TEENAGER Antonia Kinlay is on the road to finding fame and fortune after beating off thousands of rivals to land a place at the UK's top drama school.

Antonia, 18, who lives near Magor, is to start at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in September.

And she hopes to follow the footsteps of previous RADA graduates such as Anthony Hopkins, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh and Sheila Hancock.

Competition for places at RADA is keen, and more than 4,000 hopefuls were interviewed in the first round alone.

Antonia said: "It hasn't really sunk in yet but I'm absolutely delighted and I can't really believe it's happened.

"Going to somewhere so prestigious gives me the best chance of succeeding in this very difficult career.

"I've always loved the theatre but eventually I would like to go into film and explore other aspects of acting."

She said she was inspired by so many actors but picked out Judi Dench and "method" actors Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro as her favourites.

Her mother, Margaret, said: "Only 15 girls from the UK and America get into RADA each year. It is generally considered the Oxford and Cambridge of drama schools.

"The average age of students is 24, so she's done well to get in at 18. "I'm overwhelmed - if you're not in the industry, it's very hard to judge how good someone is, but I've always been proud when I've seen her in school plays.

"To be honest it's mind-blowing. Acting is such a precarious career it's important to get yourself into a prestigious school to have a reasonable chance of success."

Antonia goes to Badminton School in Bristol. She is a former member of Newport's Stagecoach theatre group, an amateur performer at the Dolman Youth Theatre, and her early promise led her to join the National Youth Theatre.

She was offered places at several other drama schools, including the Central School of Speech and Drama, and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, but decided to snap up the RADA place instead.

There are no thespians in the family, although Ms Kinlay made her first TV appearance on The Ferret two weeks ago after they successfully claimed £2,000 on her behalf for a stolen laptop.