My first job in theatre was as a trainee resident director at the King’s Head in London. It was advertised openly on its website, with a lot of information, which was great, as some early stage-directing opportunities seemed less transparent and so less accessible.
I was interviewed in the pub downstairs, and remember feeling very inspired – thinking and talking about why I wanted to direct and what I loved about theatre. The position involved working on a production as assistant producer and, once we got closer to rehearsals, assistant director. I felt very lucky the production I was paired with was a new version of Monteverdi’s The Coronation of Poppea, with a new libretto by Mark Ravenhill, who was also directing it.
I’d never had any real experience of opera and was a bit nervous about meeting Mark, but we went for a cup of tea, and I was struck by his openness, interest and generosity. It was really relaxed. I enjoyed the responsibility I was given as the run went on. I was made associate director when understudies were brought in and co-led castings, along with the musical director, rehearsing the performers in, and directing them in an understudy run – a brilliant opportunity – especially on a first job.
The company was amazing – talented, committed, spirited. I learned a huge amount and laughed a lot. Alongside immersing myself – from line-learning support to hair-drying shoes – I found it fascinating and exciting looking at the original libretto, and the words Mark had written for this new version. I can trace my love of new writing and a discovery of language back to this first job. I’m so glad I threw myself in completely, and would give this advice to anyone: do everything, focus on the work – not where it will get you – and enjoy every minute.
Training: as a theatre director with Sam Kogan
Theatre director credits: Skin and Blister (Old Vic 12, Old Vic), Apologia (English Theatre Frankfurt), We Too Are Giants (Kiln Theatre), The Dark Room (Theatre503). New plays/projects for RSC, Arcola, Finborough, Soho, National Theatre
Associate/assistant theatre director credits: with Patrick Marber, Ian Rickson, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Rupert Goold, Carrie Cracknell, Clare Lizzimore, Mark Ravenhill, Elizabeth LeCompte
Other credits: Old Vic 12 Director 2019; MGCfutures 2019-20 bursary recipient; nominated for Arts Foundation Award 2018; finalist best director Off-West End Awards 2017-18 (The Dark Room, Theatre503)
Agent: Giles Smart, United Agents
Audrey Sheffield was talking to John Byrne