Tuesday, 12 February 2013

46 Plays in 46 Days

I have a mad idea. Having neglected a lot of my reading over the past six months because of distractions ranging from 'I'm actually directing a play', 'I'm doing an internship' and 'I have family stuff going on', I've decided to take the bull by the horns (as it were) and do Extreme Play Reading in a bid to catch up. And who knows? Maybe get inspired. 

Using the handily timely Lent period as a framework, I've decided to read 46 plays in 46 days. Now ideally this would be a play a day, but as I'm directing An Act of Twisting at the moment, and will start a contract up in Carlisle before Easter arrives, I do predict a few weekends of non-stop catch-up reading. But the goal is there: one play a day. I already have a stack sorted - accumulated variously from hand-me-downs, recommendations, being a subscriber for a year to the Royal Court and being trigger happy at script-sales. They range from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Ella Hickson, and vary in length. 

As much as possible I'll try to update this blog with my progress, and possibly my thoughts about the plays. If there are enough hours in the day ;-)

Anyone else feel like joining me?

Monday, 24 September 2012


Question. At what point do you stop creating, and accept that a work is "finished"?

A bit of context: I'm working on a play that is created from about ten different drafts written by the original playwright over forty years ago (and who is, sadly, no longer with us). It's not that different from working on a brand new play, with re-writes happening on a fairly regular basis. This is tricky for the actors (and, in some cases, the production team when key design/atmosphere/costume factors are affected) as entire passages that have already been learnt are suddenly disrupted by the addition or subtraction of a line or two (or, indeed, full speeches).

There are famous incidences of productions running in 'preview' for months before they officially open - using an audience's response to help mold the show until it is locked down. And some plays are such classics you know the script will not change from day one.

Now, the obvious answer to my original question is that you never truly stop creating - that's the magic of live performance, that it is re-created every night and can never be the same. As such I'm not sure it is possible to have a "finished" live performance. But when that live performance relies on the confidence and skill of performers and technicians, at some point you do have to say 'this is it', 'this is what we're going with'. So, when?

Or is the work never done?

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Another year, another post...

One year on, and it's fascinating to look back through my previous posts. The good news is I am still Directing, and it's been a VERY busy year. This doesn't equate to a healthy bank balance, but one step at a time. In no particular order (although a vague attempt at being chronological), here's what I've been up to:

1. The Importance of Being Earnest - very well-received and we considered touring it but lack the logistical and financial support so that idea was binned. Great reviews, including my first 5-star critique, from WhatsOnStage.

2. Joined the Rondo Theatre as its first resident Directing Intern. This is a part-paid position that involves learning all the aspects of running a receiving fringe theatre - from contracts to programming to bar-work. I still have three months left (my term is up in December), and I think I can safely say that being there, meeting the visiting companies, and being able to talk in-depth one-to-one with my employer and mentor Ian McGlynn (the Artistic Director) has had a big influence in not only what I want to direct, but how I want to present myself in the industry and the power of new writing.

3. I have so far, in 2012, directed three productions, with a fourth on the way. First us was a new writing event called 'Alliance', which was a huge challenge as I was effectively producing as well as directing, as my first big task at the Rondo. It was a pretty stressful rehearsal period, and the importance of casting was very acutely demonstrated - good and bad. (oh for a decent budget!). Then there was 'Fertility Objects' by Alison Farina - a great little show about infertility. A lovely company and a successful production. Finally, most recently, was the biggie: my first ever attempt at the Edinburgh Fringe. More on that later....

4. I am currently working in Bolton, at the Octagon, back in the role of Assistant Director. It's really interesting to go back to, largely, observing in a rehearsal room. It's great to watch everyone working, although I do worry that I'm not doing enough (but then, I'm used to running everything!). 

I'm in Bolton for another three weeks, then back to the South West for a brief break before leaping into 'Product Displacement' at the Rondo. 

More soon :-) 

Sunday, 4 September 2011

This is not a rehearsal.

Hello. I am alive, I promise, even though my current levels of blogging (very little) might suggest I had fallen into a deep hole in the pavement.

But no! I am very much still here, if lacking in internet-appropriate, witty, insightful writing about the life of a wannabe-Theatre Director. Don't get me wrong, I've had several ideas for posts, including: Censorship, How to Deal With Rejection, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (a major reason for lack of blog), Social Conditioning, Theatre Politics and Gorillas. No, really - Bristol currently has a Gorilla-themed art festival whereby 60 life-size gorilla statues have been painted by different artists and placed in strategic places around the city. But, demonstrably, have not brought them to the internets.

Anyhoo. I may well post about the above in more depth in a later post, but I begin rehearsals tomorrow for 'The Importance of Being Earnest' so should probably go and make sure I have clean clothes, pack my script and avoid having a breakdown from first-day-at-school nerves. In truth I'm massively excited - the rehearsal room is where I have the most fun - but it's the first time the entire team will be together, and we get to see the beast for what it is. Including running length. Hoorah.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Young Vic Genesis Network

You can tell when I should be doing other work - I blog more. Anyhoo.

The Young Vic Genesis Network is pretty much the only such network dedicated to linking aspiring and established directors in this country. Possibly the world? It's a fantastic resource - with links to over 700 directors, regular updates about different opportunities from assisting on productions, attending workshops and talks, getting free tickets/ticket offers and much more. It also allows its members to send blanket emails to the entire network asking for support or advice, publicising your work, or anything else really.

When you become a member you get to create a profile - a bit like Facebook but without a 'wall'. There's a section for including information about past and present projects, put in requests for staff etc. And there's the 'about me' bit. It's a bit like writing a dating advert, I think. Because, I found out recently, there are actually people in the industry who take it upon themselves to wade through our profiles and actually read them with a view to possibly employing us. Yay. And yet, how best, then, to present oneself? Here's where I am: http://directors.youngvic.org/index.php?pid=25H&E&A&H&J&O&P&&page=H&

Perusing through others' profiles there is a variation on length, how much past experience is included, whether a person has trained, what they're interested in etc. Some are chatty and done in the first person, others are strictly no-nonsense 3rd person pieces. But what is apparent is not only the amount of competition out there, but that there are people with amazing credits on their CV, people who have been on the National Theatre's Studio course (a bit of a holy grail for us lesser mortals down the rungs), who have worked at incredible theatres as both directors and assistants. But we're all in the same network.

In a way, while we're all in competition, we're also all part of a team. Team Director.

Go Team!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Challenges Associated with Fringe Producing

1. You are not the priority - if a better option comes along (read: better paycheck) then you will be dropped quicker than you can blink. This is not personal, this is business. The danger is the timing of this.

2. Your network will be small. Attracting funding is hard, and reaching an audience as a small company is harder - especially if you are independent and not creating work as part of a theatre's official programme.

3. Very often you have a much smaller company of people than a production may realistically require. Actors have to double as stage hands, the crew have to multi-task in extreme ways, and everything has to happen on a tighter, shorter and cheaper schedule.

4. Every success is an extraordinary achievement. Every failure is the end of the world. Emotions run high. This holds true for all types of show though.

5. An extraordinary amount of work goes into what may ultimately be a very short run. And then it's all over.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

On the Nature of Dreams

In today's edition of The Stage, Danny Lee Wynter has written an article on his experiences with the fickle nature of the arts industry. Where one minute you are loved, with your pick of jobs, and everyone knows who you are. The next you are back waiting tables, wondering how you got there. In the same edition it is reported that 'UK theatre is hotbed for bullying'.

So far, so shattered dreams of an industry built on the magic of performance etc. Well. Actually, is anyone really surprised?

The arts industry is so notoriously over-subscribed that it's gone beyond the point of cliche to say so. I have friends, fantastic performers, techies and other arts professionals who haven't worked on a single show since graduating. Now, granted it's only been a year, but there are people who train for years who just never work. Given the difficulties inherent in mounting productions - from raising the revenue to put the show on, to cultivating an audience, to solving all the little niggles and larger problems associated with co-ordinating a large number of people through different tasks like construction, rehearsals, and marketing - it is sometimes a wonder that any of them happen at all.

It seems to me that those people who "succeed" (and the definition of success in the arts industry is necessarily flexible) are those who are utterly tenacious. Those who believe that things will get better, regardless of how bad they are now. And similarly those who maximise the good times, in the knowledge that it could all disappear overnight. But most importantly, to get anywhere, people have to know who you are. So, very often, shamlessness can get you very far.

Looking at it another way, we're all mad.