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Director Tinuke Craig: ‘As an assistant director, you’re the only person in rehearsals not doing the job you want to end up doing’

Tinuke Craig in rehearsals. Photo: Manuel Harlan Tinuke Craig. Photo: Manuel Harlan
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My first professional theatre job was as assistant director to Lisa Spirling on Lou Ramsden’s play Hundreds and Thousands at Soho Theatre in 2011. The Soho AD role was supported by the Carne Trust, which was also a patron of LAMDA, where I’d done my director training, so the opportunity was offered to LAMDA graduates. I sent an application to Lisa and to Claire Birch, who was co-producing for English Touring Theatre. I was interviewed by Lisa; I’d read the play and we talked about my response to it and a bit about myself. Being an assistant director is very much about the relationship with the director – is this someone you can be open and honest with?

I was thrilled to be in my first paid theatre job and in a rehearsal room with professional actors with a huge amount of experience in theatre and TV. Lisa was brilliantly generous and made me feel I could really contribute. It helped that she’d graduated a couple of years ahead of me, so there wasn’t a huge age gap.

I’d never been an AD before, but I was more excited than nervous. Assistant-directing is quite weird because you’re the only person in the rehearsal room not doing the job you ultimately want to end up doing. You have to work out how you can be useful and valuable.

Looking back, I could have been a bit more front-footed and confident. Although you’re always learning, you need to bring flair to it as well. I learned that to be a director, you don’t need to become stern and dictatorial. You can be kind and supportive, open and reassuring.

The best advice I can give an assistant director is to be upfront and ask the director what they need from you. Have the confidence to put yourself out there for whoever might find your services helpful.

CV: Tinuke Craig

Age: 31
Training: LAMDA
Theatre includes: I Call My Brothers (Gate Theatre), Dirty Butterfly (Young Vic). As assistant/associate director: Wonder.land (National Theatre), Hamlet and All’s Well That Ends Well (Royal Shakespeare Company),  The Changeling (Young Vic)
Other credits: Winner of the 2014 Genesis Future Directors Award; associate director, Gate Theatre, 2015-2016; regular director at Mountview, RADA and LAMDA
Agent: None

Tinuke Craig directs Random/Generations at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre, May 4 to June 2. She was talking to John Byrne

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