Artistic director Matthew Parker helms Bryony Lavery’s musical two-hander Her Aching Heart, running for a limited season at London’s Hope Theatre in Islington from 29 November to 23 December 2016.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Matthew. First of all, can you tell me about your role at the Hope Theatre and what your ambitions were upon becoming Artistic Director?
The Hope was a relatively new theatre when I took the reins two years ago. I was determined to do all I could to raise it’s profile within the Off West End scene and a big factor in that was our first in house production Lovesong of the Electric Bear which transferred to the Arts Theatre and won two Offie Awards.
Her Aching Heart is your next in-house production. What was the reason for the choice and can you share your vision for it with me?
I first saw it at Uni over 20 years ago and loved it immediately. So I’ve been waiting to direct it for half my life!! It’s a fast-paced, funny and fruity romp, pastiching Gothic literature with a sapphic twist. Two actresses play eight roles between them and keep bursting into song. It’s theatrical, sexy and hilarious. What’s not to love?!! My vision is simple – entertain the audience and make them laugh.
How do you feel the space at The Hope lends itself to the piece?
The Hope is an intimate space where you as the audience feel very connected to the actors, which is great for this piece which includes some direct address. However it also needs an ‘offstage’ area where we can see the actresses getting changed behind etc – throwing costumes around for comic purposes etc – so we are building some flats which is a first for The Hope.
When you were casting, what were you looking for in particular in the actors?
Naturally funny and charming. That’s it. Easy eh?! It’s actually really hard to show natural humour in audition – luckily we saw some AMAZING funny women and have cast two who are both hilarious AND super talented classical actors. Oh they can sing too!
What do you hope the audience will take away from the piece, what can they expect?
A fantastic night out and I hope they take away aching sides from laughing so much!
What led you into a directing career?
I have wanted to direct since primary school. I did in fact direct a devised play in Junior school. Hilarious! The teachers just let me do it and gave me time to rehearse it and perform it in an assembly. I was in it, of course. In drag. Ha!! God it’s no wonder I was bullied is it?!!!!
I was an actor in my twenties but not for long. I sort of gave up on a theatre career around 25 years old. But I finally got the courage to apply for a directing training course in my early 30s. I graduated from my directing course 7 years ago and have been directing ever since.
Any Advice for budding Directors?
Meet as many people as you can. I was lucky enough to do a postgrad training course in directing but, as brilliant as it was, it’s only half the job. Most of what I am doing now is as a direct result of making and developing strong industry contacts. So go to as many press nights as you can to meet the directors and creative teams.
And work as much as you can – especially creating your own work – it really helps hone and develop your skill set.
Try and assist where possible. I try to do one assistant directing job per year so I can keep in touch with other directors’ processes and skills.
And obviously meet new people.
And finally – don’t accept the bullshit. There is so much bullshit in this industry. Always be honest with yourself and others. It may take you longer to get there but it’ll be all the sweeter when you do.
Finally, sell the show to me, why should people come and see it?
A tongue-in-cheek musical whirlwind that parodies the best in bodice-ripping romance replete with murder, elopement and heaving bosoms a-plenty as two heartbroken women jump between the pages of the same sapphic paperback – and play all the parts between them!
Huge thanks to Matthew for a fantastic interview, I love The Hope Theatre and can’t wait to return!