How can I have an ensemble and make it work over a long period? 

Convener(s): Dan Barnard

Participants: Tom Hughes, Jo Mackie, Ewan Downie, Sam Dalley Tushar Pandey, Rachel Briscoe, Sam Worboys, John Walton, Jo Crowley, Ben Webb, Lennart Pasch, Mark Morreau

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Does an ensemble have to be something which happens accidentally.

John said that with Theatre du Soleil there is the image of egalitarianism but its actually very structured and dictatorial.

Is it something official or is it a loose group of people who sometimes collaborate?

People have to have ownership over the company, through agreement and consensus. This consensus may not be easy but can be reached – example of a group of aerialists called les arts haut who had a series of meetings to make sure they were all on the same page. They all invested 5 thousand euros in the company and created a constitution. They said they would review the status of the company in five years. They agreed not to do anything until they had consensus.

John had had experience of decision making being a nightmare and compromises were made

Is it a “genuine” ensemble or is it an army led by a director?

Phelim talks about running a company through open space.

Suggestion that the pillars are consensus, shared artistic vision and ownership.

There was another company where the longer you worked for the company the more shares in the company you got.

Question of whether it limits the choice of plays you can do because you have to give all the actors jobs.

The ensemble can reach a consensus to bring in outsiders like a director or a master carpenter etc. You don’t need to have a ll the skills within the company.

To have longevity you can’t be rigid.

Someone who had had the experience of coming in as a director to an ensemble said that had been politically difficult and time and energy had been wasted in politics.

The ensemble has to have the maturity to treat outsiders with respect.

There is the possibility of a loose ensemble.

Benefits of learning a shared language.

Sam said that you make work quicker when you have an ensemble with a shared language.

Gomito do open workshop for writers, directors, actors, designers – a good way to see who clicks and you see who comes back next time. Gomito could use these to workshop ideas they are interested in or people could bring in ideas and the group will workshop it – last time a writer came in with an idea and it was workshopped.

Gomito has about 10 core members – its an “evolving pool”

Jo said that Ridiculsmus have an evolving pool and know what they want to do and get people in to develop the idea. People know that their not going to be in the show but come in to develop it and that’s a creative process. A “creative pool”

Its finding the right people. 1927 never intended to make a long term ensemble, they just kept working together. Sometimes naming it as an ensemble can be dangerous, just let it evolve.

Some people are great devisers but not so great at performing in the show and vice versa. Possibility of having more devisers in the room than end up in the show.

Good ensembles evolve naturally but there is always a driving vision.

In the Lecoq autocours model there is always a leader and followers but who is what evolves and alternates during the making of the work.

In devising there always needs to be someone on the outside even when this changes.

Ridiculusmus work for intensive periods with long breaks – this helps the relationship remain intense without breaking down/becoming destructive.

By default you end up knowing people really well.

Make your own model of making work and work out how that will work over a long period.

The ensemble is always evolving and in a way the longer that takes the better.

There can be benefits like you lose someone from a show but you know you have someone else who can easily slot in and take over.

The unicorn and mercury Colchester have loose ensembles.

Its hard to define but it’s a like-mindedness.

It can lead to questions of ownership.

Sometimes a work by an ensemble ends up having a traditional director, designer, writer etc. Sometimes you have to say it was created by the ensemble – reflect the reality.

Take your time, keep at it and keep it flexible.