In conversation with ‘Pants on Fire’ Theatre

We recently had the pleasure of chatting to Peter Bramley, Director of award winning theatre company ‘Pants on Fire’, about all things theatre and his advice for those starting out in the industry. Here’s what he had to say:

Peter Bramley - Pants on Fire Theatre
Peter Bramley – Pants on Fire Theatre

What was it that first inspired you to get involved with theatre?

I hated school, and Drama was about the only subject in school that gave me any joy. I had a fantastic, inspiring, supportive drama teacher who encouraged me and told me that I was good. In spite of being quite shy, I found a confidence in drama classes, without ever quite knowing where it came from. As my interest grew, I joined a youth theatre and a couple of amateur dramatics groups. And eventually, I left school and went to a 6th form college to do a foundation course in drama. I suppose that is where I began to get a fuller sense of theatre. It opened me up to a broader understanding of the possibilities. But I really only saw it in terms of being an actor then. It was later when I studied Drama at University that I began to become more seriously interested in theatre-making. And then when I studied with Lecoq, the training was all about making theatre.

When was Pants on Fire first started and how has it changed since then?

Pants on Fire was founded in 2004. The company is constantly changing. In fact I’m probably the only consistent factor. We have worked with so many talented young actors and musicians in the 6 shows the company has produced, recast and toured over the years and we have literally worked with 100s of people through our Adventures in Space training course, which we have run every year since starting the company.

Adventures in Space Workshop
Adventures in Space Workshop

If you could give any advice to those starting a career in the industry, what would it be?

Train! Train! Train! Nobody can teach talent, but talent needs to be stretched and challenged. The actual job of theatre needs understanding and skill. Acting requires a lot of bravery and openness. Training helps an actor to become fully aware of themselves and what they bring to the job, it gives them finely tuned skills. It does not have to be in a drama school necessarily (though I would always recommend that for people who want to act professionally). Studying Theatre at a university offers so much more of a broader sense of the vast possibilities of theatre. Go to a weekly class, throw yourself in. Be an athlete and a doer rather than a dreamer. Be active. Stretch yourself. Be around other creative, talented people who challenge and push you and help you grow as an artist.

What are the 3 things you look for in a performer?

1.  A team player. Theatre is an ensemble effort and I always want to work with people who fully invest in the company rather than just the bits they do. In Pants on Fire shows, you have to love being “invisible” as well as visible. Moving a piece of furniture in a dynamic way, manipulating a puppet has to give as much joy as being in the limelight.
2.  There is a bravery, confidence, openness and playfulness, that I look for and this will always normally come from training.
3.  Don’t underestimate the importance of being a nice person! Learn to work with a group. You can be the most talented person in the world, but if someone had a reputation for being ‘difficult’ to work with, I would always look elsewhere.

What’s next for Pants on Fire?

Our most immediate activity is our Adventures in Space workshop which we will be running September 12th – 16th at Bethnal Green in London. This is a weeks intensive introduction to the work of Jacques Lecoq. We focus on sharing useful skills for ensemble and solo work. I created the course in 2000 (under the previous company name “Blue Inc.”). This marks the 16th successful year of the course and more than 300 people have trained with us.
In October last year, we had a huge success with our remount of ‘Ovid’s Metamorphoses’, which we performed in a site-specific non theatre venue. We created the Pop-Up Palais and played to sold out audiences. So we are pursuing further possibilities for that show.
We will begin workshopping ideas for a new show towards the end of the year.

If you are interested in learning more about ‘Pants on Fire’, or if you would like to book a place on their upcoming ‘Adventures in Space’ workshop, please visit their website www.pantsonfiretheatre.com or e-mail heather@pantsonfiretheatre.com

Pants on Fire - Ovid's Metamorphoses

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