Monkey Motivation: Michael EntwistleEach fortnight, we’re offering you some Monkey Motivation, in the form of interviews with our alumni.
Two Year Rep 2016 graduate Michael is directing and producing his own play, Tethered this April. Find out what goes into making your own work.
I was lucky to sign with New Wonder Management, with Lola Williams as my agent. She is absolutely fantastic to work with and has been supporting me in finding work in feature films. She recently got me a feature role in a horror movie which was a fantastic experience, even if playing a possessed corpse during winter meant I had to spent a lot of time huddled by a heater!
This year I also got to see myself on a cinema screen for the cast screening for the concept film Headcleaner, which is currently touring movie festivals. This was my first professional acting on camera experience and I was genuinely surprised at how fun it was. To be fair though, playing a prisoner of war in an abandoned WWII airbase does help!
Straight after Fourth Monkey I took part in the Cervantes Theatre’s debut play Blood Wedding. I have been doing various work where I can find it, such as voiceover work for the podcast UN/RESOLVED, and lots of workshops!
It hasn’t all been acting. During this time I have been supporting myself financially by working at Pret a Manger, while steadily building myself up as a Presentations and Careers Coach. I was finally able to put the day job behind me and now work with universities doing workshops with students on how to present themselves, pitch ideas and any form of public speaking.
Right now, all my time and energy is being put into my play Tethered.
Can you tell us about the project you’re currently working on?
I am currently leading and directing a play called Tethered, which we are initially putting on for a three day run at Blue Elephant Theatre in South London this April. It is a piece exploring virtual reality and how it can help people. At its core, the piece is about identity and the struggle we go through to understand and accept ourselves. There are five actors – two of whom are Monkeys – we have a stage designer coming over especially from Italy and a music and sound designer who will be playing the music live from the stage. This week we also took fellow alumnus, Will Townsend, who I trained with on the Two Year Rep course, who is specialising in Lighting and Movement.
Tethered is very much a devised piece which grows organically in the room, which I love. In this sense I am less of a director and more of a facilitator. One of my favourite moments was the actors creating mini-scenes exploring a virtual space, with James then improvising a soundscape to go with that scene on the spot. It was really awesome.
Why did you decide to produce your own show? What’s it like working with Monkeys in a professional context?
Essentially, I had an idea for a show but wanted to keep the creative vision rather than hand over the direction of the piece to a theatre company. At the same time, I have had this dream of collaborating with like-minded people who get the same burning excitement when creating new material in a room together. My solution was to co-create a theatre company which we have named ‘Contents May Differ’!
Producing your own show involves a lot of work and there is a lot of learning as I go along. But after we presented our sharing of work in January, I have never felt so proud and excited for what is to come. I was very keen to create a working ethos in the room where everyone feels safe to bring up their ideas and to try them out. In the initial week of development leading to our scratch, this led to a real sense of ownership for the whole ensemble, while allowing the piece to grow according to my vision.
It is brilliant working with other Monkeys. Everyone comes with different experiences! On one hand, you have Daniel Christostomou who graduated two years before me, but comes with professional experience from touring and motion capture work. On the other, you have Liz Fitzpatrick who recently graduated, but brings a fountain of ideas and the experience from working with some excellent practitioners. Yet it is so clear that everyone who trained at Fourth Monkey comes with the same core foundation of physical movement, professionalism, and generosity of work.
How do you bring what you learned at Fourth Monkey to your professional work?
Here’s what I would put down as my top three:
- Making each other look good. This was a lesson provided endlessly by Will Pinchin. If everyone is open to the room and responding from each other, then you can never fail, as mistakes lead to new discoveries. Every ensemble member becomes the protagonist, and it creates a fantastic working atmosphere.
- You discover your own style by working with others. We had a remarkable range of different practitioners and directors for our performances. Everyone directs a room differently, so I was always making notes on what worked for me and what didn’t. This allowed me to tailor the approach I am using now.
- Treat acting not just as a passion but as your profession
You will be amazed at how much bad rep actors get for consistently turning up late with bad excuses, not putting in the effort of learning lines, or just not turning up at all for castings. Fourth Monkey bash you on the head at how important it is to be professional in this industry and they are not wrong.
When will the show be performed and how can people book tickets?
Tethered is being formed the 5-7 April at Blue Elephant Theatre.
Please support us and bring along everyone you know! You can book tickets online.
Do you have any advice for graduating actors who might be interested in producing their own work?
Here is advice given to me which is proving invaluable:
- You can’t do it alone. Theatre in its nature is collaborative. Find and nurture others who get excited about the same things you do
- Have the mindset that producing your own work is your profession. Producing your own work is your job, and the day-job which pays the rent serves the purpose of supporting that
- Give yourself deadlines you can’t change. Book the rehearsal space, book the theatre. Everything else will follow