Frantic Assembly’s The Unreturning marks the tenth anniversary of the company’s award-winning Ignition training programme.
All four members of the cast were part of the Ignition programme before they went on to train professionally and pursue acting careers – a programme performer Jared Garfield was delighted to be part of.
He joined it for its second year; now he is finally making his full-production debut with the company as it heads to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre (February 5-9).
The work is set in British northern coastal town. Three young men are coming home from war. Their stories, set at different times over the past 100 years, are interwoven in a new play featuring Frantic’s celebrated physicality.
For Jared, though, it’s a story which started is 2009 when he became involved with Ignition: “I believe I was in the second year of the programme. I heard about it through a family friend of my mum who did some work at the National Theatre for the education side of things. She told my mum about it. At the time I was doing a bit of acting and a bit of movement, and she heard about this and thought of me. I was 17 at the time.”
Ignition is Frantic Assembly’s free, national training programme for young men aged 16-20. The programme seeks out talent in unexpected places, from sports groups to youth centres, and is committed to helping young men find their individual and collective strength.
“I went along to a taster session and at the end of the session they told us about the programme called Ignition and said we could audition if we wanted. They went through a lot of different exercises and techniques to devise work. I went and auditioned shortly afterwards and was accepted and it was great. I went on the course. It was really good. It was a weeklong course. We spent Monday to Friday preparing for the show on the Friday. We developed a show in a week, but really it was pretty much four days because on the fifth day we were tech’ing and getting ready. It was very intense. By the end of it, you really felt that you had done a whole term’s work.
“By the end of the week, I couldn’t believe what we had achieved. You learn the right mechanisms, but you also learn the process and you learn that you can create work quickly, that you can actually produce really good work quickly. They teach you to have the courage not to overthink things, just to dive in. In any creative process, we all have the tendency to overthink, to worry but really you just need to trust the process – and that is what they teach you to do.”
Lessons which have stood him in good stead in his career since – and lessons which he has put to good use again in devising the new show, his first full production with the company.
“The idea was to create a piece that explored what it was to return home having experienced something away from home. It stemmed from the Ignition process really, how an experience like that really does change you… though obviously the show takes it to an extreme.
“I am playing George who is returning home from the First World War. He has come back with shell shock, what we would now understand as PTSD. He has returned to a climate that doesn’t really understand or has never really experienced that kind of suffering. They don’t know how to deal with it. No one knows. The families don’t know. A lot of the medical people haven’t been trained to understand it.”