How did you start off in theatre?
I went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when I was 14 and wanted to know how they made the car fly. I started doing backstage stuff on school plays and loved it. I joined the National Youth Theatre when I was 18. There, I discovered what a director does, and I’ve never looked back.
What is your best advice for students today?
For every lunch break you spend discussing agents and castings, spend three talking about your craft.
What would you change about UK training?
One student’s passion for Marvel movies should be respected and valued as much as another’s love for Shakespeare. Institutions are gradually becoming more representative, but they need to do more to embrace the tastes, cultures and heritages of their students. The average British theatregoer is 52 years old and white. I’d like to see more drama schools doing something about that by forging progressive curriculums that train actors as creative artists.
What is the best part of your job?
I love projects that demand impossible things; plays that demand theatricality and expressive ideas. When working in a good training environment, it feels like anything is possible.
And your least favourite?
Theatre is time and money poor. This can result in a conservatism within big institutions. Encouraging a bravery that matches that of the actors can be exhausting, but it’s incredibly rewarding when the work becomes all the more extraordinary as a result.
Which practitioners do you admire most?
Anne Bogart’s practice is a big influence, the movies of the Coen Brothers make me want to tell stories and, if you’ve ever been bored at the theatre, you should read John McGrath’s book A Good Night Out and he’ll explain why.
What one skill should every successful theatre professional have?
What mantra would you plaster on every rehearsal room wall?
There’s no such thing as right and wrong, just interesting and less interesting.
Andrew Whyment, who also works as a freelance director, was talking to John Byrne