AYT catches up with actor/director Jamie Glover to talk Pinter, multi-tasking and making it up as you go along…

Clive Wood Jamie Glover & Joe Armstrong Oct 2013

I’m lucky to manage to catch Director Jamie Glover for a quick chat in between preparations for The Dumb Waiter, which is about to open at one of London’s most exciting new venues, The Print Room. Glover is a busy man, dividing his time between directing and acting, having built up a formidable CV on the stage, television and silver screen. However, he shows no signs of tiring of it all – infectiously effervescent as he is – and boyishly enthusiastic about his first directorial outing at The Print Room, a converted 1950s warehouse which offers diverse, eclectic programming and a unique atmosphere: “it’s unusual and brilliant and I’m loving it,” he tells me, and I am left in no doubt about it.

When I ask him what it’s like switching between acting and directing, he is swift to point out how he sees the roles going hand in hand: “I do think they complement each other, and I think since I’ve been a director it’s made me more tolerant of other directors when I’m working with them as an actor – they definitely illuminate each other.” Where, as an actor, Glover might have had quibbles about certain creative decisions that were made, now, in reviving The Dumb Waiter, he tells me he enjoys the chance to make those decisions himself so that he can do justice to one of Pinter’s most celebrated works.

When I ask him how he tends to approach directing, he tells me, “It’s not surprising, I guess – I’m a director who wants to facilitate the actor.” He insists that, with him, the rehearsal room is an open space to try out ideas, where he wants to make the actors as comfortable as possible in their parts. And, where many directors might see their role as central in deciding upon a vision or interpretation of a play, Glover prefers to step back: “I don’t want to shoehorn them into the concept I have, unwillingly. I think the most important people in the play are the writer and the actors.”

Glover points out that with his work, it’s all about learning and continuing to learn, irrespective of which role you’re in or how far you’ve come in your career. Even though this is not Glover’s first outing as a director, he is sure that this experience of staging The Dumb Waiter will nonetheless play into whatever acting project comes next. He tells me that, “whereas before, as an actor, I might have been impatient earlier on in the rehearsal process about something not being fixed, now, since being a director, I think – do you know what? The fact that they haven’t mentioned it doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed it. They might be, quite rightly, biding their time about when to give that note or when to fix that thing and let something play out first.”

Glover’s sense of the two areas bleeding into one another is refreshing, particularly when it feels that the theatre industry can be keen to classify people as director or actor, writer or – as Glover puts it – “fish or fowl”. Glover feels sure that, these days, the industry is developing to accommodate those people who do straddle various different skill-sets, since, as he sees it, they all “cross-fertilise” and make for a healthier theatre culture. In light of which, his advice to those looking to pursue a similar path is to “keep yourself open to different influences and put yourself through as many experiences as you can,” though he admits he is still working it all out himself as he goes along.

And while taking everything as it comes in the bigger picture of his career, Glover nonetheless has a clear sense of direction with The Dumb Waiter: “we’re not setting it on Mars or anything like that – we’re doing what Pinter wrote. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – and this one certainly isn’t broke.” He tells me that audiences can expect this production to stay true to Pinter’s original text: funny, with those tones of menace and fear that Pinter was so well known for. “Hopefully they’ll have a knot of tension in their stomach,” he muses.

Despite being first performed in 1960 at the Hampstead Theatre, Glover is fascinated by just how pertinent and political The Dumb Waiter still feels – “completely box fresh,” as he puts it. The production explores authoritarianism, as well as ‘divide and rule’ tactics, behaviours which we still see from politicians today around the world, as well as on the home front. And for these reasons, Glover is determined that The Dumb Waiter should speak to a contemporary audience, since “Pinter came through at a time with other playwrights who you could argue have dated, but he has remained absolutely, completely and utterly current.”

And, though it is clear that Glover wishes to continue to wax lyrical about Pinter and his body of work, unfortunately our time is soon up and Glover must rush back to the rehearsal room. I quickly ask him what’s next for him – directing or acting – and he laughs, “hopefully something before the end of the year acting-wise – I want to be able to pay the gas bill,” and with fingers in so many pies and such passion added into the mix, I have no doubt he’ll manage to.

The Dumb Waiter, directed by Jamie Glover, is at The Print Room from 23 October to 23 November. For more information and tickets, visit The Print Room’s website.

Photo: Jamie Glover with actors Clive Wood (Ben) and Joe Armstrong (Gus) for The Dumb Waiter