Lime interview - Books & Spoken Word
MonologueSlam UK has become a new high for the hugely successful actor’s showcase that gives actors from a wide range of backgrounds a chance to boost their careers by performing to a prestigious range of industry professionals.
Created by award winning actors Fraser Ayres and Jimmy Akingbola of TriForce Promotions; MonologueSlam UK was launched in London in December 2008 and provides a free and exciting platform for actors to practice their craft and improve their performance skills. Following the slam on 18th February at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Lime had the chance to catch up with one of the founders Fraser Ayers and talk to him about the showcase and his new play Keepsake.
Fraser you are co-founder and managing director of Triforce Promotions with your partner Jimmy Akingbola tell me a bit about the decision you made to form this organisation?
Jimmy and I were both young actors when we came up with the idea in 2003 and knew how difficult the industry could be. We were in a play called The People Next Door at the Edinburgh Fringe and we had an idea- What if we could create a network of people where the emphasis is on collaboration and support as to the usual “Cut Throat” attitudes in the industry? And TriForce was born!
Monologue slam is known as the “ultimate actors showcase” how have you managed to create an event that is taken so seriously by industry professional and not just another “networking for nibbles” event?
VERY good question!
There is a stigma attached, and I think rightly so. There are a lot of companies out there that seem to be built on getting as much money from talent as possible; be it with workshops or showcases, and they tend to exploit the drive of people, to promise the earth and then very often fail to deliver on its usefulness with the genuine TV/Film/Theatre industry.
Jimmy and I are both active in the industry and I think people have come to trust us. Our network currently stands at 11,000 members and it comprises of aspiring AND working actors, agents, casting directors, producers, directors etc.
For us it’s about pushing the talent in all its forms in as many viable directions, and empowering them as much as possible. It’s exactly why we think it’s a bit of a travesty charging the actors to do a showcase. Without them, there is no show! At MonologueSlam we charge the audience to see the talent and it’s completely free for actors, which is the way we think it should be.
As we all know there are many networking events that do very little to push new talent MonologueSlam is considered the place to be, why do you think you have created such a great reputation?
TriForce is very much propelled by Jimmy and I using our profiles and connections that we have gathered over the years, and if we don’t personally back it, then we don’t put it up. This has meant that the industry people that we invite know that they’ll have a great night with quality talent, so it becomes a no-brainer to go to the events- it’s a talent mine!
As for the performers, theres people getting lead roles at the Royal Court, becoming regulars on TV shows, flying out to LA. People on both sides of the casting table get to experience it first-hand, and If you focus on creating a conducive environment for talent to shine and people to have a good time above all else- It can’t rarely fail.
Can you give Lime magazine readers the low-down on your new play, KeepSake, when does it hit the stage and what can we expect?
KeepSake is a funny and dark play about a person who decides to kidnap the Prime Minister. He isn’t insane or disturbed; he’s simply had enough and believes that he’s only doing what many of us want to. He tries to unearth the humanity of the PM by any means necessary, and give him an insight into what life for the rest of us can be like…but obviously it doesn’t all go according to plan.
TriForce are producing it with Yvette Griffith of Dandy Associates, and after the reading at the Young Vic, it’s been picked up by the BBC as a potential Radio 4 show, and hopefully that will be unfolding over the next few months.
The play itself is currently in the hands of several venues so stay tuned!
Fraser you have turned your attention to writing, how important is it for you to collaborate with other theatre groups?
Enormously. Everyone is an expert at something, and I don’t think anyone could be naïve to think that they hold all of the ideas or answers. For me, outside influences, opinions and talent can only enrich the work that you’re doing, and give it broader appeal. There is always something you’ve overlooked…
There’s also the matter of content and tone, so depending on who you’re working with will lend itself to the dark or the light, and I think it’s good to create work that dabbles in both.
Your company Triforce promotions also has important links with the BBC offering writers from varied backgrounds who would not necessarily get the chance to meet various movers and shakers how many successes have come to fruition from these events for up and coming talent?
Rather a lot. We forget in this industry that these organisations and people desperately want to find the next big thing, but don’t necessarily know how to go about finding it, so if you present it to them then it often leads somewhere.
We’ve got people that have received commissions that are currently being worked on, some of our writers have had the opportunity to write for BBC Radio, others are working at theatres around the country. The network is so diverse that what tends to happen is that it isn’t only the organisation that we’re working with that sees the talent, but our invited audiences as well.
The smoking room became cult TV, with such a simple idea but really strong dialogue why do you think that great TV like this is not so readily available considering the constant repeats and reality TV shows that we are drowning in on UK TV.
Now there’s the rub. The processes in place at the big organisations, doesn’t necessarily cultivate burgeoning talent in the right ways or quickly enough. It’s a real frustration – Producers want to get work out there, writers want to write, but the channels themselves have so much backlog and red tape, that projects are a minimum two years from entering the building to hitting our screens. It’s the reason why so much of what we see seems so dated already- It was a fresh idea two years ago!
There is also a terrible trend to blame it on “dropping viewing figures” and say that people use their laptops or their phones whilst watching TV, of which I personally feel is a real copout. We only turned to these other methods because the shows they were producing didn’t engage us.
It’s led to a bit of a situation where the channels are scared to invest in unknown talent as it’s not tried and tested, but at the same time, a lot of the known talent isn’t entertaining or relevant anymore.
Right, I’m getting off of my soap box which was placed on the top of a very high horse!
Fraser how do you kick back with such an action-packed career?
I’m blessed with an exciting, bustling life, filled with the most interesting artists of our generation and at the same time I have a robust spiritual life at its backbone, and for me it’s a perfect balance. My life IS the kickback [smiles].
Are there any up and coming writers or actors that we should look out for in 2013?
Nonso Anozie, we were filming Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s The Bible in Morocco, and well it’s just going to get bigger and bigger for him. Minnie Crowe (Who we’re honoured to have as TriForce’s Company Director and who without none of it would be possible) is set to make a big splash this year as well. Nicholas Pinnock is creating some fantastic work, Ben Cawley (MonologueSlam winner) is making some serious movements, Lorne Campbell has just taken over at Northern Stage, and I think we’re going to see some incredible things from the likes of David Ireland from that. I think you’ll be hearing about Chizzy Akudolu and Jordan Pitt as writers this year and of course keep an eye on anybody that does the MonologueSlam.
For young aspiring writers or actors do you have any words of wisdom in regards to honing their craft and also improving their performance?
Try to enjoy it! I think many can forget that in this industry, and it leads to it becoming a burden or a negative influence in your life. Don’t watch the phone, engage with activities that make you happy that are outside of the industry, they can only give you more perspective and experience that will make your work richer, and most of all don’t take it personally!
In terms of improving performance, it’s very tough for people to hone their talent without an outside eye, but at the same time I wouldn’t do every workshop and course that is out there. There are a few pitfalls and people who are more than ready to take your money that won’t make a difference to your career or being part of the industry in real terms. Shop around, see the success stories, ask questions – if they’re legit, they’ll have nothing to hide.
What are you expecting from the year 2013, in regards to business and pleasure?
Between the acting and TriForce I seem to be doing more and more writing, which I really have found a passion for, and I’d very much like to write another play and there are one or two projects that will hopefully be making their way onto our screens.
2012 was a great year for TriForce and saw us film the first TriShort – “Glimpse”, and the creation of our film festival the TFSFF. We’re planning the next film festival as we speak and we plan to make a feature very shortly as well as create more TriShorts, which gives opportunities to directors, film crews, writers, and then showcases them at the Mayfair Hotel.
This year MonologueSlam UK really found its home at the wonderful Theatre Royal Stratford East, and had a sold out audience on Monday, so we’re very excited about that and where we can take it as the year unfolds.
All in all it’s a very exciting time ahead – Here’s to what dreams may come!
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