The Art of The Artistic Director: invaluable insights into the programming minefield

The absence of Irish names reflects the cull of independent companies here since 2007

Vicky Featherstone, right, with Abi Morgan at the press night for The Mistress Contract” at Royal Court Theatre, London in 2014 . Photograph:  Nick Harvey/WireImage/Getty Images

Vicky Featherstone, right, with Abi Morgan at the press night for The Mistress Contract” at Royal Court Theatre, London in 2014 . Photograph: Nick Harvey/WireImage/Getty Images

Thu, Aug 1, 2019, 05:51

   
 

Book Title:
The Art of The Artistic Director

ISBN-13:
978-1350016934

Author:
Christopher Haydon

Publisher:
Methuen

Guideline Price:
£17.99

Perhaps it shouldn’t be, but it’s slightly telling about the present state of Irish theatre that in Methuen’s new book, The Art of The Artistic Director, in which theatre director Christopher Haydon speaks to 20 leading artistic directors, not one on this island merits a mention, let alone a chapter.

Offering a wide range of insights into the hoops US and British artistic directors must jump through before a play is even considered, it’s the chapters dealing with names and theatres closer to home that bring an engaging look at the cogs and wheels that have brought London’s vibrant new writing scene to the healthy state it’s in today.

In particular the chapters on Vicky Featherstone, David Lan, Josie Rourke and Rufus Norris give us an invaluable sense of the minefield artistic directors must walk through these days when it comes to programming.

We see how the once straightforward task of packaging a season of new and old dramas has now become a complex balancing act with gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality et al ultimately determining what goes on stage and who gets to write, direct and act in it.

From an Irish perspective the book is a very welcome, if painful, reminder of how things worked here before the cull of independent companies from 2007 onwards. A time when a familiar Irish name or two wouldn’t be out of place among these pages. However, if there does come a day when the funded company model does return and with it the need for the next generation of artistic directors to figure out what their role and function are, and more importantly, can be, The Art of The Artistic Director wouldn’t be a bad place to start out from.