VICKY FEATHERSTONE: EVERYBODY CAN RELATE TO THE INTIMACY OF THEATRE

Novinite Insider » INTERVIEW | April 12, 2002, Friday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Vicky Featherstone was born in 1967 near London. As a child she travelled a lot with her parents, living in India, Germany, Switzerland. She went to university in Manchester and studied drama. As a director she has been working for the television and the theater. Artistic Director of London-based Paines Plough company for five years, Vicky Featherstone is said to be the most exciting and inspired directors of her generation. Among her most famous productions are "Crazy Gary's Mobile Disco" by Gary Owen, "Splendour" by Abi Morgan, "Crave" by Sarah Kane, "Sleeping around" by Stephen Greenhorn, Hilary Fannin, Abi Morgan and Mark Ravenhill. Married with two children.

Vicky Featherstone met Milena Hristova, Editor of novinite.com and The News.

Q: You are often described as a daring director. Do you find yourself attracted to some particular themes in the plays you choose to direct?

A: I don't think I am consciously drawn to particular themes. People could say there are themes but I am not aware of that. What interests me is about putting pieces of work on stage that could only exist in the theatre. I think that if you were trying to push the boundaries of the theatre you would never do it. In fact when I am in rehearsals I look at my work and think that it is quite pedestrian or ordinary. May be this is because my work is very personal, I think very much of theatre as a collaboration. If I am daring at all it's about the people who I choose to work with.

Q: "Tiny Dynamite" was a collaboration of Paines Plough and Frantic Assembly. What in your opinion are the most important results of such collaborations?

A: The most important thing is that we respected each other's work for a long time and our individual works are actually very different. The result is not like either Paines Plough or Frantic Assembly's work. What came out of it is that we found a way to create a hybrid, a lot finer than what we thought it was going to be.

Q: Your appointment as Artistic Director of Paines Plough seems to have been a turning point both for you and the company. What is your opinion on that?

A: I knew I wanted to concentrate on new writing. In England if you are a free-lance director it is quite difficult to do that. Being a good new writing director is about having long-term relationships with writers, which have developed over a number of years. Shortly before I got the job at Paines Plough I've been working in television drama, which I like, it pays very well in England, but it was not fulfilling me. When I applied for the job at Paines Plough, I thought if I get this job, that‘s it. For the company itself, I think it was also a turning point. The company was successful financially, but did not have any clear vision about the work that it was building up. This was brilliant to me because it gave me the opportunity to come up with my own ideas, rather than inherit somebody else's vision.

Q: Which is the major difference between your work in television and the theatre?

A: My particular job was about finding writers, developing writers and coming up with new ideas, and actually it is not very different from what I am doing here. The problem was that in the end there were so many outside influences like money, producers that had nothing to do with the creative process. Ideas that are brilliant at the beginning become diluted and simplified. But I still do work for television now as a free-lance for a couple of writers.

Q: How do you see the director's major contribution to the final product that the audience enjoys in the theatre?

A: The word director is a generic word in a way and the role is different with different styles and kinds of theatre. For a new writing director has to be about enabling the writer find out what they really want to write. You also have to be truthful to the play on stage in terms of production. For me the play does not exist before the first production and I feel I have responsibility to the writer. Other directors in England, like those who direct the classics or Shakespeare, do not have this responsibility to their writers. They can put their own ego a lot more into what you see on stage. When I started out I did classics as well and enjoyed it, but for me there is always other people who can do that. Moreover the relationship with a writer, often very complicated, is very challenging. I love that.

Q: Your production of "Tiny Dynamite" turns it into a piece of poetry, by knowing exactly which buttons to press. How do you do that?

A: It's just doing something that I like and also a mixture of all people who make up the whole thing. I had a brilliant composer, a fantastic lighting designer. We understand each other better; we talk less and work more. It is a matter of taste. If you trust your taste and work with people with the same taste as you, this is what makes it work. It is only sometimes that the audience shares your taste. I think about the audience in terms of whether they will understand the play.

Q: How did you decide to start working on "Tiny Dynamite"?

A: I've known Steven and Scott from Frantic Assembly for a very long time and but I always though that they did not take the writer far enough. There is very little movement in "Tiny Dynamite" than their normal productions, which are with massive movement. The result was something very subtle because the play was more important than any of us. Following Abi's "Splendour" we decided to do some collaboration. Abi was interested in the relationship that the two boys had on stage anyway. So a whole story came out of us being together.

Q: Is there any character that you identify with?

A: I think I identify with absolutely every character I ever direct. In fact you have to. When I worked on "Touching Evil", which is a massive hit in England, I got into mind of a serial killer.

Q: What do you know about Bulgarian playwriting?

A: I know very little. When I go back I will demand that there is more communication and more cross-fertilization. People here are very questioning and this is refreshing and it crosses language barriers. I am really impressed by people's attitude.

Q: Theatre performances are expensive. Do you think there is any hope of survival for the theatre in such a poor country as Bulgaria?

A: Theatre does not have to be expensive and that's why the so-called new writing is its future. In England it is very popular, a lot of money is being given to developed writers. Big spectacular performances are fantastic, but I really like the intimacy in plays like "Tiny Dynamite". If you can encourage a culture that new writing can begin and can blossom, people can see they have the right to write about their experiences and are shown different forms to do so then I think it will be very healthy. Bulgaria has an incredibly rich kind of experience over the last 20 years, which must have changed everybody and everything. You must have so many interesting stories to tell!
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