Directing Finalists’ Showcase is unlike any other production I have done. With a selection of carefully chosen short pieces and a company of Durham’s best and brightest, it truly has been a joy to direct. This showcase has been such an incredible opportunity to work on my directorial skills as achieving character arcs, relationships, and meaningful stories in less than 5 minutes is tough but ultimately so rewarding. 

My vision for the Showcase was extremely actor focused. I recognised from the offset that this showcase was a chance for them to expand their repertoire and prepare for the industry, rather than a chance for me to selfishly thrust my stylistic choice upon a series of short pieces. Gaining entry into the industry depends so heavily on monologues and short excerpts, so I wanted Showcase to be an opportunity to practice sourcing effective pieces and work on achieving a lot in little stage time. I tried in rehearsals to focus on actor ownership with a large portion of rehearsals involving actors justifying pieces to me and actors leading me through their wants for their own performance.  

Each actor has two solo pieces and a duet/duologue each. The aim for these pieces was to achieve three outcomes: a piece to showcase what they already do well, a piece to push them in a direction/style they’re not as comfortable in, and a piece just for fun! with regards to music theatre, we have chosen four songs to reflect the talent of our showcase company this year and programmed these pieces at the start and end of each act in an attempt to achieve the most seamless audience experience. All pieces in the showcase are broadly contemporaneous as I recognise that my strength as a director is rooted in stanislavski based naturalism which I find easiest to draw from modern works and, on a more simple note, I just wanted to ensure the showcase was as stylistically coherent as possible! 

The directorial process involved a lot of 1-2-1 time with each actor breaking down changes in thought, character intentions and generally our collaborative interpretation of each piece. As a director I wanted to ensure the showcase as a whole was cohesive yet had variety. In terms of actual performance, however, I tried to just help the actors as much as they required or wanted to ensure their personal performance was true to their unique artistic style. I really wanted to take a step back so that the Showcase encompassed the nuanced individuality of each performer, and that their talent truly shone.  

Presenting to you the Finalists’ Showcase cohort of 2023…  

By Jennifer Lafferty

The Durham Finalist Showcase is at the Assembly Rooms theatre on Friday 17th March

Photo Credits: Durham Student Theatre