There’s something about a Robert LePage production which is quintessentially of its director/devisor. One need only sit for a few minutes in a LePage production to see its strengths shining through as the product of a particular mind working with, usually, a group of actors with whom he is very familiar. This idea of the particular ‘voice’ of a director is one that plainly has value in the theatre. More locally, our own John Tiffany, whose productions can be spotted by a certain spirit of theatricality that can only be his.
But there are downsides too, not so much in the work of these masters of their craft, but in the spirit it creates in the profession generally. Increasingly, young directors, and even mid-career ones, see themselves as ‘auteurs’ and finish up putting pressure on themselves to give individual voices to productions, at times to the detriment of both text and actors. This is not to say that unusual conceptions of say, Shakespeare, where plays are moved from their historical location to some other place aren’t a good, indeed necessary thing. Who needs hose and doublet Shakespeare, and what audience would wish to see it? Some of Jude Kelly’s reconceptions of the Bard have given the work a new relevance and power. Long may such adventures continue.
All the same, this particular cult of the director as author has led to a great deal of evidence that texts are not director proof. The merits of simply trusting the text, rather than seeing it, and actors, as something a director must impose their will upon is borne out brilliantly in John Dove’s production of All My Sons at the Lyceum. It shows mighty talent and craft for a director to render himself invisible, for we’re always likely to accidentally add our own gloss to a text. But if it is a text of this power and relevance, it might be important not to. Whispers hopes that our young directors can prove themselves as willing to learn from the Doves of this world as the auteurs.