Full Tilt Theatre

Full Tilt Theatre

By Jo Caird 06/07/10

Full Tilt theatre company's artistic director Sam Grogan talks about their exciting work...

Full Tilt theatre company was founded in 2004 at Bath Spa University by then head of drama Gunduz Kalic. The company’s focus is devised, ensemble-based work and each production involves extensive collaboration between students, staff and visiting professional theatre-makers. Current artistic director Sam Grogan tells us about this unique set-up...

The typical Full Tilt mix is staff, students and graduates. It’s a very collaborative process with a number of people across lots of different disciplines coming together.

That mix works so well because the students recognise that participation in Full Tilt projects makes demands beyond the normal asks of the curriculum. We find that the graduates really enjoy returning to the processes of the BA Honours Performing Arts course with which Full Tilt is aligned. To also have visiting professionals and staff working with the company gives an added level of professionalism. It’s a “proto-professional” environment and it’s a very joyful and playful mix.

We tend to adjust rehearsal periods to the needs of the show. On one of our most recent shows, Beast, a reinvention of the Beauty and the Beast tale, there were two concentrated periods of three months’ rehearsal over two years and we put the show to bed in between times. West Side Story, which we performed at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall last week, had a very concentrated three weeks at Easter and a very concentrated week and a half just now. It’s never really one fixed time because the students are juggling these commitments with their studies and the staff are doing the same with their other professional work and research.

The theme of reinvention is central to the Full Tilt canon. The starting point for our work is usually an established text, tale or narrative. Then, through the processes and idea of reinvention, the company will work and play to find and unmask the relevancies and resonances of the story as it stands to them today.

All our work is very active. It’s very much a “felt” experiential process rather than a discussion-centred practice. At the end of each rehearsal we will always come together and just sit down briefly, but the body of the rehearsal is a very physical way of doing things. We’re up on our feet, exploring, improvising and finding the truth of the narrative at hand. At the heart of that exploration is always the human story, and in telling that story we’re asking the company to try to unmask the essence of the human condition.

The idea of the actor as a creative player within an ensemble effort is also fundamental to Full Tilt. This ethos of generous ensemble-focused practice comes directly from the Company’s founder, Gunduz Kalic. None of the directors who work with the company, including myself, are “stand there, do that” directors, it’s very much a creative conversation with the ensemble. I’d liken it to the idea of a jazz ensemble. There is always a leader who facilitates a playful rehearsal in which all players in the company work together to create harmonies.

For example, Emma Gersch and myself have directed and choreographed West Side Story respectfully, working in creative conversation with the students, bringing out the stuff that’s very strong. The actors are very generous. Their sense of self and the vitality and the liveliness they communicate, alongside a sheer love of the work and its processes, results in performance that’s just dynamite to experience. It’s a real joy to create this way. I’m already thinking about the next piece…

Sam Grogan was talking to Jo Caird


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