An Actor's Life

Youth movement
April 27, 2012, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Just funny | Tags: , ,

In 2001 I was part of a totally devised piece of theatre. The characters, narrative even the staging was decided upon by the company. Costume was pulled together from the casts own wardrobes and second-hand shops. Every mistake and every success was ours and ours alone. It sounds like a fairly standard story for a theatre company taking it’s first steps into the world of performance, except that I was 15 years old and my oldest colleague was only 17. We were the Theatre Royal Bath’s Young People’s Theatre. We met once a week under the guidance of a brave and nurturing leader who allowed us to fully explore what our limits were without censure.

To publicise the show we took to the streets of the city, my good friend Pete & I decided to choreograph a fight that would sprawl through the centre if Bath. We were encouraged in our efforts. Pete & I spent two hours fighting, he armed with a large walking stick, me with chopsticks. I repeatedly flung myself onto the becobbled streets, whilst Pete swung wildly at my head. It was fabulous fun and undeniably dangerous. Would we be allowed to do that now? I happen to know not.

I am now in the position of course leader for the Natural Theatre’s Youth Theatre and we specialise in improvised street theatre. There is no way we could ever dream if letting two young people design a fight (with weapons) and let them take to the streets. Even when working in the relatively controlled environment of a stage fight choreographers must be used. Which is right and proper, my life would’ve dramatically altered had one of Pete’s lungs removed an eye. But they didn’t and it remains one of the most thrilling performance experiences of my acting career. I don’t want to sound too much like disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells but maybe our never-ending quest for ultimate safety for our children is robbing them of some of the richness of life.

It should be noted that the show itself was self-indulgent, highly sexual, very silly and pretty crude. Exactly what you’d expect to find inside the minds of a group of teenagers.



This week

So this week I’ve been a Natural. It’s been amazing, myself and Hef were employed to help devise new pieces for the world famous Natural Theatre Company. For those of you who don’t know the company they produce comic street theatre, but it’s not busking. They aim to take a high street and make us look at it in a different light, often subverting the norm or ‘normalizing’ the surreal. It is a hugely visual company that frequently offers no explanation as to why they are doing what they are doing, it is enough that they are. When people ask me for my opinion of why we do it I always answer “To make people giggle or smile.” there are some theories within the company about a grander mission of reclaiming public spaces as spaces for the public, but I like the smile on a stranger’s face.

There will, I’m sure, but video and better images forthcoming but for now I will show you the piece I had a hand in creating. It’s called pigeon poo and quite simply consists of people covered in bird shit walking through town nervously checking the sky for anymore bombardment. It is accompanied by the sounds of cooing and fluttering of wings. It was hugely effective on the streets of Bath yesterday as part of the launching of Bath Comedy Festival in which New Old Friends will be performing with Arthur Smith on Monday.

Devising week.

Myself and my beautiful lady are this week being employed by the wonderful Natural Theatre company, to take part in their devising week. Basically we’re being paid to come up with silly things to do in the street, if it’s not the  best job in the world – its close. I’ve been asked to be a group co-ordinator which is something of an honour, it just means that I have to prod and guide my group so as to make sure that we get a piece out on time. I wont tell you too much of the ideas and things we’ve come up with until Friday whereupon I may well post videos or photos or something. It’s all very exciting and interesting stuff, I’m in charge of the more ‘arty’ end of the spectrum which isn’t my forte but its fine. Hef is in a more traditional ‘talky’ thing and has had one of her initial ideas taken on and developed into one of the performance pieces which is excellent as she has currently logged 2 days of Natural work, including today.