Fourth Monkey expands to Bristol  

“Fourth Monkey has always pushed the boundaries to make training more inclusive and accessible,” says Steve Green who founded the training company in 2010 as an alternative to traditional conservatoire training. “The decision to offer our one-year Certificate in Higher Education (Acting and Theatre Making) in Bristol from this autumn is part of that.”

Steve is excited about the location in Bristol too. “We shall be based at Screenology, a Bristol-based production and training institute. It’s in a lively and diverse culture hub in the St Paul’s area.”

The new qualification is, like Fourth Monkey’s BA degree, to be accredited by Falmouth University. It is effectively a foundation course. “We really wanted to decentralise the London bubble a bit and it seems especially timely now in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

So why Bristol? “There was a sort of gravitational pull,” chuckles Steve telling me that he originally came from the south west himself. Charleen Qwaye, Fourth Monkey’s Director of Training and Head of Acting and Courses, has worked at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. And the company has led many outreach workshops in the area, so there’s a strong local network of practitioners. “The whole point is that we want to help students find a pathway to, and through, training – on their own doorstep.”

Steve has observed that many students are very unsure of what they might do with their lives when they’re only 17 or 18 so this course, which has 30 places, might be a bridge or a way of finding out what you really want to do (or not do) in the future. “We have some acceptances already but there are still places available and a few more audition days to come,” says Steve.

There is obvious scope for building on this in other directions if the venture is successful and I ask Steve about that. “Yes, there are lots of potential theatre making partnerships in Bristol and we might run an MA there at some point in the future.” And of course, there’s a definite twinkle in Steve’s eye when I point out that there are plenty of other areas which could benefit from a Fourth Monkey presence. He tells me he’s already in discussions regarding the possibility of opening and running a course in another English city a long way from London. “But we’ll see how this one works out first” he says cautiously.

Generally, back in London – despite all the logistical, financial and reputational problems many drama schools have struggled with during the pandemic – Fourth Monkey seems to be in a pretty healthy state. “We’ve worked hard to make our audition process very inclusive,” says Steve who promises that whatever the outcome students will have a good and useful day. “The early rounds are online which is so much better than self-taping and it’s all free. So word has spread.”

He adds: “Of course the accreditation of our degree course has really helped to make us seem more viable and this year our audition process is full so we’re feeling very positive. The acceptance rate is really high.”

That has meant that Steve and his colleagues have further developed The Monkey House. That’s the building near Finsbury Park in Islington which the company established as its headquarters from what was once a workhouse, having occupied a couple of other spaces in the early years. “We started here with six studios, then made it seven and we now have nine” says Steve who says there is scope for two more.” 

In addition to its “Year of the Monkey”, two-year rep company and three-year degree course – through which some students move sequentially – Fourth Monkey now offers an MA in collaborative theatre. The company has come a long way since I first met and talked to Steve back in 2011 when his small cohort of students were taught in hired rooms in a couple of buildings that you had to walk between. Or a few years later when they were squeezed into Jackson’s Lane working round other projects and events there. As Steve says himself, and I don’t think he just meant picking a path through a pandemic: “It’s astonishing what you can do.”