The hardest thing any director has to do is leave.
I was once told that the excitement of live theatre is the anarchy of actors, that once the director hands the stage over to the performer, they completely lose control allowing the actor to do whatever they want…whether a wonderful performance or a completely destructive act! There used to be a time when I would visit any performance I was directing every night, every matinee, always keen to give notes and make sure I was not forgotten. I guess it came from an insecurity on my behalf, of what my ability was as a director, or what the actors thought about me, I never felt a lack of trust or faith of the ability of my actors, only in what I had done. It used to excite me being in the audience and watching reactions to work I had created but it wasn’t until I was forced to leave that I realised just how important it was that I wasn’t there.
Your job as a director is to give the actors the tools to allow them to play, with confidence and clarity and to create a world in which to do so. If you have done this correctly then wherever the moment takes the actor, it was always work within the context of the piece. However while the director is still in the room, actors find it far more difficult to explore those tools they have been given for fear of ‘getting it wrong’. Without an audience to react to theatre can’t really begin to work and so it doesn’t matter how long you spend in the rehearsal room, nothing prepares the actors quite like being open. These days, after previews and press night are over and done with and the hard work has finished I can’t wait to leave them to it. For this particular production I gave them a week before I was to call back in and when I returned it was like watching a new show. There were new subtleties and moments of humour and emotion that hadn’t been there before. I laughed in new places and teared up where I hadn’t expected to. The ‘magic’ was happening!
All four actors in Something Something Lazarus are true masters of their craft and act and react in a way that few actors are free within themselves to do and despite an initial knowledge and understanding of the script, I feel more enlightened and educated with every visit.