Back in a very special fellowship

Sixteen of us, standing in a circle. Colin speaks up: “This is like one of those movies where the football team gets together years later for one last match after they almost won the thing,” he says. “We’re all feeling a bit fat and middle aged. But we know we’re gonna have to get fit FAST.”

We need a montage. Tristan’s there. “It’s almost ten years since I did Shakespeare,” he confides. Leila and Steve both got the train from Brighton. Simon is there. Dean and Scott, both of whom I first met over twenty years ago now, fresh faced on the first day of Guildhall. Jono who toured with Twelfth Night, and who has become a dear friend over many Factory years. Caroline who I met filming a biopic about Princess Margaret back in the day. Odyssey faces back in the room. Nell and Jay. Nigel from Sprite days. Fitzrovia Radio Hour representing through Alix. Milly and oh dear I’ve started to try and list them all which is a hiding to nothing as it was all something of a blur for me too, coming into this warm evening room in Marylebone and contemplating making a collective piece of theatre. I’ll stop before I get through everybody but one and then they get sent a link to this. I don’t normally name names – people are very fragile. But many of these people in this room have inadvertently become part of the history of my strange existence. Without this creative fellowship I don’t think I would have the degree of ease in my work that I’ve developed. It didn’t come easy, that ease. Most of us are trauma bonded from the beautiful early days where we had the patronage of the delightful malcontent Tim Carroll, who wouldn’t let us get away with tricks, and ran an incredible fertile but painful rehearsal room with many of these people over the course of years.

It’s a hell of a fellowship, The Factory, and I’m glad we are back in the room, albeit a gentler room. Louie Scheeder (May he rest in peace, good soul) He was a gentle force for many of us when we could afford to fly him over from New York, and Reuben carries some of the same habits – an enabler and a thoughtful head in a mischievous room full of dedicated and extremely hard working carnage-magicians.

We are gonna learn a certain play very quickly. Has it been announced? Am I allowed to say? Maybe not so I won’t. But yeah we are gonna try collectively to go from zero to forty in no time at all. Bing bang bong. It took two years to get Hamlet to performance. This will be quicker. We are too long in the tooth to take forever. A flowing company, multiple actors knowing multiple parts, able to bring it to multiple venues most likely on a Sunday evening. It has been part of the web of my joy, to have these people and many more come together and make ridiculous fun things to the best of our ability. We’ve done it for decades.

Bring in some new members, they say, but with a high focus on good people who in some way help expand our understanding. We are very white and cis and middle aged, I’ll go right ahead and say it. Most of our demographically interesting members are constantly working at way too high a level to come back. The contents of that room – every one of us could have “persistent and resilient in the face of adversity” as a special skill on spotlight. We grow from new voices in this collaborative process, so we need to find people who challenge us. But the process and the work isn’t to everybody’s taste. We’ve always had a high turnover of actors. Learning all those lines with no promise of playing the part. I learnt Claudius for Hamlet. Didn’t play him until years later. Didn’t mind.

It’s about the work. A focus and a fellowship. Until one of these self-tapes lands, I can think of this as my actors gym. That’s what it is really, with the performance as a necessary part of the training. Right now, as Colin said, we are slow and heavy. The big match isn’t far away. Cue the eighties music.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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