We like structure in Pensive. We’re not afraid of rules. What can we say, we like Trello. It’s comforting. And we do rather repeat ourselves. Here are a few of our favourite phrases.
1.”One final question. What does ‘significant other’ mean to you?”
We like to meet everyone we work with and we ask them this . We’ve had in response – ‘my cat’, ‘my wife or my cat’, ‘ a sort of shadow of my life’, ‘the person you put as ICE on your phone’ to ‘dunno, the person you’re pokin’?’. I was asked four years ago and I wasn’t sure what to say.
And then we ask everyone to think about our reason for existing…
2 …’the magic in the mundane’…
3… ‘the extraordinary in the everyday’
The Pensive Federation was formed by actors Neil Byden and Laura Kim five years ago after they realised they shared a joint desire to make plays just about people, people talking to each other. New writing crisply done, simply and elegantly presented. I came along as a trembly new writer for the first Significant Other a year later and stayed as artistic director. Then came Davie Byden-Oakes as Company Production Manager and the most efficient man in theatre.
Why structure? Because by having a clear framework we allow our teams the most amazing freedom of creativity about the small moments in life. We see tiny changes having a big impact in relationships which then explode into life on stage. And then we are able to produce theatre that we think is unique in its consistency but also its heart. We see everyone we work we as part of our Pensive family. No, we’re not a cult although I said that so much in the last auditions I started to believe we are. We’re not a cult. No.
We also love making new connections. Fringe theatre is bursting with creative energy and we like to see what happens when it meets. We’ve been described as a sort of Venn diagram in the London Fringe, bringing together people who then go on to form their own theatre companies. Our plays have featured at other writing nights, tours and one of our writers was a runner up in last years’ Bruntwood prize. Significant Other is a way of meeting an entirely new company. Terrifying but incredibly potent.
4. ‘You can be in Significant Other more than once, but only in a different role’.
Ten plays in ten days. It’s insane but utterly brilliant. We form ten companies of two actors, a writer and director and give them a title, 10 props (of the same theme every year) to chose from and ten days to complete full plays. We love the writers’ terrified little faces as they open their play title golden envelopes. We have had writers back to direct, directors to act and producers to direct. We’ve not had a writer back to act but no surprise there. Each year we have an associate producer. This year we have an amazing three. And each year we give the teams an extra stimulus. This year it’s a biggie.
5. ‘Trust the process’.
At the beginning, that was what the producers would whisper to themselves to help them sleep. A company of 40, booked rehearsal rooms, actors getting paid jobs at the last minute…are we unhinged? But it works and now we soothe scared writers and nervous directors with it. After the Inspiration Session when we meet for the first time together and debate again if you can zap a boing (nope, I’m a writer, I’m never going to understand that) the writers are full of ideas about how to write for their actors. But getting from there to the stage seems impossible. But with months of planning, meticulous choosing of the people we think will ‘get Pensive’ , picking the best little teams to gel but spark and croissants (we like to make sure everyone is fed hence)…
6. ‘The Pensive (tummy) Bulge’ .
But we know that it will work. Trust the process.
7. ‘The Euro sausage factory standard of writing’ (thanks Will Howells, writer, for that one)
We warn the writers there will be notes on their scripts. There’s something about writers that if you get 10 of them them in a room together although no one has mentioned it, every play will have a wise tramp in it. Our new writing nights are unique in having a whole show theme and we strive for s consistently high standard but only one wise tramp per year, please. We thank you writers for tolerating our just-one-more-thing emails and….
8. ‘No Nazis. No dead babies’.
We’re not about issues. We’re about tissues. Sorry, it’s late.
9. ‘Significant Other is the gateway drug to our other plays’ .
Our Autumn show, The Collective Project is based on groups and has the same 6 actors in four plays. There’s also Rewritten where we explore using samples of dialogue in one play written by three writers. Trust the process.
10. ‘Welcome to the west end’ . Thank you Camden People’s Theatre, the etcetera, The Park and Tristan Bates for being amazing venues. And who knows where next.
11. ‘So, what does Significant Other mean to you?’.
I’m still not sure but I do know that it’s about this time of year, mid process, when some powerful force means that creative powerhouse and amazing man, Neil and my consciousness fuse into some mutant force that sends out simultaneous identical emails, makes the same jokes and produces a show that just gets better and better every year. Whatever life throws at me, that’s up there with the brilliant and that’s significant to me. I learn so much from our incredible actors, directors and writers. Its a total privilege to spend time with you.
Do do come and see what our fifth anniversary surprise is. It’s a cracker. It’s not literally a cracker although that is the sort of prop we go for.
We hope you enjoy what we do. We’re planning on being around for a long while yet enjoying our everyday. We think it’s magic.
Serena Haywood, Artistic Director (the quiet one)