Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Issue: How do we develop a culture of continued actor training

Convener(s): Ben Cutler and Ewan Downie

Participants: Ewan Downie, Ben Cutler, Jennifer Tan, Rachel Briscoe, Jaquiline Coombs, Louise Newberry, Jennifer Tan, Dan Copeland, Claire Thill, Lawrence O’Connor, Marie, FionaDrumond, Sarah Corbett, Sian Rees, Simon from Rough Fiction.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Ewan and Ben opened discussions with the question of how to create and maintain ongoing actor training with a long term focused group of actors working and creating material in the UK. The question was different to that of workshop based skills sharing where performers pick up new skills in workshop environment and then leave the group. Interestingly there was a clear line between many actors thoughts on what was most appropriate (skills vs long term).

Discussion began with a thought around is this model only for actors. Is it not correct to ask directors, stage managers, designers et al to continue their own practice in an ensemble environment. Ewan felt that in every company a third eye watching proceedings helped to give focus to material and help actors by being watched.

Issues relating to financial survival quickly arrived- how do actors maintain a group working in ensemble constantly without being paid. In other European traditions there are groups of performers paid and supported by the companies they work in- this is not a model much supported outside the likes of the RSC, Knee High, Dundee Rep and others to name a few. Many felt that this is a phenomenon that is not common to the UK. Work is created once it has been commissioned or paid for and not ‘house’ in residency by a company who have a a portfolio of shows to roll out when venues are booked.

Some participants felt that the notion of continued training was patronizing. Surely we should give actors, directors, writers, designers their due praise if they work and have experience. What is the point of continuing training when they already create work.

Paying for training:

Many participants felt that paying for training left many theatre makers out in the cold- no time to take off paid work to attend and no money to attend without paid work. Sessions are often expensive and the trainers can have mixed portfolios that can be less than ideal.

Participants felt that it was unnecessary to continue forking out cash for training and that we all need to get better at using our own networks to create ensemble training. At this point the group shared emails and gave the task of approaching the Roundhouse space to Lawrence who bounced off to explore. All emails for this group will be shared at the bottom of the report.

We then talked about which companies are offering spaces to create and ways in which people are trying to meet this demand. Simon from Rough Cut theatre explained a model he had used through trial and experience whereby auditons were held, actors then brought into a ‘core group’ or a larger ensemble which constantly rotates on a sign up basis. People were very interested in the groups aims and how it kept its members. Simon explained that those core members who received work or had to leave for a while then offered their space up to those on a reserve list. This long-term focus concentrated on actors as crafts people, which Lawrence initially brought up. As theatre makers we should get used to the idea of long term practice and also continued self development between our ‘work’ – not developing when there is a need only.

We discussed the idea of the Good , Cheap, Fast triangle- whereby the inclusion of two aspects can never be a third…visual below to explain.


Cheap Good

Example: If a show is Cheap and fast it cannot be good.
If a show is Good and Cheap it cannot be fast
If a show is Fast and Good it cannot be cheap.

Something for all of us to bear in mind?

At this point the group talked about creating work that was held in the bank ready to go out to festivals. In many places around the world there are festivals who will book a pieve of work and support the actors financially and accommodation wise should they bring a show. Many people did not know these festivals. Some mentioned below are:

Ghent Street Arts festival.
Bharangam Mahotsav festival India
Norways Street Arts Festivals.

Companies who offer work in ensembles in the UK:
The RSC, Mercury, The Dundee Rep, Knee High. You may know others, please do add to the list.

How to run an ensemble group?

Discussion turned to the practicalities of the running the group, most notably Administration, Equal Commitment from Directors and Actors.
Again Simon from Rough Cut explained that if it is long term and continued the core members have a stake in the company, it gives them an outlet for their work and they start to commit time. Those that drop off are allowed to do so and are replaced by other core members.

Companies to contact should you be interest in continuing this:

Rough Fiction- (5 hours a week)
Mathew Lloyd from the Actors Centre
The Roundhouse- (Space for performers to train).
Chisenhale Dance studio - £ 8 per hour which is cheap cheap!

As a result of what turned into a lively and interested conversation participants who are interested in using our resources and contacting venues should please all get in email contact and begin discussions.

I will be setting up a gmail account if possible called and will post all emails in a group to start moving things forward.


Contact each other- get it sorted!

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