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Joe Murphy: Hello, my name’s Joe Murphy. I’m a theatre director working in London.
I wanted to be an actor, er, when I was younger, and then at about 18 I realised I wasn’t really any good, I could just speak loudly, and actually as a teenager that’s such a rare thing that you get a load of, you know, am-dram parts when you’re younger. So I went to a thing called Year Out Drama Company – which are a gap year … you basically do a like a year of drama school, but in a really fun way to figure out if it’s the life for you. And my tutor, in a loving way I think, told me that I wasn’t really, necessarily, the greatest actor but that directing might be something that’s really interesting to me. So I went to uni, I did a drama degree, I got into directing, I directed about 12 shows across my three years there, did the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a few times, you know just really tried everything. And then I did a postgraduate degree in Directing, an MA.
Theatre is an incredibly collaborative art form, so if you don’t enjoy collaboration it’s not the place for you. And as you say there’s a balance between giving everyone a voice and trying to get the best out of your actors, your design team, your tech team, everybody. But also you have to lay down a very clear end point, a very clear vision, so that all of those efforts are all being directed in one place. Because the danger is that all the efforts go off in their own way, and you get the sort of, I suppose, design-by-committee version, which is sort of not one thing nor the other. So you have to strike a balance between being in charge but being confident, I suppose, in your authority to allow people to flourish and to do their best work. I always think that in some ways you’re like ... you're like a lucky member of the audience and that your job is to be the audience representative and hear all of the ideas from these amazing people and try and give them a sort of coherence and a unity that brings the play, the acting, the tech, the sound, the light, everything alive in one sort of aspect.
I think any time you direct Shakespeare there’s a real pressure, like, 'What are you going do with it?', er, or this idea that Shakespeare needs solving somehow, that you need to, you know, make it relevant or make it fit. And actually I think that - the guy’s a genius, you know he’s probably the best writer that ever lived and nothing needs fixing in there, nothing - but it’s so, so rich, there’s so much going on and he is so timeless in the fact that he can speak to you in the modern day; to people who are living in the middle of the 20th century; to people who are living in the 1600s; to whoever. So I think it’s more about finding what speaks to you in that play and what makes it relevant to you and your life and drawing that out. That’s what's exciting, I think, about directing Shakespeare.
I hope Mix the Play is a gateway for young directors, I hope it gives people the bug like I got the bug when I was younger and that they get really excited by the idea of choosing an actor, choosing a world, choosing music and seeing what all their decisions do and amount to and what it does to a scene. I’d love people to try a few different ways, with a few different actors and a few different worlds, and really mix things up, and what I’m hoping is that that inspires people to go out and want to do full productions and really get into Shakespeare, and really get to know him, and really get to see what they can bring to Shakespeare, and what their voice can add to his. That would be, yeah, the dream.
Have a look at the Mix The Play website to try directing for yourself.
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