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Director Paulette Randall: ‘My first job taught me to absorb as many experiences as possible’

Paulette Randall. Photo: Kim Hardy Paulette Randall. Photo: Kim Hardy
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My first job came about because in my final year at drama school I wrote a play called Fishing. I hadn’t set out to be a playwright – at the time I was working towards being an actor. The piece just came into my head based on a conversation I was having with a friend at the time about complicated relationships.

Once I’d written it, I thought I had better do something with it. I entered it for a writing festival at London’s Royal Court and an extract was staged there, directed by Danny Boyle. Watching the play come together during rehearsals, I thought, ‘Directing looks like fun.’ I applied to the Arts Council for a bursary and ended up as trainee director at the Royal Court.

That was an amazing experience. I got to see so many different directors at work, and take in a wide range of plays ranging from cutting-edge and modern productions to period pieces. I made it my business to soak up absolutely everything – not just the directing, but costumes, lighting, the lot.

That’s my advice to any director starting out today: absorb as many different experiences both in and outside theatre as you can. A career in this industry can be an up-and-down one, and things may not always go the way, or at the pace, you expect. But if you are open to learning from every experience, you can keep the positives and let the rest go.

The other big lesson I learned at the Royal Court, which I still draw on today, was how to listen. As a director, the ultimate decisions on a production are down to you, but everybody has something to bring to the show. The better you listen, the more you will be able to bring out the best of the team. When I’m working with aspiring directors and writers I always encourage them to keep pushing and experimenting. By far the best part of my job is when I see somebody’s eyes light up as they suddenly realise they can achieve something beyond what they thought they could before.

CV: Paulette Randall

Age: 57
Training: Rose Bruford

Theatre includes: Fences, Urban Afro Saxons, Blues for Mr Charlie, Gem of the Ocean, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune
TV includes: Desmond’s, The Real McCoy, Casualty, Holby City, The Crouches
Other credits: Associate director of the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony; awarded MBE for services to drama
Agent: Lee Morgan

Paulette Randall was talking to John Byrne