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My Journey into Directing

By Jocelyn Robinson, director of 'The Mr Misty Mystery'

I have previously directed two Terry Pratchett productions for Twyford Drama and taken two term-long courses in Theatre Directing at the City Lit in London. The latter introduced me to Katie Mitchell and her methods of working with actors and technicians to create something special for audiences.

Terry’s plays were a wonderful playground for special effects and the dramatic but, with 26 actors and almost as many scenes, I got little chance to put my newly-learned skills into practice.

So this time around I set about finding a script with a smaller cast and fewer scenes, yet enough dramatic content that I could use some of the directing knowledge I had learned. The Mr Misty Mystery ticked all those boxes and has given me the space to build on the taught content.

The techniques I have used from my course include:

  • The drawing up of character biographies from script references and exercises to look into the relationships between the characters.

  • Identifying events (dramatic moments or changes) in the script and agreeing with the actors their intentions between each event. Also running some improvisations for pre-scene events to get the start-up mood right.

  • Avoiding the concept of “blocking” (telling people where to stand and move to). The idea is that the actors should develop their own moves and then the director tweaks them for audience visibility. Our course tutor showed us that blocking is, on the whole, an ineffective technique and that there were better ways to make the action of a play look real and convincing.

I have also tried to use the agreed intentions as a basis for my feedback to the actors and to concentrate on why rather than what, although that was a challenge at times, especially when we were running past our finish time in rehearsals.

The things I didn’t apply were:

  • The theatrical ‘games’ used in professional situations, as I found there was little call for them after the first few rehearsals and they use up precious time.

  • Improvisation of all emotions and events. I have seen these being effective but they take time to carry out and our rehearsal ‘day’ is a lot shorter than the professional one.

  • The very scary idea that we were shown on the course, where the professionals don’t use scripts in their rehearsals at all. They paraphrase from the start and gradually get closer to the script. This is supposed to avoid the dip in rehearsals when everyone puts their books down, but I felt it was just a step too far and would need a very experienced director to carry it off.

I have been very lucky in that The Mr Misty Mystery cast have been open to new ways of doing things and have helped me along the way to discover which ideas were more valuable than others. Every director runs out of time to do everything they wanted to do, so I have worked hard to get my priorities right.

I hope our efforts have helped to make the drama more convincing with little or no examples of an actor moving or doing something just because they were told to. It has all been about enhancing the script and bringing out all the moments of tension and humour, resulting, I hope, in an entertaining evening for our audiences.

Not yet booked your tickets for The Mr Misty Mystery? There's still time to do so and to see the result of Jocelyn's directing live on the stage - just visit our Book Your Tickets page.


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