NTW Emerging Director blog - Lisa Diveney - National Theatre Wales

NTW Emerging Director blog – Lisa Diveney

August 21, 2019

8 July 2019

It has been a day of firsts. This is my first blog, which feels appropriate as it is my first day as emerging director with NTW and my first fully fledged job as an assistant director.

It is the end of day one of rehearsals on For All I Care and I am simultaneously google searching images to share with the team tomorrow, searching for blogs that have come before and attempting to write one.


Until now working as a theatre director felt like something I would do when I am older and wiser, but nobody was going to offer me a directing job without taking steps to make it happen. 

I am hugely grateful to NTW for giving me this opportunity. There aren’t many companies offering bursaries to emerging directors and it is hugely competitive.

I was sent the play after being offered the position. After I read it I had a huge smile on my face and watery eyes.

For All I Care is beautifully written by Alan Harris and looks at the NHS and valleys life through the eyes of a patient and a nurse. It is full of heart and humour. When I found out Hannah Daniel was cast, my smile grew even bigger. I had previously met Hannah working with Chippy Lane Productions and seen her in Hinterland. Perfect casting. 

Back to the first day of rehearsals…

It started with a breakfast chat with Jac Ifan Moore, the director of For All I Care – which was a great start, as I believe all meetings should involve food. I hadn’t met Jac until today but was aware of his work. Jac is incredibly generous and works in a collaborative way, using the creative voices in the room. He is a very visual director. This was music to my ears. After breakfast, I met the rest of the team and had a readthrough. 

It’s my first time working on a one woman show. We have two weeks to rehearse.

Tomorrow we are continuing with table work, exploring character and starting to get the show on its feet. Here goes! Hopefully see you at Chapter or Summer Hall, Edinburgh.

27 July 2019

I am on a packed train, joining other theatre makers and audience participating in the mass exodus to Edinburgh for this year’s Fringe. This is the second time I have been to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but this time I shall be armed with a Summer Hall Pass, which enables me to see shows at the venue for free. 

To date, we have had 2 weeks to rehearse, 1.5 days to tech, 2 dress rehearsals and 2 previews. 

A big part of the process has been character development, as Hannah has to dip in and out of multiple characters. Techniques that we have used include seven levels of tension (originally developed by Jacques Lecoq and practiced by Complicité) and we have vocally explored the resonance and inner tempo of characters – how that affects the way they speak, move and where their gaze lands. Jac also gave me space to do some vocal work with Hannah – where I have learned to give actors the space to explore an exercise. 

Feedback from previews has led to some changes in staging, further character development and cuts have been made due to the running time (there is a strict 1hr rule at the festival). It’s ever evolving. When you have been in rehearsals and are familiar with the story, it’s easy to become snow blind (to steal Jac’s phrase) and having fresh eyes on the work is invaluable.

Throughout the rehearsal process, Jac has made time to check in with me and allow me to quiz him. Here’s a list of useful advice I have gleaned on this job: 

  • Collate and document exercises so that you have a toolbox you can call upon.
  • As well as scouring the usual (Arts Jobs/JMK/Young Vic Director’s Program/twitter) concentrate on building relationships with theatre makers and producing houses.
  • It’s always better to meet in person rather than sending an e-mail. 
  • Have coffee with people you would like to work with because you never know where those conversations may lead. 
  • Something that David Evans, our Production Manager, advised is to seek sponsorship from local businesses as a way of funding work. 

Next stop Edinburgh…

3 August 2019

I’ve arrived home after a week in Edinburgh opening For All I Care at Summer Hall. 

I have been to the Edinburgh Festival once before for a few days but this was the first time I’ve been involved with a production. Accommodation is in high demand and we stayed in dorms.  

After the get-in we had 3 hours to tech the show. There was a slightly different set up with the lights, so time was lost resolving that.  

The following day we had a back to back dress rehearsal with Cotton Fingers (an NTW show that is running in tandem with For All I Care; both plays originated as part of the NHS70 Festival) and tried out the tight 15 minute turnaround between them.

There are many companies sharing venues in Edinburgh, all with their own technical requirements. Everything has to be simple, efficient and there will be compromise!

There is one warm up space in a cold basement room that everyone at Summer Hall has access to so we used this to work performance notes. Production meetings were held in the courtyard.

Marketing is key in Edinburgh, getting posters and reviews up, handing out flyers and spreading the word via social media and word of mouth.

After checking the Fringe app I can see there are 4,267 shows. The festival is saturated but there is a real sense of camaraderie between companies. 

There are some great events occurring at Fringe Central, full of free industry talks. So if you’re heading to the fringe and you’re interested in creating work, this is great place to start. Just remember to book!

I’m returning to Edinburgh in two weeks to check in on the play, exploit my Summer Hall pass even further and check out as many of those 4,267 shows as I can! 

When I get back, I’ll be looking ahead and gathering my notes and thoughts to share with other emerging directors at the NTW labs. I can’t wait.


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