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Chris Hislop On ... 'Year of the Monkey', The Return of Rep?

Fourth Monkey Theatre Company exist to offer challenging theatre experiences for both performers and audiences with a specific emphasis on offering opportunities to those at the early stages of their professional careers.

The company now embark on "The Year of the Monkey", a season billed as an "evolutionary rep theatre" which will form a year-long training course for 54 young actors. The year kicks off this month with three productions playing in rep at Camden's Theatro Technis and continues early next year before an ambitious schedule at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe.

Fourth Monkey's Chris Hislop tells us a little bit more about the programme and what to expect from the intrepid Fourth Monkey in the not-too-distant future.

With foundation courses at drama schools becoming increasingly competitive, Fourth Monkey Theatre Company is offering another alternative to actors in need of training: "Year of the Monkey", a combined training programme and repertory company.

Fifty-four young actors (all 18-30 years old) will receive a year's worth of part-time training, as well as perform in 12 theatre productions in both London and Edinburgh – the first season of which is upon us.

"'Year of the Monkey' is unique. It is what can only be described as London's most vibrant contemporary repertory company," says Kerrie Mailey, casting director of 2010 Matthew Vaughn feature Kick-Ass, which rings particularly true considering the decline of rep theatre – once the training ground of the up-and-coming stars, now considered a bit of a relic.

Fourth Monkey, fresh from a critically-acclaimed production of A Clockwork Orange with their young company are reinvigorating repertory theatre with a much needed kick of pizazz and fervour. "Year of the Monkey" project may be the first in a new style of theatre training programme. Steve Green, Fourth Monkey's artistic director, describes the project as "bold and mad, but brilliant because of the insanity" - and the energy this company is exuding is certainly a little infectious!

The first season of three plays in "Year of the Monkey" open in October at Theatro Technis in Camden, and combines Fourth Monkey's existing reputation for "electric, seat gripping and eye flinching" theatre with their large company of young actors and three established directors: Hannah Kaye at the helm of Bertholt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, I take on Timberlake Wertenbaker's The Love of the Nightingale and Natalie Katsou directing Sophocles' Antigone. All shows will run in repertory through October.

The next season of three plays will be running in February and March 2012, and the "Year of the Monkey" will go out on a high with six new shows (including pieces of new writing) at next year's Edinburgh Fringe – bold training indeed for the young actors on the course!

While the argument rages about whether training for actors should be classroom or experience based, Fourth Monkey is combining the two into an all-round training course that promises to be a fantastic experience for everyone involved, as well as creating highly entertaining theatre.

Fourth Monkey's "Year of the Monkey" kicked off with The Threepenny Opera from 5 to 22 October, followed by The Love of the Nightingale from 8 to 23 October and Antigone from 15 to 23 October. All three shows play in rep at Camden's Theatro Technis. Tickets are available at WeGotTickets.


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