An introduction to directing, with Fiona Hope

By 15 July 2019Uncategorised

Fiona Hope took part in our RTYDS Introduction to Directing programme earlier this year and recently joined our board. Over the past few weeks she has also sat in on rehearsals for our new production, The Canary and the Crow. Here’s what she learned from those experiences. 

The Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS) is a programme that creates opportunities for people to learn new skills and gain real life experience to aid their journey in becoming a theatre director. I recently took part in the Introduction to Directing Course with Paul Smith, the artistic director of Middle Child. 

During the course, Paul shared with us his processes when directing a show, right from the moment the script is received. We discussed the importance of researching the themes of the play and getting to know the script inside out. We were also given tools and exercises that can be used in the rehearsal room and given the opportunity to try them out with professional actors. At the end of the process each person on the course had the experience of directing a 15 minute scene that was performed by professional actors in a public showing. 

An insight to the academic and practical side of directing was most definitely an experience I will value and use in the future, but the most important lesson from the week came after the discussion about ‘what makes a great director’ I was the youngest person in the room and before RTYDS I found it difficult to voice my opinions, particularly to groups of people older than me. I used to think authority and assertiveness were the key qualities to a director, neither of which I possess, but Paul proved to me that preparation, a clear vision and kindness are what make a great director.

Other words that the professional actor working in the room with us chose to describe a director included; approachable, honest, calm, supportive, adaptive and passionate. Paul didn’t tell us how to be a good director but he showed us how he does it and his rehearsal rooms are so lovely. 

I have also been lucky enough to be able to sit in the rehearsals of The Canary and the Crow and gain first hand experience of how a rehearsal room is run. This was my first time being in a professional rehearsal room from the start of the process and I began learning so much from day one. It was clear to me that wellbeing and communication is important to the company as well as creating an incredible piece of theatre. 

On the first day it was discussed what we were trying to achieve by creating this show, which is something I have never previously considered. I used to think we make theatre because it’s fun, but what is theatre without an audience? Why do they need to see it? And why do we need to make it? Once this is established, everyone in the room has the same goal, which allows for easy collaboration and creation. 

It has been incredible to watch how an artistic director, a musical director and a movement director all work together to contribute to the same end goal and the techniques the use to get the best out of the performers. Right from the start I noticed techniques that I learnt on RTYDS being implemented in a ‘real life’ setting and all the cogs started to fall into place for me about how a director brings a project together. 

The four week long rehearsal process has now come to an end, with the show about to go into tech before it previews at Hull Truck Theatre and Latitude Festival this week, and I was learning new techniques and skills right to the last day. It always seems difficult to understand anything until you’re thrown into that setting and I am unbelievably thankful for the lessons Middle Child have taught me.