent alone can only get you so far. However she also feels that Oakfields College played a huge part in launching her professional career.

‘I’ll never forget on my very first day at Oakfields College, Jackie said: ‘Your careers start TODAY’. It took me a moment to understand why that was the case – but then I realised our lecturers were all extremely talented, working professionals who would most likely be in the position to audition/hire/recommend us once we had graduated! Learning from these ’industry insiders’ definitely helped prepare us for the real industry.’

The faculty has also established Memorandums of Understanding with various industry role-players such as theatres, festivals and major production companies to offer its students the relevant Work Integrated Learning (WIL) experience through a system of practical training internships whereby students receive the relevant credits for professional work experience.

Tyla says she feels this exposure, learning experience and opportunities to network in the industry contributed massively to her professional success, specifically mentioning the Third-Year Showcase.

‘The final showcase that Oakfields College mounts at the end of third year is where SA’s best agencies are invited to scout and decide who they’d like to sign. That is where I landed my incredible SA agent: Viclectic Artists Management!’

Tyla’s transition to the West End was as tumultuous as her bustling childhood.

It was while starring in the South African production of The Rocky Horror Show that she made connections with the UK creative team.

She emigrated to the United Kingdom in October 2021 with her plane landing at 14h00 in the afternoon. What followed was nothing short of a dream come true!

‘Just four hours after landing, the UK Rocky Horror team called me to get to the Peacock Theatre as soon as possible because they needed me to perform in the show the next evening on the West End due to a COVID emergency.’

After one more unforeseen postponement, Tyla made her West End debut a mere two nights after arriving in London!

Asked what advice she would give to other aspiring performers, Tyla says not to listen to those who insist the performing arts is not a viable career.

‘Make sure you find the RIGHT institution for your performing arts training with the best people to mentor, guide and teach you. Be disciplined, do the work, be hungry, learn, grow, attend every class, show, lecture, workshop – even if it’s not compulsory. Believe in yourself and know that anything is in fact possible. But also be humble, supportive and encouraging towards yourself and your fellow performers and crew. Own your talents and sprinkle your magic far and wide. The world needs it more than ever!’

A link to the full interview with Tyla can be found here:

Auditions for the Oakfields College Musical Theatre 2023 intake take place on Saturday 2 July 2022. For more information contact

Jackie Rens
Oakfields College

Tyla Nurden graduating with her diploma in Musical Theatre and Dance from Oakfields College
Tyla Nurden graduating with her diploma in Musical Theatre and Dance from Oakfields College
Tyla Nurden backstage during the Oakfields College musical production The Hot Mikado
Tyla Nurden backstage during the Oakfields College musical production The Hot Mikado
Actor, singer, dancer - Tyla Nurden
Actor, singer, dancer – Tyla Nurden