Ask the Expert

3 Apr

answers from Mark Babych on Directing

Mark is a well established theatre director. He has twice won prestigious fringe first awards at the Edinburgh festival for his work with Theatre Absolute. Since 2009 he has expanded his work into film and television, directing his first film ‘Blackburn’ featuring John Henshaw, Ted Robbins and Graeme Hawley for Littlebigman Films and directed episodes of CORONATION STREET where he was trained in single and multi-camera direction over two blocks in 2010.

Most recently Mark has directed the world premiere of a new adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Lucy Gough which toured throughout Wales, was Associate Director in charge of the 2011 production of the Olivier Award winning THE RAILWAY CHILDREN at London’s Waterloo Station and directed the world premiere of Ayub Khan Din’s new play ALL THE WAY HOME to great acclaim at the Lowry Theatre, Salford for the Library Theatre Company.


How did you get into Directing?
I did a Drama and Theatre Studies degree at Kent University and my final year specialised in Directing. Up to that point I thought I might become an Actor but throughout my time at University I discovered I wasn't really that good and there were people much better at it than me. After University I managed to get a couple of shows together in fringe venues and eventually started working in Community Theatre and running participatory projects. From here I landed jobs as an Associate Director and Associate Artist with a few regional theatres and after a period of freelancing with a variety of companies and artists I got the job at The Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

What do you think about the opportunities for directors, aspiring and emerging, available today?
I think the training opportunities are really good now and the wave of young directors emerging and making their mark is really healthy. There are more women directing now and a more diverse cultural mix. It's particularly good to see how the industry is embracing different voices and forms of theatre and I think building based companies have become more open and approachable to younger artists wanting to make their mark. There's no denying it is still incredibly tough and the pool of work especially for freelancers is smaller as more and more companies and artists collaborate and share their resources. But hunger, passion and a desire to tell stories that are relevant and enlightening will always enable talent to emerge and get noticed and its up to people like me to celebrate, nurture and develop talent whenever it emerges.

What do you like most about directing and what’s the hardest part?
I love directing theatre because I believe in its affirmative and transformative power; at it’s greatest it reminds us of why we are alive, making our heart beat faster and blood run cold, making us weep, laugh and cry out with indignation. It uncovers the truth and exposes the lie. It is unique in its examination of the complexity of human behaviour and there is nothing to rival the thrill of the shared experience with an audience, knowing that what is happening before us is real and present, can’t be re-wound, put on pause, or sky-plussed. The energy of a well told, illuminating story, that shines a light on private and public lives, desires, dreams, pain and joy, that is brilliantly performed and beautifully designed is an experience I crave and passionately fight for in my work

As a theatre director, I have to harness the creative energies of others in order to find meaning, form and expression and expand and enhance the vision for a production beyond the original germ of an idea. I aim to lead the company by creating the conditions whereby artists can do their very best work, take ownership and explore unknown territory, harnessing and utilising their unique talent to shape an idea into reality for an audience. In a sense, this means having clarity about what you want to do and knowing how best to support it. It’s about being open and creative and recognizing the different skills around you and encouraging diversity which means being willing to abandon yourself in order to understand how best to negotiate the many complex personalities and ideas that flow through the room to discover the prize of the accident – the unexpected twist of brilliance that turns the seed of an idea into a nugget of gold.

What play would you most like to direct and why?
Hamlet or King Lear, because they are difficult and brilliant and wonderful.

Have you got any advice for people wanting to get into directing?
See as much diverse forms of theatre as you can, devour everything. Have an appetite for discovery and investigation. Learn about the processes an Actor goes through when discovering and building a role and discover the joys of creative collaboration. Train at a recognised course and learn as much as you can from assisting great directors. Find any way you can to make a piece of work and persuade others to see it.