Mortal Fools' Ensemble member says his farewells and shares his experience with Mortal Fools across the last 9 years.
Over to Ben:
After being a member of Mortal Fools Youth Theatre since 2012, the emotions I’m currently feeling after the conclusion of another project have been a regular occurrence throughout the last eight years of my life. However, this time it’s different - now that our recent audio theatre project has ended and ‘When the World is Loud’ has launched, I am experiencing these feelings for the last time.
Mortal Fools has become an immense part of my life - I would be a completely different person to who I am today without it. I still remember exactly how I felt walking into the Riding Mill Parish Hall for my first project at the age of nine, as an incredibly shy person lacking in confidence, looking ‘as white as a sheet’ in the words of my mum. Little did I know that it was at this point I was becoming involved in something special, which I have felt I’ve belonged to ever since.
Since this point, after taking part in devising entire plays in one week, improvised nights, the National Theatre Connections festival, audio theatre projects and even going on tours across the north with ‘’Brainstorm’’ and ‘’iWeigh’’, I have learnt so much about myself as a person, life on the whole and the industry that I am now planning to enter in the near future.
One of the most important things I’ve learnt from time at Mortal Fools came about when devising one of the above mentioned touring performances ‘’iWeigh’’, which covered a lot of themes that I feel strongly about, such as toxic masculinity, men’s mental health and the pressures caused by social media for the youth of today. When discussing such important concepts, I soon realised through my personal contributions to the piece how crucial it is to open up about such things, instead of ignoring them by perceiving them as ‘’difficult’’. My experience in the rehearsal room at iWeigh helped me to open up a lot more particularly with regards to my mental health within this context, and after the tour had finished.
At the same time, the process of devising in general across all projects I have been involved in has taught me a lot about the importance of communication and working collaboratively in life. When working as an ensemble young company member, the transferable skills I have developed to be used in a multitude of scenarios outside of a performance context can be owed to our way of working when rehearsing, as we consistently worked as a team towards a common aim to ensure we made the best theatre possible.
Alongside being a member of the Youth Theatre, more recently I have had the opportunity to work as a Company Assistant with Mortal Fools also, which has been extremely beneficial once more in terms of developing transferable skills for later life, whilst also allowing a new perspective into the process behind making theatre. In a practical sense, I was able to experience facilitating drama sessions when working with groups both within the Youth Theatre and externally in our Young People’s Theatre Exchange, and I was supported completely to be able to do so. With this, I have been able to develop experience from a young age in something that I wish to carry forward in the future, giving me a vital insight into our working process. As well as this, I have also had the chance to work in arts administration in the Mortal Fools office, again providing an alternative insight into the workings of the charity, which has been very beneficial to me.
From the very beginning, Mortal Fools has taught me to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone - in my very first show, I performed a dance routine onstage in a dress, so it was instantly clear that this would be the case! When rehearsing for ‘’It Snows’’, I didn’t think I would be able to do the physical theatre sections at all - but throughout the process, I gradually gained the confidence and managed it, despite what I first thought. Again, this is something that I’ll carry forward throughout my life, as the self-belief I have gained throughout my time with Mortal Fools has meant that I’m a completely different person to who I once was, when I walked through the doors for the first time.
Currently, I’m preparing to move away from home to begin studying at university. Although I’m excited for the next chapter in my life, I really wish that I could redo the last few years and experience starting at Mortal Fools again. When looking back on my childhood, my time at Mortal Fools will define the majority of my favourite memories - and I’m beginning to feel a bit emotional just thinking about some of these now!
If I could give advice to any prospective future members of Mortal Fools Youth Theatre, I would say:
Throw yourself into everything - everyone is so welcoming and supportive, so offer ideas knowing that they will be accepted, find your creative side and don’t be afraid to just go for it!
Thank you Ben, we are getting emotional too thinking about all our wonderful memories with you. If want to find out more about our Mortal Fools Youth Theatre and if you fancy following in Ben’s footsteps, you can via our website HERE.