How to be a Director with Adam Penford

Adam Penford is the Director of the Royal Derngate production of Holes. Find out what it takes to be a Director and how to get there in the theatre industry.

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Interviewer: Hello, I'm Oscar I'm a Royal & Derngate Arts Leader and I'm with Adam, who is the Director of Holes here at Royal & Derngate theatre. So first question that I've got for you is can you explain your job in one sentence?

Adam: That's really hard in one sentence. A Director's job is to pull together all the different elements as a production and make them cohesive.

Interviewer: What is your favourite part about being a Director?

Adam: Bossing people around. Not really, Oscar. I like producing exciting theatre that I think an audience are going to find funny and entertaining and thought-provoking.

Interviewer: What's the hardest part about being a Director?

Adam: The hardest point part is sometimes you have to say no to people. So if you're auditioning Actors you have to say no more than you get say yes and that's the same with Designers and Lighting Designers and Composers and all other creative team members.

Interviewer: What advice would you give a young person that wants to get into this industry that direct theatre?

Adam: I think expose yourself to theatre as much as you possibly can. So, read plays and watch plays, join a youth theatre. Just get stuck in, because the more experience you have, the more you're going to learn.

Interviewer: How did you become a Director?

Adam: So, I actually started as an Actor, which is what quite a lot of theatre Directors do. Decided I was rubbish at it and I didn't like people looking at me. That was a bit awkward. So then I thought what else I could do and I started directing and I worked my way up from being an Assistant Director and I became an Associate Director, a Resident Director, a Revival Director and then I became the Director Director.

Interviewer: So did you have any kind of specific training or did you just kind of get in with different companies and then work there?

Adam: So, when I was starting out there weren't really Directors training courses, although there are some now. So you sort of got into it a bit more by training as an Actor and then you start to understand the kind of techniques of acting and then you'd put that into play as a Director. The best way to learn at that time was by being an Assistant Director, watching how other people do it and then you pick the best bits of what they did, left out the
rubbish bits and then formed your own way of working.

Interviewer: Why theatre? Why not TV or film or radio? Why theatre?

Adam: Well it's not for the money because you get paid more directing TV or film. I think there's just something a bit more exciting about it being live. The idea you sit there in the audience and you get a live response from the audience and if something's working then you get laughter or tears or massive applause. If something's not working you get yawns and the seats flipping up as people exit. So you know immediately whether you're doing your job well and then it sets a challenge as to how you can improve the show the following night.


Find opportunities to get into directing here.


Published: 27 March 2020

Image: Alex Brenner

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