We’ve recently come to the end of NSDF11 – the shows have been performed, reviews written, and awards awarded. A year ago, at NSDF10, The Director’s Guild Award for most promising director went to Ashley Scott-Layton for his production of Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love. The Sunday Times described him as “unstoppable”, and Noises Off – the festival’s most critical critics – had nothing but praise.
I caught up with Scott-Layton a year later, to see just how unstoppable this young director had been. He’s currently in rehearsal for Jamie Blake, his next show which opens at the Cockpit Theatre before transferring to the Edinburgh Fringe. Jamie is a brand new play, written and directed by Scott-Layton, but also featuring the work of a host of independent artists: original music written and performed by Rhys Lewis, beatboxing from Grace Savage and choreography from Kelly Louise Birchall.
The result is an eclectic, multi-media production. I asked Scott-Layton what the thought process was behind inviting so many collaborators to his work: “You need other voices, other opinions… I often find myself standing in the rehearsal room, surrounded by these talented people thinking ‘I’ve got to up my game!’ ’’ The challenge, as he sees it, is to merge these separate artistic talents into a cohesive whole. This is the basis behind his company RavenRock, formed at university and continuing to produce work across the country today.
The last time I saw Scott-Layton’s work was The Wind In The Willows, Theatre 503’s hit Christmas show in 2010. This began life as a site-specific production written by James Phillips and directed by Alan Lane at Latitude festival. Scott-Layton had been Assistant Director on the original show, and was invited by the producers to take the reigns for the transfer. He scaled down the production for the pub theatre space, and introduced an original composition by Will Kerr and Ben Osborne.
Wind In The Willows was only the second production that Scott-Layton has directed from someone else’s script – his RavenRock shows, with the exception of Phaedra’s Love, have all been his own adaptations or original work . I asked how he feels about relinquishing creative control when dealing with other people’s texts: “Everything I did with Phaedra’s Love came from a desire to do exactly what she (Kane) had wanted”. When dealing with other people’s shows, Scott-Layton believes the director should simply serve the play – respecting the authority of the writer and acting as an interpretative artist.
Scott-Layton has enjoyed a number of successes to date. He seems set to emerge as a confident and dynamic young director as soon as he graduates from the Directing MFA at Birkbeck next year, if not before. Jamie Blake opens this week at the Cockpit, and is lined up to make a splash at this year’s Fringe thanks to the positive press that RavenRock has achieved and the clout of the Director’s Guild award. Scott-Layton speaks enthusiastically about the prestige this brings, detailing the doors opened, the opportunities created and the confidence it instilled in him. I asked him what he now hopes the future holds, and he speaks ambiguously, yet animatedly, about his plans: “I want to continue working creatively with the talented people at RavenRock, as well as doing freelance interpretative direction”. He doesn’t seem to be closing any doors at this stage – might he prove to be as “unstoppable” as the Sunday Times predicted? He laughs: “I guess I just want to do everything”.