Being allowed into someone’s rehearsal room as an assistant director always feels a privilege. I was delighted to be given the chance to assist Matthew Xia on Conor McPherson’s hauntingly beautiful Dublin Carol at Sherman Theatre. The placement was part of the JMK / Sherman Directors Group, supported by The Carne Trust. After reading the play, I was struck by how real, funny and troubled these characters felt. The overarching tone and feel of the piece felt epic, spiritual, operatic even. I liked it a lot, but I also had a huge amount of questions and thoughts about how you go about tackling a piece like this, realising it onstage and communicating it to an audience.
Assisting Matthew has offered me a brilliant opportunity to discover just that. The early process focused on research, textual analysis and rich discussions. This created a space where everyone felt valued and therefore willing to share, explore and play. I’ve gained invaluable mentoring throughout the rehearsal period. Matthew offered time for discussion and feedback on noting and how to clearly articulate what you’re asking or trying to achieve with an actor. Having these kinds of discussions and feedback on what I was seeing or thinking in a rehearsal room, has given me confidence in my own developing voice and ability as a director. This is a crucial development that I look forward to nurturing and exercising further on the Directors Programme, throughout this coming year.
I’ve also found the musicality to Matthew’s work particularly of interest to me; not only in finding the rhythm and pace of each scene but also in the staging and the important relationship with the lights, sound and aesthetics of the world. Finding the beats, as he calls it. It’s also been a real insight into the practicalities of making that happen - from production meetings, to tech rehearsals to previews; a hugely collaborative process. It’s been an insightful, enjoyable and rather special show to have assisted on. I feel like I have become more equipped as a director from the experience. I have also been inspired by Matthew’s ambition in not being afraid to explore the big and epic elements of the piece, communicating and finding that with his team of actors, creatives and stage management, whilst always keeping a firm grasp on communicating this to a modern day audience. Equipped with this insight, inspiration and developing set of tools, I’m now more eager than ever to put this into practice throughout the year, as part of the Directors Programme.
JMK/Sherman Assistant Director, Dublin Carol