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“THEA304—Directing” is one of the courses on offer for a third year theatre major, and one of the options a theatre degree builds toward. So what exactly will you get into? It is a twelve-week intensive course where you, with the support of mentors, produce ten minute pieces of theatre: lights, costumes, the whole shebang. Students also adopt production roles to assist other directors, creating a collaborative environment which explores various avenues of theatre simultaneously.
In the rehearsal period of about four to six weeks, eighteen budding directors created eighteen highly diverse pieces of theatre: you will never experience nor be a part of something like THEA304 without experiencing or being a part of THEA304.
The pieces were partitioned into Seasons A and B and played on alternate nights for a four-night period dubbed A Series of Sticky Events. For many of these students, it was their first time directing. All made admirable efforts and should be proud of their achievements and growth.
Both seasons had their strengths, but I found Season B more consistent overall. The tone for both evenings was largely sombre, with sprinklings of comedy (well-placed and well-needed) throughout, which made the comical pieces shine brighter. Each piece used the space creatively and Nino Raphael’s excerpt of Angels in America deserves special mention; it transformed the actor’s dressing room downstairs into a Valium-induced depiction of a drag queen’s den. This not only provided a journey for the audience that effectively accompanied his excerpt, but also helped to mitigate the sometimes lengthy transitions between the showings. Sarah Burton’s Carmen Dick: Feminist Private Eye also effectively used its transition time and helped the prior scene shift their set off-stage by distracting the audience with a highly entertaining pre-show skit. Season B, however, lacked this inter-show synergy.
Some scenes used minimal set to great efficiency, standing out from their set-heavy counterparts. Jules Forde’s scene from Wairoa used a line of water as a symbol for the encroaching tide—it was both beautiful and chilling. Rory Hammond’s excerpt from Loveplay was delightfully mischievous; it required a single set piece that found (and needed) use just once amongst the fumbling of his actors through a missed sexual encounter.
Choreography was strong across the board. Specific mention is warranted for Adeline Shaddick’s passage from Lifetime due to her entertaining tango interludes and energetic clowning. Matthew Staijen’s Honey and Abi Merson’s Lovesong also incorporated elegant dance choreography.
Liam Kelly’s segment from Skin Tight and Adele Louise Tunnicliff’s extract from the musical [Title of Show] [yes this is the actual title of the show—meta] were major standouts from their respective seasons. Kelly’s highly physical piece was choreographed excellently with the right balance of the playful, the sinister, and the sexual. His actors, George Fenn and Ania Upstill, commanded total attention the second they stepped on stage. Tunnicliff’s piece created an eruption of laughter and joy within the audience. Her crafting helped her lead, Yasmin Golding, own the spotlight, and the rest of her actors (Helen Mackenzie, Jack Henderson, and Brodie Taurima) were reminiscent of the Muses from Disney’s Hercules—it was all the better for it too. All scenes contributed to an entertaining night and, while some could do with another week’s rehearsal, it is a pleasure to witness the rise of new directing (and acting) talent.
It is a limited entry course offered in trimester two of 2017. If you want to gain experience and learn the basics of directing, or have always wanted to produce that one scene of that one particular play, consider THEA304 as a choice for your third year.