It’s almost 10 years since I moved from acting to directing. My first acting job was in a Spanish classical play called La Celestina (by Fernando de Rojas) for Actors Touring Company. I auditioned, but had already worked with the director in my final play as a student at RADA so I felt less pressure in the audition to prove myself.
As I discovered later, so many jobs come from people you have worked with or auditioned for previously, so it is really important not to write anything off. Make the most of any project and strive to be well prepared, enthusiastic, flexible, reliable and good humoured. Having a negative attitude or being difficult is just going to get you passed over. This is something I learned the hard way. Most directors want an easy life as much as anyone else. Aside from repeat custom, my work opportunities as an actor came mainly through agents, especially at the start.
When I moved into directing, I found the situation was totally different. Most of my early opportunities came through writing to people myself or putting on shows.
My first directing job was staging a variety of opera scenes at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, but it’s hard to define as many teaching projects I was doing involved directing too. In retrospect, the scale of an opportunity can bear little relation to its particular challenges, what skills it can develop, or, indeed, what it can lead to.
It was when I moved over into directing that I saw things from the other side – how several people auditioning for a job may have been great but some other factor was the final decider. Remembering how often I had taken rejection very personally as an actor at the beginning, I wish I’d known back then that automatically assuming you have done badly isn’t always the right conclusion to jump to when you don’t get the part.
Theatre includes: Remembrance of Things Past (National Theatre), Macbeth (Barbican Theatre) and As You Like It (RSC) As director: Therese Raquin, A Bright Room Called Day (Southwark Playhouse), Dido and Aeneas (English Touring Opera)
TV and film include: Dalziel and Pascoe (TV series), Swimming Pool and Carrington
Seb Harcombe is directing English Touring Opera’s Dido and Aeneas at Snape Maltings on November 3. He was talking to John Byrne