Springboard – a week in the YV Directors Program

This past week the Young Vic’s Directors Program held Springboard, a week long series of workshops led by Genesis Fellow Gbolahan Obisesan for emerging directors from across the country.  

During the week participants took part in a series of practical workshops led by experienced directors. These asked participants to consider the balance between their creative ambition on the one hand and the skills and responsibilities of a director on the other.

” The week was curated to allow access to established theatre makers with the broadest approach toward making theatre, allowing the directors to cultivate an eclectic practical knowledge of how different artists utilise their unique artistic and technical talents to make great theatre.”
        – Gbolahan Obisesan

Workshops were led by Ramin Gray, Nadia Fall, Kirsty Housley, Sacha Wares and Richard Twyman, with topics ranging from the director/designer relationship, devising, verbatim theatre and more. The directors visited Bijan Sheiban’s rehearsal room at the National Theatre and observed rehearsals for Barber Shop Chronicles. They also attended Life of Galileo at the Young Vic and Salomé at the National Theatre.

“As the years roll by, connecting with young directors coming innocently at the problem of how to make theatre fresh and powerful is a healthy corrective. It’s a springboard not only for them but also, I found, for myself as I walked back up The Cut, invigorated.”
        – Ramin Gray on the Directors Program


David Lan in session at Springboard. Photo by Leon Puplett

The week finished with a workshop led by our artistic director David Lan who led a conversation about what it means to be an artistic director, what he looks for in his programming and whether the term ‘director’s theatre’ actually means anything.

“I want the voices heard here to need us. If they can be heard at other theatres, let them be heard at other theatres. I want to do the things that if we don’t do them here, they won’t be done.”
         – David Lan on programming for the Young Vic.

The Young Vic has been running it’s Directors Program for over a decade, offering young directors a unique opportunity to exchange experiences with peers and be part of a network of talented younger directors, producers and designers.

Find out more about the Directors Program and the opportunities offered across the country.

Gbolahan Obisesan is generously supported by the Genesis Foundation.
About the Genesis Foundation
The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.
Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.
The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.

My life as a director – Roy Weise

Roy WeiseMy life as a director began at the age of 15 when I took charge of my group’s GCSE practical exam. We had all chosen drama for fun (myself included) and our exam piece was in an embarrassing state as we spent our rehearsal time clowning about (not in a good way) and enjoying the freedom to do whatever the hell we wanted.
It was 2 days before the exam and our teacher held us back after class (as usual – to be shouted at, given a detention or some other punishment – nothing new). But after this particular talk I was vexed. She had basically informed us that we were all going to fail and that we weren’t going to get anywhere in life with our “attitudes” and “behaviour”. I was furious. And sadly, I can’t say this was the first time I’d heard such prophesies from my teacher.

That very night I went straight home, came up with a proper narrative, scripted it, compiled a soundtrack, choreographed the blocking, borrowed costume from wardrobes around my house and drew pictures of all the lighting states and specials. I was ready to prove her and all the others wrong. And we did. We all achieved grades B and above (thank God for external examiners). But in all honesty I didn’t care about getting a B grade or about school in general because I had plans to pursue a career as a singer-stroke-rapper-stroke-celebrity chef (Don’t ask!).

4 years later (and much to my surprise) I am starting the BA Hons Directing course at Rose Bruford College. A further 3 years on and I am graduating and starting a work placement at the Young Vic which Annie Castledine had helped me to organise. Another 2 years and 4 projects on I’m the Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director on Public Enemy.

This is the largest production that I have been a part of and one of the biggest learning opportunities I’ve ever had in my professional life. The revelations are happening every day; with pennies dropping by the hour. My confidence is building and the need to trial the latest model of ‘Roy The Director’ is becoming more and more intense. I’m greatly anticipating the lessons of the tech next week and witnessing the growth of the production in previews. I’ve also been invited to assist on workshops with Laura Farnworth as part of her Jerwood award, giving further insight into other ways that the Young Vic engage with the wider community through theatre. It’s increasingly difficult in this time to get into the rehearsal room of great directors without a certain level of experience or a strong recommendation. Not everybody can take the risks that were being taken before when hiring assistants but Young Vic has given me a great credit which gives my CV a boost but more importantly the opportunity to learn from a great master.

This process has really helped me to recognise my growth as a director and as a person. I hope that in a few years I can blog about directing a production of this scale on the Young Vic’s main stage. Perhaps my old drama teacher will come along and be pleasantly surprised.

Roy Weise is Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director on Public Enemy, now playing at the Young Vic.  Learn more and book tickets at youngvic.org.

From the Public Enemy rehearsal room


Time is flying and we are now well past half way in our rehearsals for Public Enemy. Richard is perhaps one of my most inspiring directors and before going into this process one of my key questions was to how Richard generated the distinctive and original worlds of his productions – and also to understand a little more about how his imagination works.

The first two weeks were an opportunity for the actors to be very explorative with their characters and scenes. Richard was very clear that this was the actors’ time to feel free to experiment and follow any instincts. Much of Richard’s work is done with the actors on their feet, and very little is sat around a table. Richard runs scenes from start to finish, rather than stopping and starting, and he will whisper in my ear any notes for the actors which he then gives after they have had a go at running the scene. Working with Richard in this way, it really is incredible witnessing the speed of his ‘director brain’ and his ability to spot and diagnose moments. Richard’s notes will come in quick succession and it’s a job in itself for me to keep up! To be so close up to Richard’s imagination is quite something. His notes span the psychological to the visual, noting blocking, thoughts, nuances, and always placing each moment in a context for the actor. Rather than being concept or style led, Richard mines and mines the characters and text. We learn how these characters relate to eachother and Richard consistently pushes their portrayal to be as real as possible, closer to how humans interact and behave in real life. Richard’s notes shift characterisations away from being ‘stagey’ to something that is alive and unexpected. He has an eye that can uncover the opportunity in even the smallest moment that would otherwise be overlooked.

So what I am learning I think is that to create the original worlds that I see in Richard’s work, far from being concept or style led, as perhaps I first anticipated, Richard focuses on making the characters and their journeys accurate and plausible. He drills into each moment to find a truth. From this foundation a rich, complex world with its own rules begins to grow. But Richard is a director of many parts and this is what makes his work exciting.  He has a tremendous facility to work visually – he has a keen design and spatial instinct and its very clear what he wants in the staging. Moving into the latter stage of rehearsals Richard is now clearing ‘making’ and crafting his production. I also feel that we are now moving into a more expressionistic phase of the process, where Richard’s imagination is starting to be transferred to the stage. We now move on from the experimentation of the first few weeks and the characters that have now been created are gradually sculpted by Richard into something that specific and at times choreographed. I am really excited to see how Richard brings all the components of his process together in the last few weeks, and hopefully then I may be able to reflect further on how Richard creates his extraordinary worlds.

Laura Farnworth is Assistant Director on Public Enemy.