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A day of feeling... by Hollie Fabola

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Gently wander through a day at a Both Feet actor training retreat.

"Imagine waking up at the break of dawn. You connect with a handful of like-minded individuals and walk along quiet country roads in North Wales."

Imagine waking up at the break of dawn. You connect with a handful of like-minded individuals and walk along quiet country roads in North Wales. The vicinity is serene, so peaceful that you can hear the birds singing. You take in the views of the horizon as the golden sun rises in the distance, and you feel the cool breeze on your skin as you breathe in the green-scented air.

The path you're on leads to the stream, and you're ready to go wild swimming because, underneath your walking clothes, your swimsuit is at the ready. You test the waters with the tip of your toe. It is cold to the touch at first. You put one foot in front of the other until you're in it waist down. The water ripples around you, shocking your system awake and relaxing you in equal measure. You breathe in and out, and with each breath, you let go of whatever you’re holding on to. In no time, you find that the water is just the right temperature. You flap your feet and put one arm in front of the other, and you find yourself enjoying your morning swim. You step out of the stream to dry yourself and feel nothing but peace, tranquillity and resolve, ready to take on the day.

You break bread and drink your beverage of choice, and you connect with others like you at the coffee table. You might be hundreds of miles from home, but you've never felt more at peace and in place as you do now. You feel like you’re part of a special community. This is your shared space, and you work together to maintain its sanctity, building lasting bonds and relationships with each other in the process.

The bonds you build and the relationships you make are truly long-lasting. You know this because you’ve been here before. This isn’t your first time at this table. This isn’t your first time at this retreat. Steph and Both Feet came highly recommended back in 2019, so you took the plunge and booked onto the Manchester introductory and core courses in 2020. The pandemic might have derailed the plans for the courses that year, but it didn’t deter you, and you found your way back for the 2-day introductory course in April 2021. You couldn’t get enough of Both Feet, so that October, you spent more than a week in North Wales on the Intro to Meisner retreat. 2022 and the first half of 2023 were much of the same. You came back for actors' stretches and voice retreats. Here you are, once again on the showreel retreat.

This is why you know without a shadow of a doubt that there’s no one you’d rather work with than Steph on honing the Meisner technique. Judging by the returning faces you see at this breakfast table, you know that you’re not alone. Others think highly of her and this retreat too, and the bonds you’ve built with them over time continue to foster closer working relationships in the training studio.

With breakfast eaten and the dishes washed and dried, your morning routine is complete, and you know you have this to look forward to tomorrow morning, and the morning after that, and perhaps the morning after that.

After breakfast, you get to work. It might be a session on the nitty gritty of the Meisner technique, or on an array of subjects like self-taping, auditioning, or transferring from stage to screen. It might be a 101-style introductory course for beginners or an advanced course that entails putting into practice what you’ve learned in previous sessions or retreats. Either way, you’ll learn how to tap into the depth and breadth of your human experience to enrich your acting. But it won’t just be any old learning experience. It’ll be a fun, learning experience that’s guaranteed to change not just your acting, but your life. You find that Steph has a magical way of holding the space in these sessions and imparting knowledge so that what you learn is applicable not just in the world of acting, but in everyday life.

You break for lunch to energise your body and calm your mind, and you spend the afternoon honing your newly-acquired skills. With more sessions like this, you find that you begin to trust yourself to do things you previously thought were out of your reach. You begin to unlock your potential and uncover buried abilities that you didn’t know were there all along, like the confidence in improvising and acting out a comedy scene, which you once considered unthinkable.

As the day goes on you find that the safe space allows you to be vulnerable, and it makes you feel more powerful than ever. You shed tears and air out your deepest fears, and it makes you feel so light that you float on air. Your head is clear, your mind is still, and your body is calm so that your resting heart rate goes as low as that of an Olympic swimmer, or so it feels.

You blink twice and it's evening. The sun is setting, the day is nearly over, time has flown just like that. You realise it's true what they say. Time really does fly when you're having fun, or when you're feeding your soul with what you need. And as Steph is always on hand to remind you, the sessions and retreats are always about what you need.

The day's sessions might be over, but no matter. You've got more communing and dining to look forward to. The dinner you’re eating is the result of a collective cooking effort, and after eating, you’ll all chip in to wash up and tidy up together. As you share a meal, you reflect on the day's activities. You're amazed and impressed with yourself, with how vulnerable you've allowed yourself to be. You're even more amazed at the feelings that the others at the table share. You realise you're in a safe space, a supportive environment, a judgement-free zone. You realise that the indoor-outdoor approach to training is revolutionary and works so well. The morning’s wild swimming might have been enjoyable in itself, but now, with a full day of sessions behind you, you see how approaching it as a communal activity and a bonding exercise helped you to get the best out of each other in the studio. And conversely, you know that you can take what you’ve learnt in the studio today and put them into practice when you start the day outdoors tomorrow.

As you carry on after dark, you realise you don't want the night to end, but you know that when it does, you have a good night's rest to look forward to, a time to rest and recharge and dream, until you're transported to tomorrow morning, when you'll get to do it all over again.


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