Fighting out of the Fringes: Creating an ensemble, together.

Phil King
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  • Arts
  • Last updated: Monday, 22 November 2010 at 9:57 am

On Sundays, even on the dark and damp Sundays of this time of year, at the Actors Centre in Covent Garden we try and work out what it means to be a theatre ensemble.  This aim can often be frustrated by a lack of cash.  Not letting this simple matter defeat us we give up our time, we ask actors to give up their time and we rely on the kindness of the Actors Centre for space and support, all without pay.  This is often the first step to getting done what you want to get done in theatre and we’ve been fortunate with the backing and fortunate with the people we’ve got involved.  Despite the lack of financial incentive.  Even after the logistics are completed though, the much more difficult task of making it all work remains.  Which can very much feel like, as the picture of this week’s work shows, wandering around blindfold trusting that we’ll end up in the right place rather than the wrong one.

Ensemble Lab 300x224 Fighting out of the Fringes: Creating an ensemble, together.

The Ensemble Lab, Covent Garden


There is not enough paper in the world to document how many times I’ve been wrong in a rehearsal room (let alone scarily expanding the list to include everyday life) and I tell myself that’s the point.  That’s the aim.  To have the freedom to get it wrong so that things can go genuinely right.  I could easily be lying to myself though and sometimes it feels like that – even as the rehearsal is happening.  At times this can be harrowing – “I’m not giving the actors enough space, I’m giving them too much space, I’m forcing my will upon people, my instructions are too vague”.  But, as with pretty much everything in life, it’s not about me as an individual.  Theatre can be very good at removing your ego like that.  Strange though that sentence may sound it’s true – it’s only the big bucks work that encourages egos, the rest of us just pitch in together.  In creating an effective ensemble we must have a clear understanding of how we move forwards together.  When this happens it all of a sudden feels so very easy and so very right.


I’m fortunate that our Ensemble Lab is really the brainchild of Simon Pittman, my co-director, and therefore I have a safety net and the ability to play.  The truth though is that even without Simon I’m not doing this alone.  There are other people in the room keen to do as well as they can, keen to take on the responsibility of making the thing a success.  I can really only take responsibility when things are going badly and that’s the way it should be.  Potentially this leads me ever closer to my disorientating collapse of worry and self-doubt.  Hopefully though, even if it feels like it’s me who’s blindfold, I can trust that we’ll work out what it means to be an ensemble together and that makes it all worthwhile.  Certainly worth trudging out on an overcast Sunday for anyway.

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