Unbelievably, it has already been a month since we last performed Henry V at The Proud Archivist. It certainly feels like winter is descending upon us and Christmas really doesn't feel that far away.
It has taken time to readjust to life post-Henry V but my energies are now focussed forwards rather than backwards and we are working hard to further Cyphers as a company over the next 6-12 months. Plans are afoot for touring in 2015 and for getting our second production up and running as soon as February.
I feel like I'm now starting to understand the role of an Artistic Director much more completely. Most of my days now consist of a combination of emails, phone calls and reading, reading and more reading. There's also a lot of business-related activity to get our heads round - the biggest being where are we getting our money from?! Only the most problematic question in the arts! This really is a full time job - and I don't just mean 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I mean full time. I feel completely justified in my decision to avoid any other fixed employment - I still pick up bits and pieces through sports coaching, education and training but I do not have an official job as such. Being Artistic Director of Cyphers is my job - it just doesn't pay me! I think it's a necessary sacrifice for me at the moment and luckily I have parents who are supportive enough to let me live with them while I take the essential time to invest in my future career.
Much as I miss Henry V, finishing the initial run has allowed me to get something of a life back! It's been fantastic to catch up with family and with old school friends over the last couple of weeks. These are the people it is very easy to lose sight of when working so intensively and determinedly at the early stages of a theatre career but, in many ways, these are the most important people to keep close. They remind you that there is a world outside of theatre, they're the ones who will support you whether things are going incredibly well or unbelievably badly.
I've also managed to get back to seeing theatre! I managed to catch James I at the National Theatre before the trilogy closed. I was incredibly impressed with this as a piece of writing more than anything. This was the sort of new writing that I want to be directing. It masterfully drew parallels between the late medieval Scotland of James I and our contemporary world, without forcing a political agenda down the audience's throat. This was work out of a truly Shakespearean tradition and coming off the back of Henry V (himself a contemporary of James I) I loved every minute. The play beautifully conveyed the vulnerability of royalty in this period - in particular that of a queen. In one breathtaking scene Queen Joan was placed centre stage in her four-poster bed desperately clutching her baby to her chest, while a battle raged all around her. A simple device that poignantly showed how the fate of a young woman and her child would be determined by a bloody battle fought between men.
The very next day took me to the Arcola to see The Rivals and a very interesting take on a Restoration classic. Like our production of Henry V this was 'stripped-back' theatre, the Arcola studio meant that the audience were close to the actors and the opening (again like our Henry) saw the actors talking to the audience as they entered the space. This was a promising start. The actors also fed off the audience throughout. It was a fun evening but couldn't help leaving with a sense of frustration. Rather than committing fully to the 'stripped-back' style I felt the director (Selina Cadell) became increasingly apologetic about it as the play went on. The pace was also very slow. A 3-hour running time for The Rivals is much too long and a simple upping of pace would have instantly upped the comedy. Also, much as I love audience interaction, in this production it went a bit too far, with characters talking to the audience when they really should have been talking to each other. It meant the comic impact of the Restoration aside was rather lost. Having said that, the ideas behind the production were excellent and much after my own heart, whilst Nicholas Le Provost was simply sublime as Sir Anthony Absolute. It certainly made me think that Restoration Comedy could suit the Cyphers style.
Last week, I also had the great pleasure of seeing my friend, Emmanuel Joste (who was the percussionist on Le Journal d'un Fou), play in Britten's War Requiem at the Royal Festival Hall on Rememberance Sunday. I don't really go to music concerts very much (classical or otherwise) and after this I certainly plan on seeing more. Music is phenomenally powerful and undoubtedly something I can utilise more in my theatre, especially when my emphasis is on imagination.
Finally, I have also been assisting in a series of workshops run by Teach Yourself Acting over the last few weeks. Working with some fantastic coaches I have learnt a huge amount myself and have seen the acting students develop leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. In particular, working with movement director, Christopher Lane, has made me think a lot more about the physicality of my work. Something that I did learn from Henry V was that developing clear physical characterisation is something that I feel I need to work on as a director. Observing and assisting Chris has given me lots of ideas for getting the characterisation out of the head and into the body.
I've just started a marathon of 4 Elizabethan/Jacobean plays in 5 days with Loves Labours Won at the RSC. Still got UCL's Henry IV Part I and the Globe's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore to go in London, before I return to Stratford for The Witch of Edmonton on Monday. But I think that merits a separate blog!