I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso
In the last year, since graduating from my directors training programme, I’ve discovered more about my identity, interests and ambitions as a theatre-maker than at any other point in the past few years. It’s all at once been a challenging year, filled with questions, doubts and uncertainties, and one of immense clarity, purpose and growth.
During this time of reflection and analysis I accepted a few things: firstly, that I still have A LOT to learn; secondly, that my biggest doubt and uncertainty is in myself as a PRODUCER; and, thirdly, that taking SMALL STEPS can be a good thing. There were also positives: that I want to make work with an international scope (especially Iberian and Latin American), draw on my love of books and create adaptations, follow my interest in the body and voice in theatre, engage with regional theatre-making, and be a profoundly political artist. This may all sound rather trivial, but accepting these things (rather than trying to be overambitious and a blur of everything) has enabled me to move forwards and begin to be a more effective and creative artist.
An opportunity arose to apply for the John Fernald Award earlier this year, an award for emerging theatre directors to work with a professional theatre company, in this case StoneCrabs Theatre. It presented me with the chance to confront many of the aforementioned elements head on. The roles included assistant producing and assistant directing, and, to my surprise and delight, on Spanish and Brazilian works. I applied for the award, pouring a huge part of myself into the application – it paid off when I got a call a month later.
I’m currently in the midst of working as Assistant Director / Assistant Producer on Skin in Flames by Guillem Clua, a co-production with Bots & Barrals (a Catalan theatre company led by Silvia Ayguadé) at the Park Theatre, London. It’s a continual learning experience!
Working with the production’s co-directors / co-producers I’ve observed how a full-scale Off-West End / Fringe production is shaped and managed from its preproduction stages through to its onstage performance. As part of my experience on Skin in Flames I’ve been careful to document and evaluate the process and the insight I’m gaining into it. There is too much to mention, but a few aspects include: the range and variety of marketing strategies and approaches; the logistics and detail of the get-in and tech period; and the level of coordination needed to liaise with all involved and to deliver the creative product. And that’s just the producing element!
I’ve absorbed the many ways of negotiating an intricate and complex play text: exploratory exercises; table-work; character analysis; teasing out rhythm, pace and underlying energy; space and staging. In fact, the list really could go on. Being in the presence of directors Franko Figueiredo and Silvia Ayguadé, has been a lesson in itself, watching how they build the overall staging of the production, whilst accommodating and working with the actors’ varied approaches to bring out the best and instil confidence them, and overseeing the elements of design, sound and lighting which feed into the process.
What’s simultaneously thrilled and challenged me, is being actively involved in the production, too. I’ve supported the marketing and PR processes, the production meetings, and the rehearsal process. I’ve led on social media activity, press night, and organised promotional photography. And I’ve done voice, text and line work with the cast and actively assisted scene work in the rehearsal room. The buzz and air of anticipation which surrounds everything is exhilarating, whilst the constant impending deadlines are somewhat daunting. By being engaged, proactive and an acute observer it’s been possible to consolidate and expand upon existing skills, along with learning new things and discovering aspects within the directing and producing process that I knew nothing about.
The significance of Skin in Flames being a piece of Spanish work is not to pass under the radar. It’s enabled me to thoroughly engage with a text from a country and culture I wholeheartedly love, and to embrace it as a part of my theatre-making identity. It’s a beautiful play, grappling with hard and brutal subject matter, written with great detail and delicacy. I’ve been able to add another piece to my unending theatre jigsaw.
The John Fernald Award and StoneCrabs Theatre have played a vital role in my on-going journey in the world of theatre, for which I have huge appreciation. This experience has helped me to face some of my biggest fears in my theatre journey, and to make positive steps forward in my areas of passion and interest. I look forward to my next role on Tieta. And who knows the next stage beyond that?
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