Monkey Motivation: Jacob Meadows
Our training is focused on equipping students with the skills needed to forge a sustainable career as an actor and theatre maker – we want to create fearless performers who seek out bold, contemporary creative projects, collaborate with innovative creatives and makers and share unique stories from often unheard voices.
Kicking off our Monkey Motivation series for 2022, we spoke to Class of 2018 graduate Jacob Meadows about where his career as a performer and creative has taken him since graduating from Fourth Monkey, and his experiences of working with Open Sky Theatre on their new feature-length film COLD, which premiered as part of London International Mime Festival 2022.
Introduce yourself! Tell us your name, what you studied at Fourth Monkey plus a little about your background.
Hi! I’m Jacob Meadows. I studied on what was the Two Year Rep course and is now the BA (Hon) Acting Accelerated Degree. I’m from the Midlands, not far from Stratford Upon Avon, which is where I studied Drama at college, after deciding the Marines (my initial career choice) was not for me.
(Image – Jacob Meadows in COLD)
What was it that appealed to you about Fourth Monkey and why did you choose the school for your actor training?
I heard about Fourth Monkey through a friend that I met whilst on a workshop, at a point when it was relatively late in the year to be applying to drama schools. On a whim, I emailed the team at Fourth Monkey, managed to get in for a last-minute audition and secured a spot.
I never viewed myself as a ‘physical performer’ as such, and didn’t have a great deal of knowledge when it came to physical theatre as a practice. Fourth Monkey brought that out in me and gave me the tools to explore and understand it in depth. The physical training transfers into EVERYTHING. What stood out for me on application were the practitioners and the ethos of the school. I love to collaborate, learn and create – Fourth Monkey gives you the space and tools to do both.
Can you tell us a bit about your audition day memories with Fourth Monkey?
My audition day was very last minute, so it was just me and Steve Green (Fourth Monkey’s Artistic Director) in a room, running through my speeches, rather than the usual full-day audition.
Looking back, I cringe a little – I thought I had a good idea of what I was doing, but I was very fresh-faced and new to the game. All in all, it was pretty brief. I remember being a bag of nerves, and learning to accept that, or even use it, is a lesson I wish I could have understood back then. It’s very easy, when starting out, to feel as though you have something to prove and to push when, really, you want to be doing the opposite.
(Image credit – Jacob Meadows in COLD)
Can you share a few highlights from your training with Fourth Monkey? Were there any practitioners who have influenced your creative choices or any classes that have stuck with you since you graduated?
Clown was a standout class for me. Not only was it heaps of fun, but I also learned lessons and quotes in Clown that I still carry with me on the daily, particularly when it comes to castings – props to Steven Sobal for these.
Another standout for me would be Solo Story – getting the chance to create and direct your own work with the scope to take it further. It’s something I look back on and wish I’d taken more advantage of. For current students – make the most of that free space and time to create!
Finally, Mime with Guillaume Pige will always stay with me. It gave ‘attention to detail’ a whole new meaning and it opened me up to a completely fresh way of collaborative working, especially when it came to devising one of our graduate shows, Woman and the Canvas. I’m not one to say “never”, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get an experience like that again.
Where did you imagine your actor training taking you when you joined Fourth Monkey and how has this evolved since you started working as a performer and creative?
I came to Fourth Monkey looking for the tools to create compelling work as an actor. I left with those tools, but it took time for many of them to fully sink in so that I could understand them and utilise them in a way that worked for me. I suppose you could say that in this respect, “the actors process”, is personal and ever evolving.
I didn’t really have an end goal for where Fourth Monkey would take me. It has, however, opened many doors for me that otherwise would likely have remained closed, and for that I am grateful. Something I have learned and taken away from my training is that “storytelling” is at its strongest when portrayed in images. It’s visual – we connect with images, with movements and the moments that surround words – whether you want to go on to do purely physical-based acting or not, having a strong base in physical training is always going to benefit you. Even the smallest of gestures can make for a very compelling character.
Tell us a bit about your work as a professional performer and creative since graduating from Fourth Monkey – what have your professional highlights been? Are there any interesting collaborators, projects or shows that you can tell us about?
Since graduating, I’ve worked predominantly on screen in shorts, features and a few commercials, which are always nice for those rainy days. Recently, I’ve dipped back into theatre with COLD, a feature-length physical theatre piece, shot entirely in a theatre, about baby loss and miscarriage. Although it’s a digital piece, the devising and rehearsal process was very much theatre- based, which I loved.
Currently, I’m looking to produce a short film I’ve written called Airwaves, and I’m in rehearsals for a theatre piece that was previously postponed due to Covid. I’ve also got several shorts and a feature in the pipeline, set to shoot later this year, as well as a miniseries that picks up shooting next week (late January 2022). Other than this, I cannot wait to get back in a live space!
Something I’d like to explore more of this year is directing, so if anyone out there needs a director, get in touch! It’s been a strong start for the industry, despite the Covid cancellations, so I have a very good feeling about 2022 for all creatives.
(Image – Jacob Meadows in COLD)
You recently worked with Open Sky Theatre on feature film COLD – tell us a little about how you became involved with this project, the experience of working with Open Sky Theatre and being involved with the London Mime Festival?
I saw the role posted online, read the description and knew this was a project I had to be involved with. It was the usual process… I applied, was selected to audition, which happened over Zoom as this was during the second lockdown and, a few rounds later, I got the news from my agent that I’d landed the role. A few weeks later I was in Hereford, devising the show!
Janet Etuk, who I star alongside, was cast as Falda, and we clicked from the get-go. Janet is a phenomenal actor; she’s so open, humble and giving, and that made the entire process so exciting to show up to each day. There were many times, after rehearsal, where we’d run through our scenes and give each other feedback. Forming this bond and trust with Janet massively helped the whole process.
The first day of rehearsals was surreal. It had been a year of lockdown, so being around new people in a theatre was crazy, and it took some getting used to. Lisle (the writer/director, and Open Sky’s Writer & Digital Director) arrived and handed us a 70-page script, hot off the press. We read it aloud to get a feel for the story, which opened up the conversation and, from there, we put the scripts down and started devising the show under Claire’s (Open Sky’s Artistic Director) direction.
For the initial part of the devising process, we had an empty space, no props and very little to work with other than ourselves, so that freedom was quite daunting. However, the advantage of this was that we effectively had free reign to improvise whatever we needed to make each scene work.
Having Claire Coache as Director in the room was such a treat. Her process guided us gently to create what you see on the screen and, in such a short amount of time, we had a ton of material. Claire is a brilliant director and a beautiful human being. Both Claire and Lisle opened up the rehearsal room so much from the get-go, which made it a really collaborative environment where we could bring our own ideas and thoughts to the room and the roles. This made the whole devising process a lot of fun and, more importantly, safe, despite the delicate subject matter we were exploring.
It wasn’t really until the final week that we had any real props or costume to work with. The shed, the trees, the snow, and most of the props that you see in the film, we didn’t get to work with until the first day of shooting, so that was quite an experience!
Showing up to set on day one was a magical experience, and kudos to Carl Davies for pouring his soul into this project. Carl created pretty much everything we had to work with, including the set. He made this fantasy we had built in our minds a reality. Claire handed over direction to Lisle for the filming and remained on hand to go over anything we struggled transferring from rehearsals to set and was an all-round massive support. (Thank you, Claire!)
Due to time constraints, we often only had one or two takes to get what we needed before we had to move on, which, given the emotional stakes and complexity of some of the scenes, was a big challenge to step up to. Having said that, you wouldn’t usually get three weeks of devising prior to a film so we had the work bubbling and ready to go.
As most of the film is silent, instead we created and rehearsed scenes to a playlist, which we were then able to play live while filming some of the scenes. This was extremely useful for finding the nuance in both the intricate moments and the bigger ones – music can be transcendental and is a very useful tool for an actor to quickly rediscover and stimulate the ecology of a character, an emotion or a moment.
You can watch COLD online on the London Mime Festival website until 6 February 2022. It will also carry on its life at film festivals later this year and the rest remains to be seen… I want to finish my reflections on this project by saying that each and every person that worked on COLD poured everything into it, and I am so proud of what we have all achieved.
(Video – COLD trailer)
For anyone you have inspired – what is the one piece of advice you would share with anyone applying to and auditioning for Fourth Monkey?
Know what your character wants and really get through to the person you are talking too. If you can, use a person not the wall. Focus on achieving that want and not the audition. It’s easy to get lost in nerves or trying to impress. A mantra I find useful is “be less impressed, more involved”.
Other than that, just go for it, be real and remember it’s your time and space to do what you do, own that. Something I’ve learned is that you should be taking care of the panel, rather than asking them to take care of you.
Finally, is there one piece of “essential advice” that you would share with those students who will be graduating from Fourth Monkey in the summer?
I’m not sure if it’s “advice” but there’s a lot of patience involved in this game and it’s easy to get hung up on the ‘in-between’ moments, where you’re not working, or you are, but it’s not the work you want to be doing. Use these moments wisely. Prepare, go to see stuff, take classes, create work and enjoy a bit of life, it’s easy to get so consumed with ‘the work’ that you can forget there is a life outside of it.
On the flip side, be ready to become best friends with your email. A lot of work at the beginning will come off your own back.
COLD by Open Sky Theatre will be available to view online as part of London International Mime Festival 2022 until 6 February – watch here.
Check out Jacob Meadows’ most recent creative and performance projects via his Instagram – @jacobomeadows.