Interview: Stomping Ground – The Training Ground for Emerging Directors

Interview: Stomping Ground – The Training Ground for Emerging Directors

See my news article for full details of Stomping Ground Festival


On 15 – 17 March, nine emerging directors will be given the opportunity to showcase their work at the Stomping Ground Festival, a programme organised by StoneCrabs Theatre Company. The Albany, Deptford will play host to classic works by Mamet and Fo, as well as contemporary productions by Atiha Sen Gupta and the 2017 Brighton Festival curator, Kate Tempest.

Emerging Directors

Stomping Ground showcases the talents of these budding young directors, pushing new boundaries and making waves in the theatre scene today. Each director has one hour to explore and reveal their original voice and rehearsals are well underway. But the process itself was not easy – each individual was vetted and had to present the play they wished to direct at the very beginning of the programme. The only rules are – three cast members or fewer, 45 minutes long and something that speaks from your heart. Simple, really…

So how did the directors go about picking their chosen plays? Each have their own inspirations – Emily Marshall looks for powerful issues that inspire her:

“I like to direct work around an issue that I am passionate about – my calling in the arts is equality. It’s something we have to fight for in every piece; in theatre, you can show things from so many different perspectives, it gives you the opportunity to show everybody that we are all the same.

Within the restraints, I wanted to find something with a very immediate and powerful issue. Counting Stars has that, it’s about race and class and starts off as a comedy that slowly interrogates those issues – they start to override the security of the play. It provides a safe space to explore the full extent of the problem. The writer [Atiha Sen Gupta], her style is so poetic and rhythmic.”

 

Alex Prescot looked for a play that had a variety of angles and interpretations:

“I read The Open Couple in one sitting in Samuel French [Theatre Bookshop] and immediately thought it could be directed so many different ways – it’s so freeing. Even though it was written 30 years ago, the ideas around stereotyping are being debated more and more. Having a central couple who are mid-forties is not seen as often and is interesting to explore; but it’s not just them sitting down and discussing, it has vitality – a Dario Fo tragic comedy, with elements of farce and a serious question that you might think about 24 hours later.”

 

Edwina looked for something for over two months that spoke to her end vision. She seemed to put herself in the position of the audience member:

“I’m starting to realise that I really like things that aren’t naturalistic; that draw the audience in; that speak directly to the audience, whether that’s figurative or literal. I have that natural crisis that many people in arts have, thinking ‘What’s the point?’ or ‘What sort of practical implications does this have?’ so I wanted to find a play that spoke about contemporary issues that are difficult to encounter.


The Whole Package

As well as pitching, casting and directing, the group have collectively been given full reign to produce, market, fundraise and ultimately organise the festival itself. Regular contact and workshops have been vital to give the next generation the necessary tools to equip themselves with. Some found it easier to take to than others – Strobl is the first to recognise the difficulties:

“It’s been a challenge, but a worthwhile challenge. It’s a good lesson to learn as an emerging director, the reality is you can’t expect to be fully creative all the time, you have to consider what is marketable. It takes a long time to realise what your own approach is, how to develop a style that sits well with you – you can go to as many training workshops & masterclasses as you want but until you get the chance to be in the room and directing you don’t know what works. It’s a very natural thing, like a mechanic, you know what tools you’re going to need, so you can prepare as much as you like.” Edwina Strobl


The Festival

The festival itself is spread over three nights – three directors presenting their production on every night. It gives the directors an opportunity to celebrate their achievements together, enjoy each other’s work and be proud of their own creations. As everyone has split off, using separate casts for each production, little has been seen of each other’s directing style, rehearsal space or how their play is taking shape.

So, who’s plays are Alex, Edwina and Emily looking forward to seeing most?

“In the workshops in January we all got to watch each other direct for a morning and experiment with certain problematic scenes. Beth Kapila’s exploration and physicality of the Kate Tempest text, Wasted, I found really interesting. It’ll be great to see how all those isolated excerpts is going to become a play for an audience.” Alex

“I’m really looking forward to seeing Fernanda Mandagará‘s [The End Of All Miracles] in particular – she’s an actress who is directing for the first time and she has a very fluid, rhythmic way of acting so I can imagine her directing style will be similar. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing Sam Luffman’s [After Liverpool] because his text is very open to interpretation.” Edwina

“I’m excited for Luke Howarth’s [Captain Amazing], he has a really unique idea. Also, Alex Prescot [The Open Couple] – we’ve rehearsed a lot at the same time so I’ve seen lots of little snippets. Edwina Strobl [Boxman] is doing a one-man show and I’d really like to move into doing that.” Emily


StoneCrabs Theatre Company

None of these opportunities would be possible without the support and guidance of StoneCrabs Theatre Company, who to date have created paid employment opportunities for over 1000 actors & theatre creatives and trained 72 directors. Each of the directors come across honest and humble when talking about the opportunities they have had throughout the programme, none more so than Marshall:

“I’d like to thank StoneCrabs endlessly. Running this scheme opens so many doors – I’ve just got my first paid directing job and it wouldn’t have been possible without this kind of training. Every part has been a learning curve on its own.

Secondly, I’d like to tell them to keep it up. At some stages I felt like I wanted more help, but actually that was a false desire – they threw us in at the deep end in the right way. There is a safety net there is contingency, room for development.”

 

Stomping Ground Festival plays The Albany from 15 – 17 March. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the website.

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