Get the Chance Young Critic Lauren Ellis-Stretch recently got the chance to chat to Chelsey Gillard Assistant Director of The Weir currently playing at The Sherman Theatre. They discussed her journey and experiences as a young director, generous tipping of bar staff, and the basis of the show itself.
What is the Weir about, for you?
‘Ahh -this is such a tough question. The Weir is such a multi-layered play that covers so many huge topics – the supernatural, grief, the depopulation of Rural Ireland, love…. the list goes on. At it’s heart I feel the play is about the ways we connect with each other as human beings and how we chose to relate to the natural world around us. Little acts of kindness play a huge role in the script and I really think it is telling us to do those things for others when we possibly can.
Through what training and experiences have you come to be an assistant director at the Sherman?
‘I applied to be the assistant director and had to attend an interview. Before this I have directed my own work and also been an assistant director for various venues and directors. This is my first time working at The Sherman on a main stage production. I studied English and Drama at university, all through my degree and in the two years since graduating I saw as much theatre as possible and tried to meet as many directors as possible to ask their advice on how to do what they do. Before that I was also a critic – a great way to see shows and think about them in a considered and logical way.
A video of Chelsey Gillard and Rachel Williams presenting at the National Rural Touring Forum on Bridgend Young Critics Project.
How did you prepare yourself for the role of assistant director on this piece?
‘I read the play – many, many, many times. I made lots of notes on the play looking for any parts that were of particular interest to me. The play takes place in a bar so I also made notes about who had what drinks and who paid for each round and other details that would be useful in the rehearsal room. As the play is also set in Ireland I did a lot of research about the kind of area the characters live in and the folklore that is mentioned in the play.’
Do you have an impressive ‘bar’ story?
‘Oh, I’m not sure. As a young freelance director I have to sometimes work other jobs to help pay the bills, so I will sometimes work as a bartender for one off events. When I was working at a really posh wedding the father of the bride decided he liked me – as my name is the same as his favourite football team. So thanks to my name I left that wedding with a crate of the most delicious red wine I’ve ever tried as well as a great tip!’
Is there anything specific you have learnt and will take from your time working on this play?
‘I’ve learnt so much watching Rachel O’Riordan the show’s director and Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre in the rehearsal room – she is just amazing! It’s been great to see how to usefully bring lots of research into the rehearsal process in a way that is useful to the actors. I’ve also never worked on a stage the size of the Sherman main stage so that has been a really good chance to pick up tips on how to make a show feel really intimate even when it’s in a big space.’
Artistic Director of The Sherman Theatre and director of The Weir Rachel O’Riordan (centre) with the cast of The Weir in rehearsals.
The Weir will be playing at the Sherman until the 22/10/16. It then transfers to the Tobacco Factory in Bristol 25 Oct -05 Nov 2016.