Our Acting Gym has just closed its doors for another year after two groups of participants have come through to build their skills, confidence and work out rusty acting muscles in a low-pressure environment. 

This year we turned our Acting Gym up a notch and created The Lab – a six-week workshop designed to mimic the rehearsal process of a professional theatre production. 

For the sole purpose of skill development, two groups of participants have undertaken work on their ‘mock productions’ under the guidance of artistic director Paul Smith with teams designed to complement each other and make this process as useful as possible. 

We’ve been in touch with some of the participants of The Lab and asked them to share their experience with you as an insight into the effects of this development programme for the creatives of Hull. 

“The Acting Gym was a really interesting experience to work with Paul as a director and explore some different rehearsal processes. As an actor I was given the opportunity to really delve into a character by discovering and creating them from the ground up. The chance to try out different techniques in a relaxed space was hugely valuable to me as well meeting and working with new actors.”

Jack Fielding
Group 1, 2022

The first group met in the afternoons to work on ‘A Butcher of Distinction’ by Rob Hayes, a play of twins plotting their escape from a brutal London, only to be trapped in a battle with a grieving stranger over their father’s legacy.  

The second group tackled ‘Mr. Burns, a post electric play’ by Anne Washburn on Wednesday evenings, a play spanning three quarters of a century about how an episode of the classic cartoon The Simpsons becomes legend in a post-apocalyptic landscape. 

“I was so happy to hear I’d been accepted to take part in the Middle Child Acting Gym. Having always admired their work, it was exciting to have the opportunity to learn from such an innovative company. The experience was brilliant in so many ways. Paul Smith the Creative Director led the six week course and we worked on the process of rehearsing a play, especially looking at character. The particular play we worked on (Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn) didn’t reveal a great deal about each role through the text. However, using improvisation, discussion, drama games and writing, by the end of the six weeks I really felt like I had created a three-dimensional character with hopes, fears and dreams. Paul was so full of energy, positivity and encouragement that I left each session feeling really inspired. As a singer and voice artist, who usually works alone, it was fabulous to collaborate with other performers – who also happened to be a really great bunch of people. It was an overwhelmingly fantastic experience and I’m already missing my Wednesday nights.”

Ruth Getz
Group 2, 2022

Working individually to refine understanding of character development, and then together to bring those ideas to fruition physically together in a chance for collaboration that isn’t readily available outside of working projects. 

Perhaps most importantly, was the opportunity and freedom to learn from this experience in an environment that isn’t working on tight time constraints or budget limitations and needs an actor to get thing the project completely from the get-go. 

Working closely with the participants of this Acting Gym, Paul Smith reflects on leading the workshops, “I’ve loved the opportunity to work with two groups of brilliant Hull actors in a pressure free environment. It’s been such a treat to get stuck into two great plays with the luxury of time, enabling us all to work hard on refining skills and developing our craft.

“It’s so rare in this industry to be able to take a breath and focus on self-development without the pressure of having to succeed – especially for actors. I’m really pleased that the Lab has become a safe space for people to invest in themselves. It’s been a brilliant first pilot for this new strand of the Acting Gym and we already can’t wait to bring it back soon. 

“Taking part in the Middle Child Acting Gym has been such a refreshing and inspiring experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a play and the sessions really helped me tap back into a skill that is very hard to refresh when you’re not actively working. It was fun to go back over techniques I’ve used in the past and exciting to learn some new tools on exploring character and playing with dialogue. Paul encouraged a supportive atmosphere for people like me who were feeling quite nervous and intimidated, there was no pressure of performance, and we could all just play with the material which helped us all relax, explore and have fun. Each session challenged us to work deeply, sharpen our acting tools and offered useful ideas on how to work on scripts/scenes in the future. I found the course immensely useful both on a practical and a personal level. It helped reinstall some of my lost confidence and I feel a step closer to the actor I used to be. I really hope these sessions continue as I’d love the opportunity to carry on this journey and keep working alongside such a talented group of artists.”

Alison Shaw
Group 2, 2022

Our artist development programme, Reverb, is always trying to bring some inspiration onto the Hull arts scene. Currently we are accepting applications for our Writer’s Group, a free opportunity to find your voice by learning how to put pen to paper and write an original script with playwright Tom Wells. Application deadline is Monday 15 August. 

Applications for 1:1 Script Support with our literary manager Matthew May will open tomorrow, Wednesday 3 August, for writers looking for feedback on a script already in the works. A free, one-off session with Matthew will provide invaluable dramaturgical support for those without access to this kind of resource already. Deadline to apply is Thursday 25 August.