In 2013, I directed Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down by Richard Cameron for York Theatre Royal, where I had been working for four years as a box-office casual. Alongside that job, I read scripts for the theatre and shadowed their artistic and associate directors on shows. The theatre was planning a Yorkshire-themed season and I was offered the chance to direct the studio slot. I was extremely nervous –after all, I had accrued nearly all my working knowledge to date in that building and I cared vehemently about it (and still do).
To be given the responsibility of creating a piece of work under the York Theatre Royal name was a weighty gift. I was so determined to do right by everyone, especially the staff and artistic community there. How did I cope? Through a combination of being blessed with a superb cast, a really supportive creative team and appropriate mentoring. Bad country music helped me a lot, too.
Looking back, I can think of several things I might do differently now. For instance, I should have typed out my own script as a Word document. It’s so much easier to annotate that way. I also wish I’d had a movement director in the room with me for the full process. They are extremely useful people. I certainly learned that actors are cleverer than directors and that kindness and love are the basis for all good work. All we are doing, as directors, actors or other creatives, is investigating social interaction. If we cannot interact socially, pleasantly, within a rehearsal room, we shouldn’t be making theatre at all.
Speaking of interaction, I always advise finding the right examples to follow when you start out. These should be people who validate your personality and who don’t try to define you by seeing only big, shiny statistics and boxes to tick. Learn from as many people you like but don’t compare yourself to anybody else. Most of all, laugh a lot, don’t be a wally and always be kind.
Training: Bretton Hall College; National Theatre Directors Course
Theatre includes: Swallows and Amazons (co-directed with Damian Cruden, York Theatre Royal), Soldiering On (Leeds Playhouse), Winter (Young Vic)
Agent: Giles Smart at United Agents