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Blog: Young directors – The director/designer relationship

Posted on 16 February 2014 by Young Directors

“No man is an island.” John Donne

In terms of theatre making I would be inclined to agree with Donne, particularly when it comes to directing. In our weekly sessions, we have been talking about the different dynamics and relationships directors have e.g. the actor/director relationship or the director/new playwright relationship. One of the sessions that really interested me was the director/designer relationship as, for me, this is a fairly new relationship that I have discovered during my practice as a trainee director.

I recently scratched a show that I wrote and co-directed, 2:1, which was a physical theatre piece at RichMix. We worked very closely with a young graduate designer, Natalie Jackson, who we first met when we started R&Ding the work last summer. We had some ideas of what we wanted design-wise but no money and no idea how to realise our vision. So we sent an email out to the course director of the theatre practice course at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and two designers who had just graduated a few weeks previously got in touch, as they thought our project was interesting and wanted to come down for a meeting and to have a look at our rehearsals.

I felt very much out of my comfort zone having never worked with a designer before, and having no real idea about design as a concept. Luckily, having met our designers and talked through the piece, they had lots of ideas and concepts, which we actually began trying in the rehearsal process. Having so little money forced us to be creative and our designers were excellent at helping us create a visual world for the characters to inhibit whilst on stage.

As soon as we were able to get funding from Arts Council England to scratch 2:1, the first people we called were our designers. Natalie Jackson was available and we decided to continue working with her. Having experience of the show and the latest script, Natalie came to our first meeting with a strong design concept and a whole sketchbook full of ideas. After this initial meeting we decided on some set and costume ideas, and she then went on to create a model box. Then, as before, Natalie would come to some rehearsals to try out different design concepts.

Natalie was also able to introduce us to other creatives who she had worked with including our lighting designer, and a very talented carpenter and stage manager. I would say the experience of working with a designer is a very important part of the process of being a director.

Here are a few tips on developing the designer/director relationship:

– Develop a good relationship with drama schools and art schools. Go to design graduates’ final exhibitions, get to know the head of courses and keep in touch with them. This is a great way to meet new talent and nurture those relationships as early as possible.

– Bring your designer into the process as early as possible. Working with a designer really informed the way I worked with my actors, the actors were aware of the set and stage so worked in rehearsals with the ‘invisible’ set. As theatre directors, we tend to see things textually, so it is good to have an outside ‘visual’ eye as early as possible.

– Don’t leave you designer broke. It sounds obvious, but don’t assume your designer has money to buy materials. Whether the materials are £20 or £200, always communicate with your designer about whether they need to get money before they source materials and the same goes for their travel arrangements. Make sure this is discussed BEFORE they start working.

– Make a budget and stick to it. Following on from the last point, decide a budget beforehand and stick to it. Of course things sometimes change, but having a proper budget will keep you on track, no matter how small that budget is.

– Take on board your designer’s opinions. Really listen to your designer, and try and get them in as many rehearsals as possible. Let them get to know your actors and your creative team. Ask their opinion and take on board what they say.

Emma Dennis-Edwards

Young Directors

Young Directors

StoneCrabs Theatre’s Young Directors’ Programme is a platform for young directors, centred around production, project management and theatre directing. The programme culminates in February 2014 when the young directors will put on the Play-ground Festival at the Albany. The 2013-14 Young Directors are: Eleanor Chadwick, Hattie Coupe, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Jude Evans, Camilla Gurtler, Lynette Linton, Antony Nyagah, Mariana Pereira and Katharina Reinthaller.

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Exclusive Competition: Win a copy of Becoming An Actor By Thomasina Unsworth

Posted on 26 May 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Interested in training to become an actor? Looking for advice and inspiration? Thanks to our friends over at Nick Hern books, we have just the thing to get you feeling creative and ready to embark on a career in performance: a competition to win a copy of Becoming An Actor by Thomasina Unsworth. A practical guide including training tips and exercises, this book looks like it can answer all your questions about drama school and beyond…perfect! Read the blurb below for a bit more information and then scroll down to enter.


Becoming an Actor
by Thomasina Unsworth

A practical guide to training as an actor, helping you get the most out of drama school – and survive in the world beyond.

Are you thinking of applying to drama school?
Do you have a place already and want to get the most out of your training?
Are you seeking to make the best possible start in the world beyond drama school?

Becoming an Actor takes you, step by step, technique by technique, through everything you can expect to encounter at drama school, and in your first year as a professional actor. Stuffed with exercises and full of practical advice, it is the ideal handbook to accompany your training.

Thomasina Unsworth teaches at Rose Bruford College, one of the UK’s leading drama schools. Here she shows what acting classes at an accredited drama school are actually like, and offers guidance and support through what is a critical time in any actor’s career.

Becoming an Actor is published by Nick Hern Books at £10.99.

Enter the competition
To win a copy of Becoming An Actor by Thomasina Unsworth, simply fill in the form below and submit it by 4.00pm on Saturday 22 June. Please note that this competition is open to UK residents only.

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A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Confessions of a CDS Virgin: Hamlet2B has survived first year

Posted on 22 May 2013 by Hamlet2B


It’s all coming to an end….

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have officially reached the end of my first year at the world famous Drama School of Dreams.

I’m giving up my ‘fresher’ status and becoming a serious, focused second year and as such will no longer have the right to blame anyone but myself for being hungover during daily warm-ups (that’s not to say this will change, I’ll just have to accept responsibility from now on).

In all seriousness…wow. What a year it has been. Those of you who have been following my (mis)adventures will know that it’s certainly been full of ups and downs, never more so than in the last semester, where my classmates and I have had to (supposedly) put everything we’ve learnt into practice and perform our end of year production. I’d love to say it’s been plain sailing, but the truth is… it really hasn’t. I’ve struggled, rebelled, cried, lashed out in frustration and eaten far too many rice cakes in a pseudo-healthy attempt to numb the pain but, based on the performance (last very night!), it appears it was all (whisper it now) worth it.

Yep. I think I might have done something right.  In short, and without wishing to self-promote, I’m proud of myself and what I’ve achieved and, I have to say, it may well be the best.

Seriously, being a mature student at drama school is both harder and easier than it appears.Yes, it is easier – on occasion – to deal with criticism, and to cope with the day to day realities of being away from home and having to bare your soul on a daily basis. On the other hand, it’s difficult – for precisely these reasons. Being older, one has more of an idea of who one is and any challenges to this can be hard to take, as there’s a part of you that rebels against the attack on the person you’ve become and everything you’ve already gone through to get there. Change can be hard but I’m looking at it as discovering another part of myself, as opposed to diminishing what’s already there and becoming a better, more confident person. Hey, drama school’s expensive but it’s still cheaper than therapy.

It would have been easy, at many points this year, to give  up – to go back to my life and try and pick up my career where I left off.

But I didn’t. And I won’t. I’m here for the long haul now and, although I privately disagree with my classmates who “can’t wait to come back” (hey, I’m older, I need the rest!), I’ll be coming back a wiser, more put-together person, ready for the next set of challenges.

I’ll probably still be hungover, though – some things don’t change.

**I’ll be blogging monthly over the Summer as I prepare to embark on a show at the Edinburgh Festival – let’s see how Hamlet2B copes in the land of bagpipes and whisky…**

Gird your loins,


Image: Party Poppers


Hamlet2B is a working actor currently retraining at drama school. He enjoys lentils, the novels of Jane Austen and the colour green.

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Acting the Part: audition highs and lows

Posted on 20 May 2013 by Liam Steward-George


My foray into the industry has recently seen me encounter the most dreaded of all events: the audition. Now, there are two common types of auditions – the ‘individual monologues’ one and the ‘workshop’ one. Having gone straight to university from school, I had previously avoided the stress and powerlessness that comes with the drama school audition process. As a result I had mixed emotions of excitement and trepidation at the prospect.

So I went to my first ever (and only, for this year) drama school audition. I had stress dreams beforehand, a particularly disturbing one being about a house where everyone was killing each other (serves me right for preparing a Philip Ridley monologue), but woke up feeling good. I got to the audition venue about half an hour early, well worth doing as it allows you to settle in to your surroundings and focus. I then spent the next half an hour talking to current students and auditionees about their lives.

It is bizarre when you step into the audition room. The two members of my panel were very nice but undeniably detached, saying “Hi Liam, nice to meet you, what are you going to do for us today? Great, if you can stand behind the line, there are chairs and tables behind you if you need them. Start when you’re ready” – and that is it. It is all a bit impersonal, but the amount of auditionees means that their militant efficiency is understandable. Surprisingly though, I really enjoyed it. All that build-up and I still left the room smiling. A brief interview with some standard questions followed, and was equally painless. One audition down, one to go…

I was then (un)lucky enough to have the auditions for my theatre group’s Edinburgh rep season the day after. This was taken in the form of a workshop audition and was an incredibly different experience. I love workshop auditions because you have a sufficient amount of time to really showcase your abilities. Preliminary one-on-one auditions are fine, but it always feels like you are trying to stick a label on your forehead and brand yourself. In this workshop audition I knew that one of the directors was familiar with how I worked, so it really gave me some scope to, as he would say, “throw down”.

I learned a great lesson from this. I just got a letter saying that they were unable to offer me a place at the drama school I had applied to. I was, of course, somewhat disappointed; but as an actor, every rejection tells you so much more than an acceptance. I also got cast in a lead part for Edinburgh.

The difference between the two was that with the drama school audition I just wanted to get through it, to play it safe and not mess up. In the workshop audition I was perfectly willing to mess up and make a fool of myself, because taking risks is so important in this industry. I will probably reapply for the same single drama school course next year; but there are other ways to make tracks too. As it is, I am really excited for next year – I think it will be good to spend a year seeing what progress I can make in the industry.

Image: Today at Conway Hall

Liam Steward-George

Liam Steward-George

Hailing from London, Liam has just graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Literature and Language, and is now currently training with the Fourth Monkey Theatre Company. He is an aspiring young thesp, as well as a keen writer, just starting to immerse himself into the fearsome prospect of the theatrical world.

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