Today’s ‘Behind-the-Scenes from an Execution’ blog features Assistant Director, Sam Parker, talking to us about his experiences being an Assistant Director for Theatre Royal Plymouth People’s Company and his thoughts on Howard Barker’s Scenes from an Execution.
So far so good! This is the first time I’ve been part of a process like this, having only been Assistant Director with the company for a few weeks, so everything is new; I’ve been peppering Nikolas Partridge (Director) with questions throughout.
The biggest challenge for me so far, as I imagine it is for most directors, is communicating any notes/directions as clearly as possible. It is so easy to riff and bounce ideas around when, actually, that is not necessarily helpful for the cast. I have quickly realised that good direction is about being as clear and concise as possible; distilling your notes in to something that the actors can use. It’s easier said than done, but I’m working on it. The great thing about this process is Nik’s there to bail me out if I end up rambling.
A large part of my role at the moment revolves around observing rehearsals, making notes on both performances and the text, and then feeding back to Nik. The idea being that, in amongst all of my waffle, there may be something useful in there that Nik can then feed back to the cast and/or act upon. More recently in rehearsals, I have been tasked with a couple of things that are more hands on – working with two actors on particular scenes for example. The cast and the backstage crew are a great bunch.
For me, one of the biggest advantages of this Assistant Director opportunity has been getting to observe the piece being put together from scratch. I think, generally, there can sometimes be a mystifying element to a rehearsal process, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Watching Nik go about putting this play on its feet has demystified it for me, giving me a confidence boost with regards to making my own stuff in the future. I think once you see something being done first hand, it makes it feel more achievable.
Scenes from an Execution is a cracker. It’s full of big ideas and questions and at times, it is very funny. There are two things I love most about the play: the first being the questions it asks about the artist/patron relationship. It takes an extensive look at the catch-22 scenario of an artist’s need to please a patron in order to secure the funds to make the art, but in pleasing the patron, the final piece of art may not be in line with their original vision. It is a universal issue; something that affects artists the world over. The thought of Howard Barker (Writer) walking in to an office and asking for money to make a play – which is essentially a critique of the very people he is asking – is an amusing one.
The second thing is that I find what the play says about gender to be fascinating. It looks at the adversity that women in the arts have to deal with and at masculinity and its fragility; issues that are, again, universal and relevant now. That’s the sign of a great play, I think – if its relevance endures.
Everyone and anyone should come and see the show. I think what’s great about the play is that it addresses complex issues without ever being preachy. It will ask questions about war and how we deal with it, about the artist and the patron, and about gender – and then the audience will be able to go away and make up their minds themselves.
I think there’s something massively exciting about Galactia as well. At a time when progress is starting to be made with regards to roles for female performers in theatre, and the depth of said roles, I love that Barker wrote this roughly 30 years ago (1984: BBC Radio). He was ahead of the curve. Galactia is a complex character and a force of nature. If spending an hour and a half with her sounds like your bag, come along!
You can also catch Sam Parker as a member of our 2017 Lab Company, the narwhal/ensemble, in Whey Down South