I interview quite a lot of directors, many of them in the early stages of their careers. They graduate, typically from good universities with impressive degrees and a fair amount of student directing experience. Then they have to find ways of establishing themselves, as unknowns, in a competitive and complex field.
So the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme, established in 1960 and one of the UK’s longest running and most influential training scheme for young directors, is a certainly a real force for good. The list of previous participants reads like a directory of British theatre. It includes Trevor Nunn, Ken Loach, Adrian Noble, Roger Michell, Michael Boyd, Vicky Featherstone, Rupert Goold and Dominic Hill.
RTYDS has just announced its two 2012 bursary-receiving directors. They are Emily Watson Howes, who will take up a placement at Salisbury Playhouse, and Matthew Xia who will join Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, each for a year.
Both placements are ACE funded. The deal allows the participating director to take part in a training programme, assisting on productions as well as gaining experience in all aspects of the theatre’s operations. Wherever possible, the host theatre also provides enables the recipient to direct a full production at the end of his or her training.
Emily Watson Howes’s most recent directorial credit was for Coasting by Natalie Mcgrath at Bristol Old Vic. She is the Artistic Director of the storytelling company You Need Me, which has created work for Corn Exchange Newbury, New Theatre Royal Portsmouth, Salisbury Arts Centre, Camden People’s Theatre and the Hightide Festival. In addition to her work as a director, Watson Howes has written comedy series for Hat Trick Television and the BBC.
Matthew Xia is a freelance director, composer, journalist, broadcaster and DJ. His past credits for Theatre Royal Stratford East include: Inheritance, Skin, I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky (as co-director), Mad Blud (associate director), Aladdin (associate director) and The Blacks (director/musical director/actor/adapter).
Everyone involved in the 2012 awards is very enthusiastic. Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director of Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse says: “The Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres are thrilled to be recipients of an RTYDS director. This invaluable scheme offers an extraordinary opportunity for a talented young director to be part of a regional theatre and to learn not only how to hone their skills as an artist but what it is to be an artist that is part of the fabric of a theatre that reflects its place and time. Matthew Xia joins us at an exciting moment in these theatres’ history as the new Everyman approaches its opening. We feel sure that through this scheme we can provide Matthew with a dynamic and rewarding year and that he in return with his many talents will enrich and invigorate our whole organisation.”
Matthew Xia is excited too: “I’m delighted to be a recipient of the RTYDS placement this year” he says. “This is one of the few training schemes in the UK for emerging directors and is a crucial opportunity for my development as an artist, director and future artistic leader. Gemma Bodinetz has transformed the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres over the last decade. Under her guidance I’m looking forward to broadening my skill set and understanding of art, audience and precisely how a regional theatre can best serve its local and national community.”
Gareth Machin, Artistic Director of Salisbury Playhouse, is also pleased. “Salisbury Playhouse is delighted to be participating in this year’s scheme,” he says. “The RTYDS is a unique opportunity to nurture a new generation of artistic directors, providing hands on experience and training in a busy regional producing theatre. Emily will be a fantastic addition to our team, bringing new ideas and energy into the building and the programme. We are looking forward to welcoming her to Wiltshire.”
Describing Salisbury Playhouse as a “dynamic theatre at the heart of the community”, Emily Watson Howes says: “I can’t wait to get to know the people and the Playhouse over the coming year, and am very much looking forward to the Autumn/Winter season, in particular the adaptation of William Golding’s novel The Spire about Salisbury Cathedral. I’m really honoured to have been chosen by Gareth to join the Playhouse team.”
Two directors to watch, I suspect.