So rare is it to partake in a project which is in itself excellent but also filled with totally excellent people that I can barely believe I had the privilege of working with The Pensive Federation not once, but twice now. This being my second time working with the company, I thought I knew what to expect – what an idiot; The Collective Project was COMPLETELY unpredictable.
Every day was different from the one before (in that respect, probably lucky there were only 12). The Collective Project provided a creative environment in which the only rule was that we all muck in all of the time. Ideologies such as ‘actors act, writers write and directors direct’ were flagrantly disregarded every single rehearsal. Exhilarating!
WE is the word. We shared stories, we improvised, we made script suggestions. In the first rehearsal, I was directing Swarm. All myself and the writer Polly really knew was that it’s about teenagers and it’s set at a bus stop. After a bit of, what quickly felt like forced improv, I just started asking questions: have you ever been dumped? who was your first crush? what was the most embarrassing thing that happened to you as a teenager? when did you first feel guilt? Instead of stopping to feel vulnerable we just kept paving common ground – all our combined stories cut the path towards Swarm. Quickly it was obvious that between us, we’d had enough drama, hilarity and teenage awkwardness to write an epic. The end script had a little bit of all of us in it. We thought our stories were mundane, but actually they were magic.
In the second week, just when we got kinda comfy, we had a switcheroo. All directors were given new scripts – into my grubby little hands arrived Serena’s Galaxy. I felt like a mistress trying to worm my way into the play Cat had started to direct. To be honest, it was a really quite strange experience – knowing that someone in such close proximity had already had their way with my lovely little script. And what a lovely little script it was, full of characters in the middle of a moral crux and that agonising idea – what if you don’t want to be part of the group? Better still, what if you can’t?
Being part of a group is difficult, you have to be yourself but you have to be everyone else as well. If I’m going to be a good director, then I have to put myself in the position of both the actors and the writer. I have to ask myself what do they need and how do I help them achieve it. With The Collective Project, we were able to see a play we’d originally worked on transformed by a different director – examining each other’s process and offering support was really refreshing and a great way to learn from each other.
The whole process, was simultaneously totally unglamorous and yet completely magical: sweating faces stressing over unlearnt lines, and yet theatre appearing as if from nowhere. Obviously caffeine helped – but nothing would have been achieved without trust, hard work and talent. My only regret is walking directly into that pillar during a blackout.
The Pensive Federation isn’t just a company, but a pride of capable, versatile and totally bloody gorgeous writers, actors, directors, producers and stage managers.
As we all go off to do separate things for a while, at least we all know: we’ll always have Bridlington.