In our latest JMK blog, Evan Lordan describes his experiences as the JMK Assistant Director on Touching the Void, adapted by David Greig from the memoir by Joe Simpson, and directed by Tom Morris. Touching the Void was a co-production between Bristol Old Vic, Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Royal & Derngate Northampton and Fuel. The production also toured to Hong Kong Arts Festival, Perth Theatre and Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.
Why did you apply for the JMK Trust Assistant Director bursary?
I had just finished studying at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and, having moved from Ireland, I had no professional theatre experience within the UK. This was an opportunity to introduce myself to theatre professionals working in the city I hoped to make my home and to the UK industry as a whole.
What are the main things you learnt from the rehearsal process for this production?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Touching the Void was adapted by David Greig and I was amazed at how much director, Tom Morris, and the company were willing to ask questions of the initial drafts. I was like, “This is David Greig, I think he knows what he’s doing.” But he was only too happy to hear everyone’s thoughts as he continued to develop his own understanding of the script.
What did you learn from touring the show?
Keep digging. We were developing the show as we went and so the script was constantly evolving, even throughout previews we were making changes to the show and so we didn’t actually have a huge amount of time to finesse. This meant that as we toured we were still able to make discoveries about characters and moments as we went. This was great for keeping everyone interested, active and alive, even after 100 performances.
What are you working on next, and how will this experience help?
I am working on a new play with my company, Conflicted Theatre (www.conflictedtheatre.com) and so watch this space. I am very interested in creating new work and so this experience was a fantastic lesson on how to approach questioning and structuring work that hasn’t been seen by audiences before.
How did you get into theatre directing, and what advice would you pass on to those starting out?
I fell into theatre in my late twenties when I wrote a play with a friend of mine as a way to spend time together. I then studied Drama & Theatre Studies in University, which is where I actually learned what theatre was for the first time. My advice would be to always remember why you love theatre; it’s very easy to get distracted by the other trappings that you encounter along the way or while filling out endless funding application forms. It’s so important to remember why you do it, then it’s easier to transmit that love and enthusiasm to the audience.
Why is it important to have Assistant Director roles, such as the JMK bursary?
It’s incredibly helpful for budding theatre makers to see the process of more established practitioners and the process of producing a show in a large theatre. You learn what it is that you are striving towards. You also learn that highly regarded theatre makers don’t always have all the answers and often have the same struggles as you when making a show, which makes me feel an awful lot better!
What excites you most about directing?
I love being part of the creative process. Having and sharing ideas and then having them challenged and improved upon by the collaborators that you surround yourself with. One of my favourite things about being a director is the opportunity to inspire and be inspired every day.
To find out more about our JMK National Programme, including our Assistant Director bursaries, please click here.
This JMK Assistant Director bursary was kindly supported by the Leverhulme Trust.