Last week we caught up with The Collkin Collective, a newly formed theatre company comprised of John Moores University students looking to perform their first professional show Here’s To You in late October. Sat around a table with five members from the company (comprising of Alex Carr, Dominique Daly, Sarah Mellotte, Connor Clifford and Louise Humpage) we discussed what it’s like to start your own theatre company and their thoughts on the upcoming production.
So, where’s the name ‘The Collkin Collective’ come from?
Alex: Well, were just throwing words around to see what stuck and that’s when we came up with ‘Collkin’, a portmanteau of the words collaborative and kinetic. Our first show has been born from a mish-mash of everyone contributing ideas, from dialogue to even bits of poetry, and we are using a lot of physical theatre as well so that’s where the kinetic part comes from: the energy of movement. So we threw all that together, looked at The Collkin Collective and thought: “Yeah, that sounds quite cool.”
Has this been born from a script that you’ve written beforehand or is it a purely devised piece by everyone?
Dominique: We started off by auditioning, but I wanted to make the audition process less intimidating. I didn’t want it to be an actor stood in front of me, they do a monologue and then get a simple yes or no. We started as we meant to go on so we got people into a room and got them to do a series of exercises. We wanted people to give their ideas. We had a topic, which was love but in a broad sense and we wanted to see what people came up with from that. The material people contributed then created some of the script and then myself and Alex went away to write some more to establish a base script.
Alex: The script was essentially a collection of what everyone said in those auditions. We’d give them questions like, “what does love mean to you” or “describe a perfect feeling” and they’d give answers like “To dance around with your significant other, drunk at 1 o’clock in the morning.” That triggered the ideas for us which we went away to write but even today, when we were rehearsing it, people were still coming up with little suggestions that fitted perfectly. Since we first wrote the script, before we broke up for summer, people experience more that changes your perspective on how life is. It’s a growing thing that we’re all equally responsible for, if someone wants to change something a character says or does, we’re completely open to it because you want it to be as real as possible.
How’s it been in your first professional rehearsal process?
Sarah: Well, today was technically our first rehearsal. We had one rehearsal before we left for summer, so this is basically us getting back into the swing of things with a solid week’s rehearsal. Getting the script on its feet for the first time was quite interesting, you see different sides of the character that you wouldn’t have seen before until you start literally speaking the lines in the room out loud.
Connor: I think it’s been nice because it’s been relaxed. I’m working with people I’ve worked with before and it’s not a senior lecture-figure up there instructing you on how to do things, but at the same time, everyone wants to work towards a common goal. We’re all focused but we’re relaxed at the same time. I think that’s when you start to find the character come easier to you.
Louise: Like Alex said, we give each other ideas and occasionally challenge others in the group by saying “he might not have done that,” or “why don’t we do this?” We’re comfortable working with each other even though we’ve never performed a script like this before.
Dominique: I think what’s different about it is that we’ve set up a rehearsal space as a safe place to share ideas. Nobody needs to feel embarrassed in front of anyone, it’s an environment where we all feel comfortable enough with each other so we can all share ideas and no one’s going to get offended.
Alex: I joined these guys recently, all of them have spent the first few years of uni together and I just met them a couple of months ago so I felt a little out of my depth. But today, with the rehearsal, it’s felt like a comfortable, collaborative process. I would say something and people would really take it on board or I’d say something and people would suggest “Why don’t we try this instead?” It’s been really interesting to work while still obviously respecting each other’s ideas and putting that into play.
With this being your first play as a professional company, what can we expect from you?
Alex: The story we’ve got is basically an exploration piece on the cycle of love, from the beginning of a relationship right through to the end and how that cycle repeats itself. Without giving too much away, we follow one character, Ben (Connor Clifford), as he meets someone called April (Sarah Mellotte) and they share this quite special relationship that starts off really nice and then immediately we’re just thrown into the hardships of it. It also explores what happens when he meets April’s friends, Jas (Louise Humpage) and Steff (Helena Houghton-Casella) who are also a couple. We explore multiple relationships and how these friendships work and then family relationships as well because obviously love isn’t just romantic it could also be platonic.
Dominique: Relationships between two people always have a ripple effect that will sneakily steal away into other people’s lives. This play is really about the idea of human experience and what makes us human. I think one of the most important things is to love and be loved in return and I think that this has a nice way of getting that message out there and, hopefully, the audience will relate to that. It’s naturalistic and it throws in spoken word, it throws in some original music, and it’s just something that we want to create because we’ve got something to say and we hope that people can relate to that.
Alex: At the heart of it we just want to take the audience on that journey of what it was like, is like, or will be like to be in love.
Beyond this performance in October is there anywhere you’d like to see this go in the future?
Dominique: My inspiration for creating this piece came from when I attended the NDSF (National Drama Student Festival) where I’m not sure there was one show there from the North West. There’s a lot of good writers in this city, there’s a lot of good performers and I feel like any opportunity I can get to put Liverpool out there I want to take. Liverpool have also set up a Liverpool Fringe Festival and obviously Edinburgh Fringe would be great and we would love to take the show to both of those once we develop it further.
Alex: I also study film so there are some parts of this show that I think I’d like to see developed into a cinematic experience. I’m playing around with little ideas for that which could work, where we incorporate little bits of film into the show so we have scenes of projection. We’re not just going to do the show and then that will be it, this is something that we can work on, take bits from and then put them into something else. Its current runtime is about 30/40 minutes but that’s not to say that in a year’s time it won’t be a 2-and-a-half hour show. It’s exciting to see what it will be.
Because we’re How To Do Theatre, we obviously have a massive onus on helping others to make theatre, so what piece of advice would you give to budding theatre-makers?
Dominique: We’re about to do directorials in university and from what I can gather it’s do your research and plan ahead. At the end of the day, we can’t please everyone, there’s always going to be something when someone sees the show that they might not like, but if they take something away from it then that’s all we can ask for. Plan, have fun, and believe in what you’re doing.
Alex: Just do it. Take what you already know and run with it. I’m fairly new to theatre but I apply what I know from film to help me understand theatre and drama. This is my first time directing something theatrical and it’s crucial to understand exactly what you’re doing, exactly who your audience is and understand exactly how you’re trying to make them feel. If you don’t know that, then you’re not going to be able to communicate that message and it’s just going to fall to bits in front of you.
Sarah: I’d say trust your instincts because you know you know more about yourself and where you want to go emotionally than anyone else and, more often than not, your gut feeling about where to go with something is usually the best way to go.
Connor: Don’t be frightened, especially as an actor or a playwright or a director – don’t be afraid of your ideas. Just do it. If it doesn’t work, try it differently next time. It’s as simple as that.
Louise: One of my lecturers told me to face my fear and do it anyway. I am quite a loud personality and at the start of the first year, I wasn’t. I was reluctant to join in with improvisations because I was scared that people would judge me, but we’re all in the same boat. We’ve all came here to create a good piece of work and we should just trust each other and ourselves that this is going to be… boss.
The Collkin Collective bring Here’s To You to the Joe H Makin centre on the 30th of October. You can check them out on their Facebook page for more information.