I knew I wanted to work in theatre but I just couldn’t get my foot in the door. As a student in London I was struggling to find any opportunities at the likes of the Old Vic, the Globe and the Royal Court or the countless West End theatres. While back at home in Shropshire for the holiday I stumbled across Pentabus, nestled away in the rural tranquillity of Bromfield. All thoughts of a glitzy West End placement were gone from my mind. Here was a company that was daring to and succeeding in producing topical pieces of drama on controversial themes. A month before I started I watched a (fantastic) production about fracking and during my time at Pentabus I worked on a series of plays about immigration, journeys and home. These were stories that attracted me far more than a singing green witch in an overpriced theatre in southwest London ever could.
So in June on the first day of rehearsals for the Pentabus Young Writers’ programme I walked, slightly nervously, into Pentabus HQ. With six professional actors, two directors and some of the young writers themselves floating in and out this promised to be an action packed week. We were all invited to sit in a circle on the floor in the rehearsal room to introduce ourselves and discuss the upcoming show. This very casual Monday morning welcome was a definite clue to how friendly, inclusive and caring the team would be. Having introduced myself to actors who had appeared in BBC dramas, radio plays and numerous stage performances I made my way into the office invited on the way to take part in the office Euro 2016 sweepstake.
Filled with a warm feeling of friendliness and with a mental note to find out if Poland were actually any good at football, I began ‘work’. I can’t really call it that though as I feel it was far too fun to warrant such a name. From editing programmes to researching audience demographics to making fake European passports (for the props department I hasten to add, this was all before the Brexit) I really feel like I had the chance to try every part of the theatre making process at Pentabus. I learned about so many areas of theatre including marketing, budgeting and artistic planning. Oh and that passports are incredibly difficult to replicate. You’ve really got to hand it to the smugglers. Should their illicit activities become less lucrative they certainly have a future in props design.
I would like to thank the entire team at Pentabus for an incredible week. Each member of the team gave me a significant amount of their day to explain the ins and outs of their particular role in the company. I learned more than I thought was possible in one week and was even given free rein to pursue some of my own particular interests within theatre. After reading one of the unsolicited scripts I had an immensely insightful feedback session with the Channel 4 Writer in Residence, discussing intricacies such as character depth, pacing and comedic timing (as well as my very poor grasp of Irish slang). A while later I observed rehearsals lead by the directors of Edinburgh Fringe and RSC shows. These kinds of opportunities are very rare, especially to experience in the same day so I am extremely grateful to Pentabus for making them happen. I will not forget what I have learned and am already plotting my return. During my week at Pentabus, every member of the team offered me specific guidance on how to continue with this career path.
In fact, as I write I am on a train to London to take part in a series of theatre workshops, brought to my attention by the wonderful Producer at Pentabus. How many other companies offer work experience where on day one the manager is more concerned with the intern’s professional development than making sure they know how she takes her tea?! (Note to potential applicants, tea-making skills are not required for this particular placement).
So what advice would I give to somebody considering an internship at Pentabus? I can’t tell you to brush up on your passport making skills or to make sure that your Irish slang is up to scratch as every day here is different. Be prepared for anything and to use your problem solving skills as much as possible. Whether that be to work out how to attract more people to attend shows on the Orkney Islands or how to manoeuvre a 3x2 m piece of wood around a tight corner and up a staircase (answer: with much shouting of ‘pivot’ à la Ross from Friends for hilarity if not actual advice). Far from being the clichéd and monotonous norm of a sedentary 9-5 internship, Pentabus offers an opportunity to gain an insight into several aspects of theatre in a fun and engaging way while being surrounded by a highly experienced and extremely supportive team.