Ella Bee Glendining
“I was born with a rare condition called Bilateral Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency which means I’m short and use a wheelchair some of the time. I’ve always loved performing, but sort of gave up in my late teens. When I was approached in the street and handed a leaflet about Total Ensemble I decided to go along to a session just to check it out and I fell in love with it.
It’s been amazing being part of something that challenges me; where everyone is equal and people aren’t fussing over me all the time and so on. Working alongside both non‐disabled and disabled people to create fantastic theatre has been an eye‐opening experience, but the thing that connects us all is our passion for performance.”
In their own words:
“Total Ensemble Theatre Company is incredibly special. It is a place where there is no competition for the limelight but where everyone is part of something much bigger and exciting!
It is a place where we celebrate each other and get to see each other flourish. Total creates a completely safe environment for creative exploration, something, I think, that is in fact quite rare.
It is safe to make mistakes at Total because we all help to keep the group on track before thinking about ourselves as individuals. Whilst it will probably sound a bit clichéd we’re a family that is constantly growing and changing in dynamic and shape; it amazes me that after just one rehearsal with a brand new member no matter how confident or not they are it will feel like they have been with us forever as afterwards you could never imagine Total without them.”
In their own words:
“Total Ensemble is the first time I’ve been involved in a theatre company which has operated without ego. This is what I have always felt theatre should be, but have never really experienced; a show that comes from the collective, and one which everyone involved felt real ownership over.
Every step of the process builds a community and one which gives space for its members to grow. It is a truly inclusive company. One in which there is joy in performance, joy in the company of each other, and joy in the work.
And it is hard work. We all learnt quickly that being a member of Total Ensemble means working hard, and that is all to the benefit of the work. It is very much a theatre company first and foremost, and the quality of the work produced is testament to that.
I came to Total Ensemble at a time when I was really losing my faith in the performing arts, and losing faith in myself as an artist. Being involved in Total Ensemble showed me time and time again why I love the world of performance. Every rehearsal was full of joy, discovery, risk, exhaustion, determination.
Everything that any rehearsal process worth its salt needs. It was a genuinely transformative experience for myself and certainly what I observed of the other members, it was transformative for them too.
It has shown me that anything is possible in the theatre and that anyone can do it. It’s not the preserve of those who have been to drama school, or even studied drama, or even the preserve of those who have performed before. In a company like Total Ensemble everyone can make high quality theatre.
Total Ensemble is unique in my experience of the world of theatre, in its aims and in its results. Unique projects need to be accessible and available, which can be made vastly easier with funding. If you’re thinking of joining all I can say is you won’t regret it.
It’s such an inspiring environment that will stretch you as a performer and as a person in all manner of challenging and exciting and extremely rewarding ways. And the feeling of performing in the environment and with the reception we got for In Love and War was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”
Caitlin McClay: founder member and cast of Prologue 2012
“Doing Prologue was incredible. It pushed you to the limits but in such a brilliant way and I know I would never have been able to do that performance a year ago! I joined Total Ensemble Theatre Company when I was 15. I was nervous. I soon realised it was a company which ensured everyone could contribute with confidence and encourage confidence in others.
Within the space of just a few rehearsals I realised the journey we had embarked on was massive and I had already learnt so much about how to be myself! Four years on and I never tire of rehearsals with Total Ensemble. There is so much to say about the impact Total has had on my life and what I can see in others’ lives as well.
One thing is there is no doubt being involved with Total Ensemble Theatre Company helped me to gain a place at (Bristol) university (2015).”