My mentor, Phyllida Lloyd, is a theatre and film director, and I applied to the ALMP scheme because I was specifically interested in being mentored by her; therefore I was absolutely thrilled to be chosen for it. Phyllida first got in touch with me in November, shortly before the opening of her production of ‘Julius Caesar’ at the Donmar Warehouse in London.
She invited me to come to the theatre to watch some of the technical rehearsal, so a few days later I hopped on a train to London and made my way to the theatre where I met the assistant director, Hannah, who showed me in and introduced me to Phyllida. Since the company were on a break I managed to have a quick chat with Phyllida about what aspects of theatre I was most interested in (directing and casting) before the tech started again. Having been involved in tech rehearsals before I was really interested to see how things might be different on such a high-profile professional production (apart from having lots more technical staff around, not too different, it turns out!) and it was fascinating to watch Phyllida and the cast doing their work. During the dinner break Phyllida took me out to a nearby Pret A Manger for a sandwich and we chatted about the production. I had arrived at a particularly stressful time as the first performance was the following night and there was still a lot to be done, so they were going to be working on late into the night. A couple of hours later I had to leave, but Phyllida and I agreed to keep emailing and meet up for a proper discussion soon.
Over Christmas I emailed Phyllida with some questions for her, and explained how I wasn’t sure whether or not to pursue directing professionally but how I was fairly sure of my long time interest in casting. She told me a bit about how she got into directing, summing it up with the reassurance that if it is your calling it will strongly call you sooner or later and then you will know! This made me feel a lot better for not having to decide straight away, and so we are focusing on casting in the meantime.
Although I had seen some of the play during the tech rehearsal I hadn’t managed to actually see ‘Julius Caesar’ in full performance (mainly due to the fact that the whole run had sold out!), but a couple of weeks ago while I was in London Phyllida told me she had a spare ticket for the following night’s performance, so I went along to see it with a choreographer friend of hers. It was great to see it with an audience, near the end of the run so the cast had fully settled into it, but there was still an amazing energy and power to the production. The next evening I returned to the theatre, this time to meet with Phyllida, and we went to dinner at a restaurant next door (which was completely packed with primary school children going to see ‘The Lion King’, so there was a lively atmosphere!). During dinner Phyllida gave me the names of several casting directors and agents she knew who I should write to, and said that she would forward my emails onto them herself, which is incredibly helpful. Since then she has put me in touch with one of the top musical theatre casting directors in London who has agreed to meet with me sometime in the next couple of months. I am extremely grateful to Phyllida for all these opportunities and look forward to whatever may come from it!