Directing THE DEEP
Part of the TFT mission statement is to incentivise theatrical talent to stay in Bristol and we are proud to offer an annual Graduate Director’s Slot for an exceptional graduate from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to direct a show in The Brewery. This season, this slot is filled by Iain Macdonald, with The Deep. We asked him some questions.
What is it that made you get into directing?
When I was younger, like a lot of people, I wanted to be an actor. The first serious thing I did was take part in Scottish Youth Theatre’s 5 week Summer Programme in Glasgow, playing Mr Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with a cast of other young people from all over the world. Following on from that I was asked to tour with SYT in a TIE show funded by the NHS called Dying for It. We had a huge amount of success with that tour over a two year period performing in schools and festivals all over Scotland and Ireland. I think through doing that I decided rather than be an actor, I enjoyed working with actors more. My interest lies with storytelling, I think as a director I get to look at the story as a whole, and I like that. I suppose the other thing was that since I came from a small community on the fringes of Scotland, I never saw much professional theatre growing up so I wanted to make sure that future generations got the things I didn’t in the hope that I wouldn’t be the only one from that part of the world that realised a career in theatre is a possibility.
Why did you choose The Deep?
It’s funny because a lot of the plays I have done have been connected to the sea. I don’t know why that is - perhaps because I grew up beside it so the price of fish was always a major concern to me! A friend of mine once referred to me as ‘just a fish in a jacket’.
The play itself, on the surface, is a simple story about a fishing disaster but the way it’s told is beautiful and complex. I’m interested in language and also cultural identity and The Deep is full of those things. There are a lot of Scottish (East Coast) colloquialisms in it which gives it a specific flavour but the story is still universal because it deals with hope. I like things that are simultaneously specific to a certain culture but also universal, rather than parochial.
I’m also interested in the Scottish/Icelandic connection. The original play is Icelandic and was written by Jon Atli Jonnason. Due to the part of Scotland I’m from, which was part of Norway until the early 15th century, I’m fascinated by the Scandinavian connection between the two countries.
How have you researched the play and the background?
I think growing up by the sea for 20 years is all the research I’ve done. Just being aware of a communities dependence on the sea and seeing both the joy and disaster it can bring is enough research to being going on. As a rule, unless the play is about a specific moment in history or set in a particular period, I don’t get bogged down by research. I just read the play. My main responsibility is to make sure the story is as clear as possible. Plus, going into a rehearsal room with reels and reels of notes and pictures, I think, can often be a bit counter-productive.
How does it feel to have your first run since graduating from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School?
I’m very excited to share the play and I’m very proud to be doing it with the Tobacco Factory Theatre. It’s a theatre I’ve been to and worked in during my time at BOVTS so it’s great to be connected to it. I live in Southville as well so I see the positive effect the theatre has on the community and I’m glad that, through The Deep, I will be part of that positivity.
Can you tell us more about what the audience can expect?
I think one of the advantages of a one-man for an audience member is that it’s just the two of you – he’s only got you and vice-versa. So there’s a real sense of partnership and dependence. My hope is that the audience get really attached to the character who is a bit simple minded at times, but simultaneously very profound. There’s not much in the way of set, certainly nothing that the character can hide behind so he’s really only got you. As it’s about a fishing disaster, naturally it’s a sad story but it’ll be hard not to feel uplifted at the end, perhaps with a greater appreciation for life.
Can you sum up in about 5 words, why people should come and see The Deep?
It’s an honest human story about hope amid fear.
Find out more about The Deep here
P.s. We’ve checked in with Iain since we interviewed him a few weeks ago, about how rehearsals are going. Here’s what he had to say:
“I’ve never done a one-person show before so it’s all quite a new experience for me. What i’m enjoying most about is the amount of focus I can have on the actors and his performance – I’m not having to worry about relationships between characters, different scenes and things like that. I can just really hone in on him and the story. A one person show is very much down to the performer’s own personality. Joshua has been terrific because he’s a very light-hearted, open kinda guy which is really perfect for the character.
We started rehearsals by just reading through the play, stopping at any bits we felt unsure of or had questions about. We broke the play down into manageable chunks as on the page it can look quite daunting as just one big entity. We got it on its feet very early on as I think the more Joshua got used to be up there, on his own, the better. He’s putting in a lot of lovely audience interaction, and by that I mean he directly talks to people and really makes everyone feel like they are as much part of the story as he himself is.
We’ve carried on like that, working on each chunk and eventually put them all together, finding new things as we go along. As we are less than a week away from opening, we have just been running it a couple of times per day. It’s tiring and also as it’s quite an emotional piece, it can get quite difficult at times. The play itself is a tricky one as the character is both in the story, having everything happen to him in real time but simultaneously he is on outside, telling us about something that has already happened.”