Angus Jackson Q&A

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The other week I attended, though the Young Vic Directors Program, a Q&A with Angus Jackson, currently directing Bingo at the Young Vic.


We jumped between tips he has for directors and just general questions. I’ve put my notes below.


  • When assisting when he was younger, he wanted to have done something classical, like a Shakespeare or Jacobean tragedy, wanted to try writing something, etc. Essentially getting a wide base of knowledge and experience at that stage.
  • A lot comes out of the relationships you make (e.g. sometimes you can get jobs others turn down).
  • Work out what your taste is.
  • “You are the director you are,” even if you assist dozens of other directors, you are still you with your approach.
  • Actors—what constitutes a useful note (what you want, how to get it, what’s in the way); sometimes you just need to let them run it.
  • Dealing with ego—be relentless. It’s not healthy for you, but it’s needed.
  • Prepping—reading the play over and over and over again; tell the story of the play (i.e. “Once upon a time…”) and it can be told different ways, so find the way you want to tell it.
  • Process—no read-thru; a stop/start chat as going through; expects actors to have lines memorised before rehearsals; only matter-of-fact discussions (i.e. what do we absolutely know in the play); “design the shit out of it” so actors are free but the design helps; pick out the blocking that works; go through and back; in Previews, usually end up making one massive change b/c visually a part of the story isn’t working.
  • What’s the story/spine? Are we hitting the themes properly?
  • Finds character work comes from doing, not spending rehearsal time on what a character had for breakfast that day (okay, but not in rehearsal).
  • Designers—tries to get designers with more experience than him; not prescriptive from the start; changing/evolving design throughout; “This is a story about…”
  • Producers—same advice as to working with writers (i.e. occasional appearances); “You hired me to direct; let me.”
  • Develop your taste; ignore show reviews 5-star or w/e.
  • Don’t spend all your time looking over your shoulder (i.e. if a contemporary is doing better, ignore it and focus on you).
  • Know when you’re hot; play your hand when you have the chance.
  • Be ready and know what you want to do next; when the time comes that someone asks you what you’d like to direct, always have that answer ready.
  • Remember the difference between compromise and being compromised (i.e. Can I do this w/o compromising my integrity? Great. Then do it with good grace.)
  • Know your Chekov, Shakespeare, and Ibsen. Don’t be the person in the room who doesn’t.
  • The great plays are great plays.
  • Know what people want to see (that means what a company wants to see and an audience).
  • Go to lots of other art forms (e.g. art galleries, dance, opera).
  • When you hit a point when you’re offered lots of projects, read the show and after the last page, ask if you want to do this for 3, 6 months. If not, don’t take the meeting or the workshop.