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Director Richard Fitch: ‘Every director is a geek at heart and they love talking about theatre’

Richard Fitch Richard Fitch

With credits including the UK tour of Funny Girl and The Importance of Being Ernest at Theatr Clwyd, Richard Fitch’s most recent show is Ruthless! The Musical at London’s Arts Theatre. He tells Giverny Masso why he switched from actor to director…

How did you get into theatre?

I always wanted to be an actor. I was very clear about that from the get-go. I auditioned for drama school and did a diploma at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts before a three-year acting degree. About halfway through, I realised I wanted to direct.

Why did you want to direct?

I chose to do a 10-week module on directing. At the time, I didn’t really know what a director did other than sitting at the front of a rehearsal room. I heard that it was the hardest module and I wanted to challenge myself. I ended up assisting on shows while doing my acting training at the same time. I knew I wanted to direct by the time I left drama school. I was often told: “You won’t choose it; it will choose you.” I was fortunate to get an assistant director job at the Bush Theatre in London straight after I left drama school.

What have been your career highlights so far?

I try to make something out of every opportunity, but some of the pegs in the map leading to where I am now include spending 18 months working with Jamie Lloyd. I was an associate and we did five shows including Urinetown and Assassins. Another step up was directing Funny Girl on tour after being the associate in London.

How do you approach a new show?

For me, a lot of directing is about people-managing. Every job is different, and every context of every show is different. My methodology is to not have one. The minute you start to hone one thing in particular, this can shut out other ideas. I always say to everyone: “Don’t come as an empty vessel.” It’s good to have lots of different ideas in the room.

What was it like directing Ruthless! The Musical?

The logic of the show is that there is no logic. It is cartoony and full of musical theatre references. My perception is that it is set in an America that we don’t know yet, but we will know soon. This gave us licence to set it in a sort of alternative universe. I’m so happy with how it went. Everyone who has come to see it has been so lovely.

What is your advice for aspiring directors?

Watch as much stuff as you can. Don’t ever use expensive ticket prices as an excuse: you can find things for free or cheap. Also, lots of directors don’t get written to. The cast gets inundated and people forget that being a director can be lonely. So just write to ask if they’ve got 15 minutes and offer to  buy them a coffee. I was once given the best piece of advice: “It’s harder for someone to say no to a coffee than to a job.” Every director is a geek at heart and they love talking about theatre until the cows come home.

CV: Richard Fitch

Training: BA in acting, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (2007-10)
First professional role:  Assistant director in The Machine Gunners at London’s Polka Theatre (2011)
Agent: Michael Grandage Company

Ruthless! The Musical runs at London’s Arts Theatre until June 23

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