The Role of the Director

There’s been much in the news in the past few months about The Globe Theatre. The appointment of Emma Rice was at first seen as exciting until she started to use sound and light in her productions which was not to the liking of the Globe’s Board of Trustees and many others who cited the Globe’s original purpose to perform Shakespeare as closely to how it would have been performed in his time. There was an outcry as Emma Rice was in effect sacked or asked to resign. Rice has since gone on to do exciting things with her new company Wise Children and remains one of this country’s leading theatre directors.  

The Globe later announced Michelle Terry as its new Artistic Director. Terry is a superb actress, well respected at The Globe and elsewhere. However, she is not a director so it was asked how could she direct any of The Globe’s productions? Terry then announced she wouldn’t be directing productions. She would be the Artistic Director and make decisions about the programme and who directed what, but she would remain as an actor. She has now announced The Globe’s new season.  

Michelle Terry
Michelle Terry at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Terry wants to make theatre more inclusive and democratic. She wants to breakdown the theatre hierarchy. She is talking more about ensemble working  and co directing, but is it entirely doable?  The question is what is the role of the director?  The role is really only just one hundred years old. Before theatres were run by the all powerful Actor/ Manager. Directors emerged as theatre became more sophisticated and the view was there should be a cohesive and coherent artistic vision on all productions.  But does that always have to be the case in that is it is one person’s vision?  Theatre is a collaborative process and we all know that actors are creative and passionate beings who have plenty of ideas of their own.  Can Terry’s vision work?  Let’s start a discussion on this.

Ensemble working can indeed be very invigorating and wonderfully creative, but in my experience it takes more time.  Theatre in this country seems to have less and less time. Productions have to be mounted quickly. However, in Russia at the Moscow Arts Centre, actors may rehearse for six months or more, really living and breathing the characters. Can that ever happen here?  It seems anything may be possible with time and money.

So what do you think is the role of the director?

What is the job of the director in Theatre?

What is the role of a director of a play?

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