Hi all, Jo here, founder of UTA. I’m writing this blog post to say WOW, my feeling after completing the first term of the Actor’s Playdate is incredible. To those who came, bringing your excitement and energy, your personalities and your laughter, to those who supported it, THANK YOU. I am brimming with inspiration having met and worked with each of you. I cannot express the value that these sessions have bought to our practice as a company, and I hope that participating has been as fruitful for those attending as it has been for me to lead them. On a practical level, drop-in sessions have proved fantastically useful to those who are not able to commit to coming every week. They have also allowed flexibility for some to dip their toes in and try it. Since this was our first term, our sessions have been adapted each week after personal evaluation and from feedback we helpfully received. We have also taken your comments on board and moved the session from a slightly inaccessible Wednesday afternoon to a much more comfy Saturday at 4pm. We have even extended the sessions from 1 to 2 hours, as we’ve found that the sessions are over far too quickly! The rate has remained the same, only now the time has doubled. The £5 an hour/£4 concession price has become £10 for 2 hours/£8 concession, and we aim to keep it low. Attending, you’ll get much more value for money because we’ll be able to run better quality games that may require more set-up, and activities that you’re able to really get your teeth into. As the facilitator, these sessions have a very clear goal to me. I want these sessions to be a place for actors to come back to, in order to feel grounded and ‘reset’ from the …

We stare at our creation Our makeshift speaker A shoe. We’ve forgotten the speaker for this session. The music ‘soulfully’ reverberates from it’s top …. excuse the pun.   This week We welcome Sam and Lily Our two new actresses to join the throng   They assemble as a trio with Alice   Kara again leads the gathering She has fed snippets of her vision for our next performance to our players She oversees their interpretations   Sam, Lily & Alice Entangled A movement for each number A countdown Always connected by a part of the body A hand A foot OK, I’m going to throw a spanner in the works If we rotate Some of the countdown freeze frames involve the players symbolising a phone With their hands   Georgie and Alex Repeating their movements from last week Deliberate digging Deliberate gathering Only faster this time They have mastered their piece Choreographed to near perfection   I watch Alex His facial expressions remind me of John who used to work for the company I voice this to Jo ‘He reminds you of Jam’?…   Georgia and Sam I want you to rotate of your back It’s like you’re working in the tiniest little closet…. Why is this shoe here?!   Our shoe speaker has snuck it’s way into the middle of rehearsals (‘Thanks to Lucy) The hall of the mountain king by Grieg echoes out of Jo’s Doc Martins.

We arrive with 5 minutes to spare before rehearsal starts. Just in time It’s been a while   We’re in a brand new venue The natural light dims as an automated cover slowly creeps over the ceiling.   We start with facial exercises Yawning Massaging Breathing ‘To wake the pallette up’, Lucy says. ‘Reach down to the stomach.’ ‘Wah, WAH!’ ‘You can feel the strain in your diaphragm’. ‘My french teacher called it vomiting’ They sing mi-mo-sa Getting higher and higher Until they can climb no more.   Kara’s turn now ‘Feet up’! Jogging. ‘Knees up’! Jogging. ‘Legs up’! Jogging. ‘Aaand stretch it out.’ Jo squeaks. She’s assembling a frame in the corner of the room. The squeaks accompany the stretches. ‘Once you’ve finished stretches, can you make your way to the mat’. Plank Backwards Plank Fowards Pl- ‘Guys do you want come and join us’? I look up and take a glance at Lucy. We join the throng.   ————————————————————————————————————– Several minutes later I am again reminded that I really should join a gym.   Warm up over The fun begins.   The players separate. Alice B, Alice C, And Alex and Georgie. Sections from a future project are rehearsed. I haven’t seen this before Alex sweeping. Alice drawing. Georgie collecting. Alice exploring. All very purposeful. Individually tasked. Each tailored Each chosen.   As I read through the storyline for our next piece I start to see purpose in the different movements of each player. It’s exciting Philosophical And hides a deeper meaning.   The projector Now constructed by Jo’s squeaky handiwork Is now standing patiently at the far corner of the room. It has a big part to play for this next project. But it’s purpose Will have to be revealed in time.

It’s a puffer fish?! Of course to me, I can clearly see that the green ball that’s currently rolling around the floor of the studio is in fact not a puffer fish. But to Kara and Cat, it is anything they want it to be. 4 of our actors are participating in a leading imagination activity. One eyes closed, is being led on a journey by the other.   As I look over again, I can see the Slavka is leading Georgie. Tip toeing across the room. Pausing to kick a ‘stone’, which in reality is one of the yoga blocks from the cupboard. ‘Oh be careful of the stone’! Her story, it seems at the moment, is outer space themed. She leads her to the corner of the room. Into the rocket. Onto a stool. ‘We’re taking off in 10, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1….’ She shakes the rickety stool sending Georgie into orbit. ‘Blast off’!! ‘Someone took my shoes!’ I glance over to Cat and Kara. Cat is crawling through a ‘darkened tunnel’, (underneath the chairs placed around the room). ‘You do know you haven’t got anything on your feet right?’ ‘Yeah’. Jo swaps in to take Kara’s place. But Cat is now leading. Slavka and Georgie have now swapped too. ‘Oh be careful of the tree!’ Slavka waves her hands around in confusion. Brushing the ‘branches’ (scarf) off the ‘tree’ (coat stand) away from her face.   Cat now seeing the stand, utilizes it also. Guiding Jo underneath it’s branches. ‘Look up’. Says Cat. We can see the ceiling’. Jo looks up, eyes still closed obviously, but in her minds eye, she could be seeing a totally different ceiling. One with a chandelier maybe. Or a glass ceiling where you can look up into a starry sky. Cat guides her to …

‘In your own time.. Kara, our workshop leader slowly paces the floor. ‘if you can find a place to stop for me’.    The actors bring their warm ups to a graceful close. Intently listening for the next activity. ‘Now we’ve got close to one individual, we’re going to get close to all of us. Like a school of fish.’ Our players start to huddle together. ‘Explore different heights different levels, different speeds. Have fun’ She smiles. They begin. A collective. Always someone leading. It’s hypnotic. They are so in tune with each other. Georgie leads. Then Slavka. Then Eduardo. Then Cat. Smiles break out as some of the leads’ movements become more erratic. No one in this group is shy. Each has a movement to share. The wish for it to be mirrored. Even I smile as the movements become faster and more elaborate. As I see some mirroring dance movements. I suddenly think how funny it would be if the lead suddenly decides to try the macarena… Hah! Slavka shouts. HAH!!!! About half a dozen people echo her immediately. Thud! She pounds her feet against the floor. THUD!!! They follow. Haka style. Another movement. Like a dinosaur. Arms out. Flying. Like a collective of geese. A herd. ‘Lovely, well…I think we’re all warm’. Laughter.  

Eduardo’s turn today.   Purple yoga mats are introduced to the team, pulled out of the cupboard at the corner of the room. The deep puce colour contrasts dramatically as they are placed on the black darken floor.   As Nina Simone’s ‘my baby don’t care for me’ croons through the speaker at the end of the room, I can’t help but notice that nearly everyone, despite their current engagements, is tapping or shaking along to the tune. Including myself it seems as I look down to see my foot tapping rhythmically.   Back to the actors. I see different interpretations of this piece of music. Different stories. Each is in their own bubble.   They each start using props to add to their pieces. A coat stand. A tissue. A yoga mat. As they start to get closer to each others spaces, they start to invade albeit incorporate themselves into each other’s stories.   ‘The connection should be physical- a connection between the two people- explore more’.   The spontaneity of these pieces make watching even more interesting.   Two perform a zombie like dance, making the other impassable. One takes sudden interest in the yoga mats. Sliding them one into another across the floor. Slow. Deliberate.   ‘Be careful with your movement-don’t be sloppy- pay attention to detail’.   Two on the floor now. Dragging. Paralysed.   They become involved with each other when they want to. Alone Then together. Her story becomes theirs. Two lives conjoined. Three lives conjoined.   The three sit in the middle of the floor. Together. They cocoon. They separate. Passing ships.   Still. Pause. Reflection.   ‘What is the most difficult thing to do when we’re acting’? Eduardo paces. He looks round expectantly.   ‘Relaxing’. ‘Corpsing’. ‘Revealing’. He stops ‘Say that again’. …

As light shines through the three tall windows in the centre of the room, our three actresses attending today’s session walk methodically around the room. Our workshop leader for the day (Eduardo) gets our actors to experiment with the way they walk. The pace, the speed, the movement of their feet. Every movement is carefully considered. Although the players are out of sync with their own purposeful movements, there is a certain rhythm to the current proceedings. Almost tantamount to watching children taking their first steps as the players experiment moving different limbs different ways. Light casts shadows onto the blackened floor, reflecting their slow erratic movements. It’s eerily beautiful. A piece of music plays. Classical.  ‘I want you to move to the music I play- I don’t want you to dance, I want to see you consciously reacting to the music’. Watching different interpretations of Eduardo’s instruction’s from each player is intriguing. Each reaction is totally unique. There is no wrong or right answer. Music change. French- almost circus like. I notice each artist has their eyes closed as they perform their piece. Each trying to make the piece their own. Their associations become their movements. One pained expression, one acrobatic roll, one shy, retreating. Yet it is still a spontaneous interpretation. Music change. 90’s instrumental pop. I sum up each of the three in one word. Upbeat. Fast. Purposeful. Music change. Classical again. Relaxed. Gentle. Delicate. Music change. Noise. Jagged. Uncertain. Danger. Music change. Accordion folk jokey. Bouncy. Marching. Swaying. Music change. Upbeat Jazz pop. Erratic. Circling. Confidence. Music change. Nostalgic pop. Calm. Puppet . Robot. Silence. Still. Breathing. No one is afraid to breath. We are just enjoying the silence. *NOISE* Eduardo sits on the upright piano that stands on the corner of the room. Playing with the keys, he goes from dark to light. As one actress retreats to a corner, eyes …