Story-telling is an integral part of the workshops

The Acting on Impulse year starts in October, with a term of free acting workshops, held on alternate Sunday afternoons. These are open to anyone with experience of homelessness. Lauren and Kath Power have directed the workshops from the beginning, augmented in the past year by Mark and Toni Wade. They are all trained actors. We were sad to say goodbye to Kath last November, she’s been a wonderful friend and inspiration to Acting on Impulse. From time to time we’ve had guest directors and are always writing to noted directors and actors inviting them along (not much success yet!).

We have a core group of actors (you can see them on our ‘Actors’ page) who are regulars at workshops and projects. But we want to encourage as many new people as possible to join us. In September we send posters round to the agencies that work with homeless people: Cornerstone Day Centre, Mustard Tree, The Beacon, the Booth Centre and the Salvation Army hostels. Then we spend an evening or two at the City Centre Ministries’ van, inviting people. Most of our actors are Steve Brown’s contacts from the van, maybe because they know that he comes along himself. Antonella saw our poster in Altrincham Library, and to this day we have no idea how it got there and are very grateful that it did!

The workshops are held at a venue familiar to our actors. Our third series started in October 2009 at Cornerstone Day Centre in Hulme, Manchester. Big thanks to them for being so accommodating.

Coming to an acting workshop is a bit daunting for a newcomer, so we start with food and drinks and a half hour of socialising. Then there are warm-ups and games, to break down barriers and help us all to remember names. These days we find that the actors themselves have the ability to lead the warm-ups.

Story-telling is an integral part of the workshops. The story that each actor knows best, is their own story. Confidence begins to grow as people realise that they are being listened to intently, and these stories become the backbone of our productions. Pair work and team work are built in and character work is developed by hot-seating and improvisation. Our actors work hard, and the energy and concentration displayed in workshops can be high octane.

By the end of the autumn term we start introducing the scenario of the production we are planning. By the Spring Term the workshops morph into Rehearsals. The productions take place around Easter.

Our current project is Shakespeare. The autumn workshops were used to acquaint ourselves with a multitude of Shakespeare characters and to imagine them as people living on the streets. Here are the observations I made of the performance at the end of one workshop, totally devised by our actors:

Company One

Bianca (Lisa), Iago (Daniel), Imogen (Kaite) and Polonius (Steve).

Action: Imogen is a feminist helper at the van. She sees Iago with Bianca and accuses him of harming her. Bianca doesn’t want her help as she’s quite happy with Iago. Polonius teases everyone and is the entertainer at the van. Imogen finally succeeds in breaking the couple up. Iago feels that Polonius is to blame and lures him into an alleyway where he stabs him. Polonius’s final words are ‘I knew I’d die splitting my sides.’

Company Two

Puck (Kenny), Kate (Antonella), Lady Macbeth (Toni), Falstaff (Ian)

Puck plays the 3 card trick with Falstaff and is tricked into losing all his money. Lady Macbeth schemes to get her daughter Kate off the game and married to Falstaff. Puck sprinkles dust on the sleeping Kate’s eyes so that when she wakes up she sees him and falls in love with him. They get married. Lady Macbeth is distraught when she learns that Puck has lost all his money and gets Juliet to scrub her hands in an attempt to wash her ring off.

How good is that? I so enjoyed watching it (you won’t get me acting, I stick to the admin, refreshments and being ‘set Mum’).

We’ve moved to The Mustard Tree for this spring term’s rehearsals. I’ll take you there next time.

Take care

Sue Tomlinson