Directing, Declan Donnellan

On Wednesday night I attended The Winters Tale at Warwick Arts Centre by Cheek by Jowl. I was initially going to watch for the movement dynamic of the show and became very interested in the directing aspect of the creation process. The day before I just so happened to take the book Directors/Directing out from the library and it has a section on Declan Donnellan who is the Artistic Director of Cheek By Jowl. Not knowing where to start with the book I thought the best place would be from the director of whose show I had just seen. After having read Donnellan’s section of the book I realized he is an interesting artist with some fantastic methods of creating work.

Declan Donnellan has for the last few years been working in a dual role as director for both Cheek By Jowl and a Russian company Chekhov international Theatre Festival. While reading his interview with Maria Shevtsova it was apparent Donnellan had a real interest in space particularly with text, stage and the actor. Keeping space with the actor and their character for Donnellan is most important, “the purpose is to see each other and their characters more clearly…to look outside of themselves towards the targets aimed for by their characters.”(Maria, 2009: 69) This was an interesting point made, my understanding of analyzing a character predominantly comes from method acting, in its nature is quite introspective. This allows you to operate as two beings, and objectively step outside and observe the character.

It was interesting to read Donnellan spoke about the problem with preconceptions when creating theatre. He states that to constantly question is an ongoing process, however it is not an intellectual process. “In many respects, it’s a rather anti-intellectual process because sometimes our intellects are not very useful, especially when they give us preconceptions. We have to meet the world as it really is, not as we intellectually perceive it ought to be.” (Donnellan, 2009: 73) This idea reminds me of Scott Graham’s mentality during the two week intensive. To rid yourself of assumptions and see everything with a new potential. They both present a similar point for the creative process. To have a completely open mind is often when you find something you could not have discussed and consolidated on your own, this also allows the audience to make their own decisions on the subtext of a scene. It is a rather abstract idea as it is not so easy to drop everything you know and look at things with new eyes, however I can see the freedom in not being weighed down by pre conceived expectations. “There is sometimes an honor in ignorance!”(Donnellan, 2009: 74) Donnellan states that there is a power in reflection on the actual experience, however unpredictable. To be open to the process, not decided on the final product. I think this relates to Graham’s ‘Crooked Path’, the most interesting material comes from an incredibly different place to where you wanted to end up. It is about being open to take the time when you find yourself in an unfamiliar place, as eventually you do find your way back with better results.I have certainly connected to this idea, it is a freeing mentality to have. I would like to work on this thought in future developments and allow the process to take me where I need to go.

Declan Donnellan has demonstrated how much you can play with text particularly classical plays. His use of space in everything allows for free interpretation, that coupled with the disuse of preconceptions makes for plays like The Winters Tale to be accessible for an audience unfamiliar with Shakespeare. It is interesting to see a crossover of directing techniques through different genres, and how relevant they are to theatre as a whole.



Shevtsova, M., & Innes, Christopher. (2009). Directors/directing : Conversations on theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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