Director Bryony Shanahan describes the impact of winning a Genesis Future Directors Award for her production of debbie tucker green’s trade at the Young Vic.
I am an ‘emerging’ director. I’m not sure where I’m emerging from or to, and this emergence has been happening over the last five years, since I directed my first show. But despite the label (which always makes me laugh a bit as I imagine being birthed into some theatrical world full of fully emerged theatre people), I do find myself in a gap that can feel quite tricky to navigate. How do I stop emerging and just become a director?
I’ve been making work with my company and co-conspirators Snuff Box Theatre, as well as other companies, since 2011, which has meant that I have kept myself busy, toured the UK numerous times and gained incredible experiences along the way. I have been able to quietly get on and learn about what I want to make, and who I am as a maker. Through making my own work, I was lucky enough to have some amazing people see the shows, and consequently offer me opportunities to work as both an assistant and associate in some brilliant buildings. At these buildings, I learnt a whole new range of practical skills – like how production meetings work and how to work within a massive team, as well as being around some truly inspiring people. I’ve been an enthusiastic sponge this whole time – trying to absorb every last detail. And I’ve made sure I’ve kept making my own work too – nothing scares me as much as that, which is a good thing for me. But now I’m looking at these buildings, and wondering how on earth I can make the transition to those stages. I feel ready to in lots of ways, I’m much more sure now of what it is I want to say – but who can take the risk on a 28-year-old Stoke City supporter who insists that there is no table work in rehearsals?
This is why opportunities such as the Genesis Future Directors Award are incredible, and why I feel so very grateful to have received one. They provide a platform where a theatre like the Young Vic can take a risk on a young/new director in a safe but challenging environment. Everyone in the building knows the nature of the award, and so they create a workplace that is supportive but professional. The Young Vic get it absolutely – they have given me everything I need, trusted me with big decisions, guided me away from potential disasters but crucially, have let me get on with it in my own way. They’re brilliant. The show doesn’t have a press night, which removes one of the usual pressures, encouraging me to focus solely on the work. Of course I still care about what people think, but I have to admit it’s a luxury to know I’ll be able to chat about people’s responses in the bar after the performance, and not nervously read them at home on my own…
I am also working with an incredible team – from casting director Charlotte Sutton who helped me put together an unbelievable company, to stage management, to the creatives. Everyone is at the top of their game, and it’s a proper privilege. Without this award, I’m not sure if I’d have met this team and already I can sense how much I’ve learnt and how much I’ll take from this going forward.
It’s hard to measure the impact of the Genesis Future Directors Award at this moment, or to know if it will help me move beyond my ‘emerging’ status, but I do know that this opportunity, and other such ones, are unique, vital and offer a bridge of hope across an uncertain, and often map-less terrain.
Genesis Future Directors Award winner Bryony Shanahan directs debbie tucker green’s trade at the Young Vic November 16-26.
Image: Leon Puplett