Feature: Introducing Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective

It’s a tough theatrical climate we live in. We’re caught up in a mish-mash of written plays, devised work, musicals and everything else that crosses over into just about every genre and style you can possibly think of. As a result, coming out of Drama School or University into this tumultuous industry can be terrifying, so it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to do when you graduate.

Newly-formed Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective are ready to brave this tough outlook. Comprised of a bunch of graduates from the University of York’s Writing, Directing and Performance, the group have already gained a prestigious York Performance Award and staged a show by Departmental Theatre Society Platform. I sat down with Artistic Director Lauren Moakes to find out more about this eclectic new Theatre Collective.

AB: A few weeks ago, you launched the Collective at The Fleeting Arms in York. Could you tell readers more about this?

LM: Yes! We took over The Fleeting Arms all day for workshops, discussion, live theatre, philosophy and wine. We really wanted to do something in the city where we all met and made work together for the past three years. We led a (very sweaty) workshop in the morning, followed by two fantastic discussions on consciousness and emotions with philosophers Dorothea Debus and Helen Yetter-Chappell. In the evening, we showed a snippet of the new devised show we’re developing: A Matter of Love. We had some fantastic feedback in the post-show Q&A and it was amazing to see The Fleeting Arms’ theatre so full!

AB: What makes your theatre different?

LM: I suppose it’s different because we integrate philosophy and science into our work. Honestly, we are theatre makers and aren’t specialists in either, but it means we learn as we go along and it keeps everything exciting! We’re collaborating, and unlocking questions that affect us all as bizarre human beings, such as ‘Why do we love?’ and ‘How do we create a sense of self?’

But above all, it’s very physical. Every performance interrogates body language and how people physically express themselves. We also have an incredible multimedia team so you will see elements of film and an original music score in our shows.

AB: It sounds like you’re very much concerned with marrying science and theatre together. Did this come entirely from On Ego by Mick Gordon?

LM: In all honesty, yes. Jason Ryall, our Associate Director/Producer, came to me in early 2015 when pitching On Ego to TFTV’s Platform Theatre Society. He gave me the play, with an insane description of teleportation that blew my mind and I brushed off because well… science. But here we are coming to the end of 2015 and I am forever indebted to Jason for proving me wrong. It’s science, but it’s beautiful. For me, On Ego is about relationships and the science is a tool to dig deep and get to the heart of them. Thank you Mick Gordon because science and theatre… it’s good.

AB: Do you think audiences will find your work relevant?

LM: Absolutely. Our work is based on topics that everyone can think about, feel and discuss. As long as you’re a human being you’ll take something away from our shows!

AB: Awesome. So how do you go about devising your work?

LM: We spend a lot of hours in a room laughing, crying, scribbling and being told to move our bodies by Movement Director Amy. For this project I started by asking the whole Collective – we start the process with everybody involved, not just the actors and directors – ‘what feelings or human relationships would you like to see on stage?’ And that was it; we didn’t leave the room for eight hours. We watched videos, listened to music and started with movement. What we like, we write down, and then everyone goes away and writes and designs based on what was created in that empty space. Scott, our composer, adds to the pot whilst it’s cooking, and we use as little props as possible. Nothing added or extra. In terms of design, it has to be needed.

AB: This all sounds pretty interesting. Lastly, what do audiences have to look forward to?

LM: In 2016 we release our new programme of work. 15 -17 January A Matter of Love is at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. It’s a work in progress performance as the show continues to develop. Then A Matter of Love and On Ego will be at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington every Sunday and Monday of February. It’s an exciting start to the new year and we can’t wait to share it with people!

Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective