My brother and I have always shared a sense of humour but pretty much nothing else; I've always been the creative arty one and he's the sporty businessman. However, as James has progressed in his career he's started presenting to groups of people- these days to sometimes as many as 300 at a time. He's developed a real passion for presenting, and has studied various theories on the skills that are needed. The main one being... storytelling. If you can engage the audience on an emotional level then you've got their attention. And here lies another major crossover in our lives.
James was thrilled to be asked to come and lead a workshop for our seniors! We found the parallels between presenting and storytelling, and then used those skills in a mock audition - James being the big bad producer, me being the director (with a variety of personas - just to keep everyone on their toes!) and the rest of the group being the writers and runners with some brilliant improv. It was funny, touching, challenging...and a proud moment for me. James was so impressed by our actors and by how quickly everyone could adapt and take advice and direction. I was also thrilled to be working alongside my big bro.
Eight glorious years ago we devised our own version of Alice in Wonderland to perform in gardens around Gloucestershire and Buckinghamshire, as well as schools in Colchester. It was quirky and colourful and made the audiences chuckle...and I like to think was a little philosophical. (We still quote the Tweedles line: "Everything's connected!") Looking back at these photos, I can't help but grin- with the memories they evoke- but also the pride I feel for these actors who were teenagers then and are now pursuing their careers in the big wide world. We meet up regularly to catch up and reminisce...putting your passion into a shared project for an intense week is one of the most bonding experiences you can come across I think, and a brilliant training for the profession!
I am super excited about the summer ahead- being immersed in one of the best shows to put on in the summer: Shakey's very own 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'! We have a mixture of actors in the cast so far: some who've done the summer show before, and those who don't quite know what they are in for! Do get in touch if you are interested in joining us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amidst Sam's busy schedule of making award-winning films, starring in soaps, UK tours, and hollywood movies, he made time to share his talent and wisdom with our actors! After a big discussion about 'identity', the actors went off in pairs to devise a short scene to film. The key being 'less is more' for film. Why add a line of dialogue when the camera can pick up that thought in the movement of your eyes?
Sam told us about the 'indulgence' of acting for the camera. Take your time...as the editor can always speed it up if they choose to.
A few little gems that we took away from the 2 sessions:
" It's so much more interesting to watch when you've got something conflicted in you"
"Make that line harder to say"
"You have to be fully invested in it. The camera picks up every thought"
"Use your takes- give the editor different options. You are one piece of a much bigger jigsaw"
"In a workshop environment, the best thing you can do is fail! Don't play safe and be vanilla"
"The movement you're doing- what does it mean, where does it come from? Take all that emotion and put it into stillness. That is incredibly powerful"
"Have the confidence to hold the look, especially at the end of a scene. That is cinema gold"
Here are a few snapshots of the workshops. Links to the filmed scenes to follow!
I am a huge fan of collaboration. Creating a piece of theatre from scratch goes through many phases: 1. Where do we start?? 2. An idea organically emerges and everyone is buzzing! 3. Ideas come flooding in from every member of the ensemble...we have enough material for a 12-part series! 4. Cutting back to the core of the piece- what are the main themes we are exploring? Structure it scene by scene. 5. Scripting the piece to include layers of sub-text and a satisfying journey for every single character/actor. 6. Do you think we'll be allowed to cover the whole stage in dirt...?? (I admit this stage was specific to 'The Void') 7. Intense rehearsals! 8. Group warm-up...and you're on! 9. Feeling chuffed that you've created something from nothing, and let a few ideas simmer in the audience's minds... 10. Celebrate at Wagamamas!
Here are a handful of stills from 'The Void' (A claustrophobic dystopian world inside the head of a man in a coma); 'Hamdram' (A comedy about an unlikely group of people putting on a very serious play...); and 'Kenopsia' (A thriller about an underground network of criminals, trying to escape from the web they have weaved).
If you are interested in joining us to create more weird/fun/thought-provoking theatre then get in touch, come meet the group and try out a session!