Monkey Motivation: Emilie Largier

Thinking about applying to audition for Fourth Monkey? Check out the latest in our series of Monkey Motivation conversations with a selection of our Two Year Rep and Year of the Monkey alumni for an insight into what to expect from student life at drama school, advice on how to prepare for an audition day, plus much more!

 

Read our recent conversation with Emilie Largier, a French theatre maker and performer and a member of our Class of 2020 ensemble. Awarded an Experimental Fringe bursary for her original piece ‘The Fall’ during her time at the Monkey House, Emilie studied on the Two Year Rep course (now the BA (Hons) Acting degree) following previous training in Art & Design and Costume Making in her native France…

 

Introduce yourself! Tell us your name, what you studied at Fourth Monkey plus a little about your background.

My name is Emilie, but everyone calls me Em. I am from the Pyrenees, in the South of France, and I grew up in a small village called Visker, not far from the mountains – it’s beautiful over there.

Initially, I studied Fine Arts and did a foundation course in Arts & Design in Toulouse then I graduated from a BA Period Costume Making in Paris. I specialised in tailoring and pattern cutting and worked in Paris for a few years, then I moved to Brussels to work for Dragone Costumes. In 2015, I went on holiday to London and I fell in love with it. Ten days later, I moved into my first warehouse in Seven Sisters where I met some incredible people.

I always wanted to be a performer, a theatre maker but I wasn’t ready for it when I was 18. Being backstage was a good middle ground for me to be part of a theatre making process. Then… London. East London to be exact – the people I met here inspired me. There was something artistically electric boiling and I guess my brain “clicked”. I felt empowered to embrace a performer path, as I felt supported. I became obsessed with dancing, started writing again, and explored my own performative language through different mediums. I was a bit shy at first, clumsy even. Then I decided to attend acting workshops. I went to Identity School of Acting, then I did the fantastic Meisner based part-time course No Filter run by The Salon Collective. A student there recommended the Fourth Monkey Taster Workshops to me, so one evening, a friend and I went along and it felt incredible.

 

(Image credit – Alan Howard)

What was it that appealed to you about Fourth Monkey and why did you choose the Monkey House for your actor training? 

Fourth Monkey has a great physical programme – Grotowski, Expressive Movement, Corporeal Mime, to name but a few – as well as being theatre making and ensemble-focused, something that was essential for me. I knew from previous courses I had done before that if I committed to full-time study again, the programme would have to develop my practice as an actor AND a theatre maker. I had wanted to make my own work for a long time, it was an itch I really wanted to scratch. I’d worked in the past with theatre companies creating devising work but I was a costume designer / maker at that time and I didn’t have an experience of it as a performer. There is something so organic about that ensemble approach, so intuitive, I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s beyond words – a collective experience. And I knew Fourth Monkey could give me that training. I didn’t audition for anywhere else. It was either going there, or I would find another way to grow as a theatre maker.

 

(Image credit – Max Curtis, Stage Combat class Jan. 2020)

Can you tell us a bit about your audition day memories with Fourth Monkey?

If I had to choose two words to describe the audition process, it would be: playful and freeing.

It didn’t feel like an audition, even when performing my two monologues, it didn’t feel like it was a “test” or interview. It was just fun, an entire day to explore and connect with the others in the room and play like we were kids again.

 

(Image – Rebel Please? Devising Project, 2019)

What were your highlights of your training with Fourth Monkey? Why?

We trained with amazing practitioners who were theatre makers themselves. They came from a massive variety of different countries, with different training backgrounds and creating really different work, which led to a real richness when we were training.

Fourth Monkey’s programme is really intense and, at the end of the day, it might not be for everyone or not all of it might work for you. We are all different people with different needs, after all. However, there is so much to play with, a big palette of techniques and physical languages that you can add in your own personal mix. I loved Mime, Devising, Experimental Fringe, Grotowski and Camden Fringe R&D with Elinor Randle (Tmesis Theatre).

Movement is my comfort zone; it was challenging but it felt like home. It’s actually hard to pick what I preferred in terms of classes because all of them gave me so much, especially the ones I struggled in, like Clown. I cried so much at first, I think it’s one the most exposing thing I’ve ever done. I couldn’t understand it first. It was really hard but then towards the end, something happened (with the great teaching and patience of our Clown teacher) and I realised how much fun and freeing it was to be an absolute idiot – I really learnt from my difficulties. 

 

(Image – stage combat, Jan. 2020)

How did your interests or things you always thought to be your “strengths” or “weaknesses” evolve during your time at the Monkey House?

Well, at some point I really struggled through the training and all those notions of what are my weaknesses and strengths got completely mixed up. You are feeling really exposed and vulnerable at times, you might have learnt for years how to protect yourself by being tough but acting is about being vulnerable and cracking yourself wide open. Unconsciously, I fought against that. Uncertainty and going towards unknown territories can be frightening, our human brain is a really well-rounded machine protecting us against uncomfortable feelings, including stressful situations. I think it’s important to remember it’s a journey, a bumpy ride I should say. But what a ride! I grew so much from day one to now, as an actor and as a person. It’s exciting to think about the next adventures to come!

 

Due to restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, your year group created a piece of audio-visual work, A Matter of Life & Death, filmed entirely in isolation or via social distancing. What did the challenges of creating work in this way teach you, and what will you take away from this experience?

First, resilience. It was far from a perfect situation but our ability to keep on creating and connecting together is something to celebrate. I also watched myself way more than I used to and I started having a better understanding of my voice, how my body reacts… Basically, trying to work out how I can look and act when I am connected to my character’s circumstances and when I am not. I also found my own ways of working on a script and a character – ASJ (our Director on A Matter of Life & Death) has an amazing approach to deepen your exploration and it was a big learning curve.

 

(Image: A Matter of Life & Death)

Fourth Monkey is all about ensemble and taking a collaborative approach to acting and theatre. Is there anyone you’d particularly like to work with or collaborate with in the future? 

Libby Symons, another Monkey from the Class of 2020, and myself are currently setting up our theatre company, RUCKLE Theatre. We met at Fourth Monkey. The year is divided in four sub-groups and I don’t think we were in lot of classes at the same time but we spent a lot of time by our lockers reinventing the world. We also performed together at The Vaults Festival with Dank Parish. We were two morticians and we had a wonderful time together! I asked Libby if she would be interested in founding the company with me… and she said yes! She is RUCKLE’s Producer and I am Artistic Director. It’s a really exciting new step in our journey and I am so grateful we are doing it together.

As part of Fourth Monkey’s Experimental Fringe, I directed a 20-minute piece called “The Fall”, exploring toxicity in work culture and its impact on well-being, for which I won a Fourth Monkey Bursary alongside another project “Wish Cadets” directed by Naomi McQuin. RUCKLE is a physical theatre company crossing disciplines, it reflects our passion for collaborative theatre, politics and human nature. We want to create political theatre in which audiences aren’t passive but participants. We want to shake up the status quo. Another Monkey is joining this first project, developing “The Fall” – Matisse Pagès, and I am really excited to collaborate with them again as they are a fantastic performer. It will be our first RUCKLE full length theatre production. I met some wonderful artists at Fourth Monkey who became really good friends, we might not all collaborate together as our work can vary, but we are supporting each other. It is important, times are tough but we will go through it together. I found a little family there.

I am also represented by Twenty-Nine Five Group. They’ve been great and so supportive through the lockdowns. I had my first job booked recently with Kharmel Cochrane Casting; it was such a joy to be on set! I am really excited to be part of their agency.

 

(Image – The Fall, Experimental Fringe, Dec. 2019)

When you joined Fourth Monkey, what direction did you imagine your creative career would take when you finished your training? Has this changed at all now that you have graduated?

I definitely changed, and for the best. That training put me upside down, shook me hard and now, back on my feet, I feel really connected with myself. Naively, and quite stupidly to be honest, I didn’t imagine that personal inner journey would happen. I am a much happier person now, which has massively impacted my creative approach. I also think that happened because of the pandemic. I had time to process a lot of things and to rest. My priorities are different. I have more tools to work in a rehearsal room either as an actor or a director. I am calmer, more grounded.

 

(Image – RUCKLE Theatre Company)

What is the one piece of advice you would share with anyone applying to and auditioning for Fourth Monkey? 

Have fun, don’t take it too seriously, even if it means the world for you. Breath, breath, breath, eyes up and smile. Listen. When I say listen, I mean with your ears, your eyes, your limbs, take it all in and play like you used to do as a child.

(Image credit: Max Curtis, Richard II, Oct. 2020)

Equally, what is the one piece of advice you would share with anyone approaching the end of their training and graduating from Fourth Monkey in the summer?

Take some time for yourself. It’s really important not undermining the amount of self-care you need whilst training. It’s intense. Relationships within the school can become intense, sometimes work is in the way or a family obligation, or a partner…

It can become overwhelming, especially when you are stressed about connecting with the wider industry and finding an agent. Switch off. Do something that might not seem productive at all. That’s OK. Not that I want to mother anyone but eat well, sleep well and drink enough water is definitely important. Know what you need to do to be physically and mentally healthy. Nurture your personal practice, what makes you feel good, voice, yoga, singing, dancing, whatever it is. Get that practice grounded in your daily or weekly routine, once you’re out of training it will be easier to keep being committed to it. Keep enjoying and celebrating your victories, even when they seem really small.

Check out RUCKLE Theatre Company on Instagram and Twitter: @ruckletheatre and @RuckleTheatre

 

(Image credit – Max Curtis, Stage Combat Jan. 2020)