Monkey Motivation - Viktoria Brooksby & Bombshells

Thinking about applying to drama school? Our Monkey Motivation Q&As with Fourth Monkey actors and artists offer an insight into the wide variety of different creative career paths our alumni performers and theatre makers – ideal inspiration about where actor training can take you!

 

We recently spoke to Viktoria Brooksby, a graduate of our one-year intensive training course the Year of the Monkey (now the CertHE Acting & Theatre Making) about her experiences of training on a foundation-level course as well as how she drew on her Fourth Monkey training when translating and adapting Bombshells (Mia Jerome & Kevin Hunter) for a performance by a local theatre company in her native Belarus…

 

 

Firstly, introduce yourself! Tell us about your background and your actor training with Fourth Monkey.  

I was raised in Belarus by my grandparents. It was pretty clear that I would dedicate my life to the arts – all I did was sing and dance, all the time. At the age of five, I was reunited with my mum and dad in London and when I was in high school, for Valentine’s Day, our class had to put on a play for the rest of the school. The play was something classic and no one was excited, including me. The same evening, me and my mum found a play online, a romantic comedy. I pitched the script the next day to our teacher and the class and they approved. That was the first time I got the opportunity to direct. I later studied performing arts at a college that heavily focused on physical theatre and, at eighteen, I started the Year of the Monkey one-year intensive training course (now CertHE Acting & Theatre Making) at Fourth Monkey. 

(All images – Bombshells production images)

What did you enjoy most about training with Fourth Monkey? How has this inspired your work as a performer and theatre maker since you graduated?  

I loved everything, from the building to the classes. I especially loved  Clowning – I became so comfortable with the moment when a joke doesn’t land, and how that can be the best part. Those classes made me feel, “if I can do this”, I can do anything, including being bare and vulnerable.

When working with the actors in Belarus, I quickly came to realise that I wasn’t working with enthusiastic, young actors that are hungry to be on stage, but rather a motivation-lacking group that has to be there as if it’s an office job. These were people that had worked together for so many years, with the same director, who, by all signs, had long lost his passion for his craft. They were working by one method, which was Stanislavsky’s, and when trying to introduce new techniques, such as Meisner or Clowning, this proved to be less than easy. However, this didn’t stop me from trying. In the end, I accepted their process and they accepted mine – I received message upon message from actors thanking me for letting them play on stage as they had the opportunity to freely find their characters instead of being so rigorously controlled. 

 

You have recently been working on translating and adapting Bombshells (Mia Jerome & Kevin Hunter), which you performed whilst training with Fourth Monkey. What inspired this creative challenge?

In the midst of the global pandemic, my annual stay in Belarus was prolonged. As much as I enjoyed the free time I had, I had a craving to do something creative. When I was invited to watch a rehearsal of some local theatre, I was pretty shocked to be honest. The approach wasn’t like anything I’ve seen before – it felt like the military instead of a creative process.

I then discovered that the local community didn’t believe there was any use in going to the theatre, as there was never anything interesting on. That’s when I remembered Bombshells, which I worked on during my foundation training with Fourth Monkey. I remembered how much I enjoyed creating choreography, and the thought that I could revisit that atmosphere and add my own elements gave me butterflies. That was it; I resolved to do whatever I could to give people a reason to go to the theatre. 

 

Can you tell us a little about the process behind translating and adapting the play – how did you approach this challenge and how did you ensure it would appeal to a new audience whilst staying true to the work Mia Jerome and Kevin Hunter had created?

I had a lot of help from my partner, Denis Maspan. He was my right hand throughout this process.

We spent countless evenings laughing at the ridiculous Google translation we used, however it gave us a foundation from which we would build each line in order to get the most accurate translation.

I also realised that the play needed to  be made a little longer, following feedback from audiences who saw Fourth Monkey’s version that they wanted more explanation and context. I simply needed to dive deeper into these characters. I had a lot to play with, I just needed to tell their stories. I also added a romance between two of the characters that helped convey a key message that I really wanted to translate, which was that everything is in our hands. 

Similarly, was there anything you found particularly surprising, inspiring or challenging about this process?

I had to completely change the manner in which one of the characters spoke, as it was impossible to properly translate the fact that the character was originally from Texas. A few of the character names had to be changed also. Following this process, I have either a terrible or a brilliant idea for a play!

Can you tell us a little about the process behind pitching the piece to theatres and venues, as well as how you found somewhere suitable to showcase your work? 

First of all, I went to the City Executive Committee to talk to someone who is in charge of all creative events. They explained that it would be very expensive and time-consuming with all the paper work required to rent a space and they recommended that I try to get the local town theatre, which is a government-funded organisation, to work with me.

I prepared an inspiration board and a plan of action, and laid out what my approach was. When I met with the theatre director, he was very excited about the project but explained that the theatre doesn’t have a lot of money to invest. When I informed him of the budget I had, he agreed instantly, however so that I didn’t make any rash decisions, I also called up other venues, went to a few other cities, got a lawyer and, after many months of people looking at me in total confusion and not being able to understand how I could want to invest money in something that wouldn’t pay me in the end, I made my final choice and I ultimately went with the option that was the easiest – the town theatre.

One other factor in favour of the  Town Theatre was that it was newly renovated in the 1920s style, which perfectly suited my intended play. 

What did you learn about yourself as a theatre maker and creative from this challenge? Is there anything you would change or do differently if you decided to adapt and translate another English-language piece of theatre?  

One thing that really pleasantly surprised me about myself is how fearless I was throughout this whole process – it gave me a real feeling of complete independence and control over my career and life. I was in charge of so much and only after it had all finished did I stop to think, “Wow, I did that and didn’t even question if I could or couldn’t.” I just did what had to be done. I will admit to having cried a lot (making sure that no one saw), but I cherished every moment and when I did get emotional, it was fuelled by how much I cared.

Then there’s probably the most important part that I learnt which is you can’t be friends with your actors during rehearsals. It doesn’t mean you have to be cold or unkind, but there is a line. If I was working on something like this in the future, I would definitely try to work more closely with the writers themselves if the opportunity was there.

I would also take into account the difference in culture and how that effects the language, and have more read-throughs before taking the script into the rehearsal room is essential. 

 

Finally, what advice would you give to other theatre makers and creatives who might be thinking about taking on a similar challenge and adapting an existing piece of theatre?  

Find out from the writers about how they see their work. If that isn’t an option, let your friends and family read through the script and let them tell you how they see it. Ask what genre do they think it is, as this is something that can become unclear and lost or changed in translation.

I was asked a lot about the reason why I chose to translate and adapt this particular work, so you have to be very invested. I had to have all the answers and in order to do that, you have to really like what you’re working with. 

You can learn more about Viktoria’s work as a performer and creative via her social media channels – @viktoriabrooksby on Instagram and @vikbrooksby on Twitter. 

Plus, learn more about further professional theatre making work by Bombshells creator Mia Jerome via @miajerome on Instagram!

Applications remain open for 2022 entry to CertHE Acting & Theatre Making for training in Bristol and London until the end of July, with an option to attend an in-person audition day at either one of our dedicated Centres of Excellence, The Bamboo House in Bristol or The Monkey House in London, on Saturday 9 July – click here to learn more.

Unable to join us in person but would like to be considered for foundation-level training for Autumn 2022? We also allow applicants to the CertHE to submit a self-tape audition plus join us for a virtual interview and discussion about what interests them about training with Fourth Monkey – just head to our Auditions page to learn more and apply!

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