A lack of clarity around the role of assistant directors and too much focus on early-career artists are among the barriers facing Wales-based directors, a new report has found.
The study, called Forever Emerging? A Report into Directing for the Stage in Wales, is written by Wales-based directors Simon Harris and Bridget Keehan, and was commissioned by Stage Directors UK and Arts Council of Wales.
The purpose of the research was to "provide a picture of current opportunities for stage directors in Wales and to find out if there are ways resources can be better utilised to help build sustainable careers".
It has been compiled using the findings of an online survey of 76 directors as well as meetings with Arts Portfolio Wales organisations and focus groups, which took place before the closure of theatres due to Covid-19.
Key recommendations for the Welsh theatre industry in the report include:
According to the report, the strongest feedback from the survey was frustration around the lack of engagement from theatre organisations with directors who are no longer categorised as emerging.
These respondents felt that there was too much of a focus on early career directors, and a lack of follow-through from some of the development schemes for emerging artists.
One survey participant said: "It is frustrating – having been on quite a few of these emerging director programmes – that it feels very much like when you’re having the experience this is great, but once you’re gone, how do you get your foot back in the door? How do you re-engage with the company?"
Another key issue raised in the report was the status of assistant directors, with survey participants citing a lack of clarity about their role before rehearsals and an unproductive use of their time and skills.
The report also found that while there are opportunities for directors to work in other theatre roles – with 65% working in an educational capacity and 72% as workshop leaders – this was often viewed negatively, with one director being told their CV was "too diverse".
Another concern raised in the report was a lack of engagement with Wales-based directors in favour of talent from London or elsewhere.
The report said: "Inevitably, it takes time to engage with a network of Wales-based directors, especially as most directors in Wales have not found their way into directing through conventional routes.
"While a more diverse demographic is beginning to challenge the prevailing culture in England, Welsh directors have always been in the minority and only if they are Oxbridge-educated or have progressed from assisting to a fully fledged career.
"This has rarely been the pathway for Wales-based directors who testify to the importance of acting experience, community theatre and education as the main contexts for their journey into directing.”