The Monthly interviews director Rhiann Jeffrey – Part 1

Were you always drawn to the theatre as a place to display your creative energies?

I knew from a young age that I wanted to have a career in theatre, but it was only at University that I was drawn to directing. For me, directing is the ultimate creative connection, with your cast and creative team, your audience, the theatre industry. I love every aspect of the job from the late night prep and research to that electric energy of the first table read, to opening night. It doesn’t feel like a job, and for that, I am very lucky.

Did you get support at home or in school?

I have huge support from my family and friends who come to see all of my shows – sometimes even more than once. My Grandad often nods off (yet vigorously denies this) and my Mum is the biggest supporter I have. Also I am currently answering these questions with help from my girlfriend on a flight to Cape Verde on NYE drinking a COFFEE – so that goes to show just how supportive she is!

How did you develop your skills in theatre production?

After graduating in Theatre from Queen’s University in Belfast, I was lucky enough to be awarded a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship in 2014 with Prime Cut for directing, which gave me the invaluable opportunity to assist the fantastic Artistic Director, Emma Jordan, on several shows, and at the end of the year I was able to choose and direct my first professional production which was ‘Mydidae’ by Jack Thorne. I also assisted Ian Rickson on Conor McPherson’s ‘The Nest.’ I think being an AD gives you the best insight into the role and I don’t think we ever stop learning as directors. You have to always be hungry for connection.

How do you maintain your work as a Director?

I’m lucky enough at the moment (I hope I don’t jinx myself!) to be able to direct most of the year which I am eternally grateful for – as this was not always the case! I couldn’t count on both hands the amount of odd jobs I’ve had in between shows over the years. If I do have to work in between directing gigs I try to find jobs with transferable skills or a where there’s a bit of creativity needed. For example I’ve worked in a summer school teaching drama in Spain, as a Production Assistant for Peter Corry Productions, as an Assistant Production Coordinator for Film and TV and most recently as a Box office coordinator for the Christmas trail at Hillsborough.

What are the key themes you aim to address with your work?

Identity and psychology always play a huge part in the material and productions I’m interested in. I’m drawn to political theatre, dark comedies, psychological thrillers, musicals – I don’t really have a type!! I think the more varied experience you get as a director, the better. I love when you can feel an energy between the actors and the audience – and when we are able to provoke the audience to question something – whether it’s themselves or a belief or assumption or thought they have had. Theatre can be hugely powerful when the right people come together. I like that about it.

Directed by Rhiann Jeffrey, Amanda Verlaque’s play “Distortion” will be screened at The MAC in January – See more information at the link below

Part two of this interview is here

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