Directing - A Handbook for Emerging Theatre Directors
The title of this book says it all. Rob Swain is primarily a theatre educator, running the MFA theatre directing course at Birkbeck College in London.
Swain is also an experienced theatre director and therefore speaks about his subject with authority from two different perspectives.
The book has clearly been written to appeal to foundation level students who believe that they might have a talent for directing. His dream reader is someone who has directed one or two plays, possibly on the fringe or while at school or college and thinks that they might have what it takes to turn their hobby into a career.
The author attempts to cover every base imaginable to enable readers to understand what they will be letting themselves in for if they wish to enter the profession.
The book is largely split into chapters that investigate the director's relationships with others involved in the process. This includes actors, authors and designers as well as the industry itself.
Perhaps the most interesting chapters for anyone poised to make the jump will be those looking at the production itself and directing, i.e. the art rather than the business. In the fullness of time, they will realise the bitter truth that funding and organising productions can be just as important as creating them.
As well as a lot of solid advice and background information, Swain has persuaded a large number of the great and the good including critic Irving Wardle, playwright Colin Teevan and designers Alison Chitty and Vicki Mortimer, plus many others with Birkbeck connections to write short pieces or answer questions about their take on theatre direction.
While anybody established in the business will probably find this book too basic, it is likely to find itself on the compulsory reading list for anyone about to embark on a university or postgraduate drama school course in theatre direction. The general reader might also find it enlightening as an introduction to the topic that also provides much behind-the-scenes information about life in the theatre.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher