I’ve been back at The Factory today. Nothing like a bit of rigour to recalibrate the brain. This is a company that has been front and centre in my life for years now and has helped shape how I think about my craft. It still feels like a living challenging room, and the people in it are changing and growing and breathing with the company.
Right now we are looking at Macbeth. Bearing in mind it took two years from inception to first performance with Hamlet, it might be a while before we are popping up ready with a show. But we do have to find something to show people in Wales on July 8th.
Some of the work I’ve seen and been part of with the company over the years has been some of the richest of my career. There’s a challenge and a joyful work ethic built into the very makeup of the group. It’s trying to work without ego, as fluidly as possible. I’ve built wonderful friendships through this work. Watching and playing over the years, I’ve seen so many unrepeatable moments. Some of the funniest and also some of the most poignant spontaneous happenings I’ve witnessed or generated have come out of that mixture of deep rigour and yet playfulness at the heart of the work. The fixed and the flowing.
Today one of our Macbeths brought her baby to training. One of the many things that people say about actors is: “Never work with children or animals.” I call bullshit on that. Never work DESPITE children or animals. They are completely present and spontaneous, so if you aren’t they show you up. But if you are too then things can happen. The baby was a gift to the rehearsal. She kept us honest, whilst all of our focus was on keeping her safe.
I remember a marquee show in Ripley with Sprite, about this time of year some 6 years ago. It was directed by Alex, who still runs The Factory. The audience had been moved into a big tent because it was gunning down rain. It was coming to the end of As You Like It. I was Silvius, and a little girl in the audience was howling – going at it for all she was worth, all six lungs, tears, the lot. She sounded like an air raid siren.
My job in the scene was to tell Ganymede what it is to love. I came to the girl and told her “It is to be all made of sighs and tears.” Just to see if talking to her helped. It did. She stopped. By the end of the scene she’d got me to pick her up, and was rapt at being involved. My choice was “act despite her, or act with her.” Acting with her worked in our favour that time, and gave everyone a beautiful moment. It could’ve been disastrous: “Mummy who is that horrible man, get him off me. Aaaaaaaaargh. You’re not a shepherd. You smell.” The beautiful thing with the Factory is we play for those moments, they come, and sometimes when the girl tells you you smell that’s a gift too. And then we move on. I remember Hamlet getting beaten up by a kid. “Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across?” “I DO! *bam*” Fair play to Stefan. He actually asked the question. And it was a beautiful moment too.
At some point Macbeth will happen, and there will be many beautiful moments. Until then we will keep meetingr regularly, this large joyful community of makers and players. Damn It’s good to be back in the room. I’ve got Anne-May in my home right now actively trying to gas me with my own Palo-Santo because my phone screen “can let in spirits.” Best put it down…