Challenges Facing a Student-Director

An overview of our production of Euripides’ Bacchae from beginning to its international tour.

Directing Euripides’ Bacchae and touring it for the past year has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Being only 19 years old when this project started in October 2014, and called to direct a production with more than thirty people involved was a personal challenge. Ending up touring the show with all of these people in London and Greece was definitely something I had not expected in the very beginning!

Producing a show in a university context has many drawbacks including the limited budget and the struggle to make people take you seriously. Even though students definitely have the passion and skills to produce some very good theatre, there still are many preconceptions to overcome. I am proud of the Bacchae team first and foremost because it was made of people who took their work seriously. Putting on this play, which was written more than 2000 years ago, on the very big stage of a professional, 500-seat venue in London meant we had to handle a large-scale production. But throughout the whole rehearsal process we were never scared of that scale. In fact, it inspired us: we yearned to create something grand which would convey the timelessness of the issues the play poses, as well as to show that we were more than determined to make the most of the challenges and opportunities offered to us.

I can still remember that first night when, just after giving last notes, I slipped into the auditorium as the house lights went down. In that moment, I suddenly realized that this was actually happening: I was sitting there, among 500 other people, watching the Bacchae we had been creating for months. I think the stress, and tension of that night prevented me from enjoying a single moment of the show. But I won’t forget the sound of the audience’s excited applause coming as a huge relief at the end of a very difficult day.

Selling out Bloomsbury Theatre (more than 2500 tickets in 3 days) was our first big success. But it was people’s comments after the show, as well as positive reviews, which made me feel that all our hard work had paid off. A few weeks later, when we thought that everything had finished, the National Student Drama Festival announced that the show had been selected as one of the best in the country and was invited to perform in Scarborough as part of their annual festival. So the Bacchae team got back to work to prepare for what became our Bacchae Tour 2015. We travelled to Scarborough where we had the chance to revive the show in a new space, the biggest venue of the festival. More good news followed with our selection by the International Youth Festival of Ancient Drama in Greece. This made us launch immediately a big crowd-funding campaign which allowed us to travel to Greece and perform in a big central theatre in Athens, as well as in the ancient amphitheatre of Ancient Messene. Performing in a theatre which was build thousands of years ago was the highlight of this journey; a magical moment which made everyone in the cast realize that the power of theatre crosses any barriers of countries or language.

And the Bacchae are still going! After seeing the production in London the British Museum invited us to give a special performance for their private members on the 23rd of July. We are now creating a new promenade version of the original production which will be the end of the Bacchae Tour. Certainly the most exciting end we could have asked for. In the course of five months we travelled in many different cities, we kept developing our production, we performed in very different venues, and most importantly in front of very different audiences. More than 4000 people will have seen our production by July, and our conclusion is that a play, which was written thousands of years ago, has still something important to tell us today.

Emily has started rehearsals for her new production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis which will be performed in the Crypt Gallery under St Pancras Old Church on the 8th and 9th July. Working closely with a team of designers they are creating an internal landscape of the human mind, a visually intense site-specific promenade performance.