Gareth Fordred is a founding member of the faction theatre co. In the 2012 Rep Season he is playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Leicester in Mary Stuart and a reveller in Miss Julie.
Uncovering The Faction #1: Stupidity
‘I nearly burnt down a farmhouse’
So it’s rehearsal time again. That familiar feeling of thrill and dread, which never seems to change. Even though I’m stepping back into ‘the room’ with people I’ve worked with on numerous projects, the butterflies in the stomach are still there. They’ll all most likely laugh at me: pull me to the ground, tar and feather me before setting me alight with pitchforks and torches in a frenzy incensed by my lack of skills, talent, charisma and personal hygiene…
I do really feel a bit like a truant, though. Like I’m sidling in the door, trying to hide my pack of fags and hastily chewing some gum. You see, I’ve been on a sabbatical of sorts, touring theatre round the world: 14 months in 14 countries. It feels like a lifetime, and five minutes all at once.
Back to – the faction theatre co. We’ve come a long way. My first fringe job out of drama school pretty much, an insane production of Richard III with 26 actors spilling off the stage in a studio space. And now, three years later we’re an associate ensemble at The New Diorama Theatre and just been awarded this Peter Brook Empty Space Ensemble thing (if any of the judging panel are reading this, the fact that I just referred to the award as a ‘thing’ is in no way derogatory). This is why I feel like a truant. These amazing things happen, and I wasn’t even there. I was in Germany, or China, or Costa Rica, or…somewhere.
I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle while I was on tour. I don’t smoke now, and I jog. It’s quite nice being able to run up some stairs without having an asthma attack. The jogging, incidentally, is still a bit weird for me. I used to openly mock (actually not openly, more like at a safe distance, behind their backs or later in the pub) joggers and runners. Sweating, pathetic creatures. Not for me. So now I eat my words, and sweat and puff out steam every morning. And it’s great. I’ve been jogging every day with my Dad since I’ve got back. And it’s sort of glorious… and grating, as you’d imagine.
A brief rundown of some audiences around the world:
Germans – clap a lot (5 curtain calls is not uncommon).
Japanese – totally silent during show, even comedies (to show respect).
Dutch – pretty rowdy (only have experience of schoolchildren here, to be fair).
Chinese – answer the phone, chew gum, smoke and chat (and that’s the back stage technicians – this is not a joke).
I learnt an interesting fact recently: over half of the professionally-run theatres in the world are in the German-speaking countries;
i.e. Switzerland, Austria and Germany. That’s mad. Over half. Puts the London scene in perspective.
So back to the butterflies: I can never sleep the night before the first day of rehearsals. I don’t know why, it’s just a thing with me. That whole beginning of term/first day of school jitteriness creeps up, the roles and lines roll around inside my head. I could seek counselling. I normally like to be off book before the start of rehearsals. It’s a little example of my petty competitiveness perhaps. It makes me feel like I’ve got a head start probably – if that’s even possible.
I’ve never rehearsed three plays at the same time. You hear stories of the old weekly rep system, where you’re constantly on the go rehearsing and performing, rehearsing and performing… But it was dismantled long before we got on the scene. And now we’re left with the remains, such as they are. So good luck to the faction’s Rep Season, we say.
I nearly burnt down a farmhouse while I was on tour. It was one of those totally idiotic, blind stupid pieces of dumbness that I’ve come to expect from myself over the years. We were staying with the family of our tour manager. Very Germanic and welcoming: lots of knitwear and tractor surfing in the snow. Anyway, one night we ended up very drunk and got in their family sauna, the evening climaxing with naked snow angels in sub-zero temperatures. I decided to hang my towel to dry on a stove upstairs and then carried on with the whisky. Or the wine. I forget which – but I’m digressing…Some time later I went upstairs and found the top level of the house completely thick with smoke. At this point, and this is an example of how thunderingly dense I can be: I hadn’t made the connection between my drying towel and the billowing smoke all around me. My tour manager came swooping to the rescue as they inevitably do with feckless actors. After a brief round of ‘Are you insane?’ we all got back to drinking. It’s this kind of total stupidity I’m capable of that I don’t want the others to find out about.
I probably shouldn’t have written this in a column then.
The Faction’s Rep Season opens @ The New Diorama Theatre, NW1 3BF
Jan 6th – Feb 18th a cast of 11 perform Twelfth Night, Mary Stuart and Miss Julie
Visit www.thefaction.org.uk for times and tickets