An offer I couldn’t refuse…

In June this year I was offered the chance to study theatre directing full-time, without distraction, on a challenging and amazing two year course in London, which means that I will be on a leave of absence from Accidental for the next two years.

I thought it would be good to go through everything that has led up to me taking up this course, so here is how it happened:

Last year Gayle and myself headed to the Edinburgh Festival to find out what it would entail for us to take a show there and what kind of shows do well. It was a fantastic and inspiring trip, that gave us the opportunity to not only see a lot of top notch theatre and comedy, but to also attend talks and lectures from seasoned professionals that would help us in our development as artists and as a company.

At a talk set up by Equity, director Ian Brown of West Yorkshire Playhouse, discussed theatre directing, one course in the UK was highlighted as being the best theatre directing course in the country, this course was the Birkbeck MFA in Theatre Directing. I checked it out and was impressed by its scope, structure and content. Therefore, it was very difficult to get onto, only taking at maximum of 10 people per year.

With very little hope of getting onto the course I applied in December 2009 and was declined for interview initially but was asked if I'd like to be considered again in May. Therefore, in May I resent my CV and asked them to continue to consider my initial application.

I was then amazed and very lucky to get an invitation to interview for a place. A fantastic opportunity, as out of what must be hundreds, if not thousands, of applications I had actually been given the chance to demonstrate that I was good enough to attend this course. I was very happy simply getting the interview, getting onto the course was secondary in some ways as I was happy that it was an affirmation that the work I was doing was helping me.

With a bit of optimism but very little hope, I headed to London in early June to interview for a place at Birkbeck. The interviews were spread over two days, with three interviews on the first day and a workshop and final interview on the second day. The first day was quite nerve wracking and I was sure that I had performed only average. The second day went better, it was focused on the interviewees running a workshop with actors based on a prepared script, as I really love rehearsals I was able to relax into this, even with the five interviewers, popping in and out during what limited time I had to show what I was like as a director. It was a lot of fun, and my time passed very quickly, I even wanted to continue as I was getting into it so much. After that I had one more interview, that was mainly discussing the workshop I had just given and how I felt it went. With the interviews over I headed back to Belfast, thoroughly expecting to never be accepted onto the course, though having enjoyed the trip regardless.

A week later I was offered a place and I was left with the decision of staying in Belfast to work with Accidental or leave for London for a few years to develop who I was as a director. I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity or I'd definitely regret it. So I decided to go.

It's very difficult to leave the company I helped found, especially so early in our work together, but all of us at Accidental felt that the more I learn in London the better my work for the company will be upon my return.  So I have handed over the majority of my role to both Gayle and Emily and I will stay in close contact with the company all the time that I'm in London. Whilst Gayle, Emily and Chloe will do fantastically in our work to come.

I have loved the last few years with Accidental, to be able to work with my friends on projects that we love and really enjoy. To work with so many talented, writers, actors, specialists, designers and friends is a gift I will never tire of. I wish everyone that I have worked with and learnt so much from all the best I can, Northern Ireland is a small and very talented theatre community, and it will continue to grow in strength, I will miss it. It's my home.