Main Stage Directors Residency

The purpose of the Main Stage Directors Residency is to put in place advanced development opportunities for Scottish theatre directors, with the aim of raising standards and expanding opportunities at home and abroad for those specialising in this field.

The residency, led by Untitled Projects and the Citizens’ Theatre, specifically targets mid-career directors and aims to offer structured support in the transition from working in studio spaces to working within a repertory structure on proscenium stages.


Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

It’s been just over a month since I started my residency with the Citizens Theatre and Untitled Projects and it’s been non-stop. My first role has been that of assistant director on Dominic Hill’s production of Hamlet and it’s been a fascinating introduction to life at the Citizens. From day one its given me the opportunity to get to know everyone, spend time in the rehearsal room and of course, get my teeth stuck into one of the most famous and enduring plays of all time. In and around rehearsals I’ve also been immersing myself in the Edinburgh International Festival programme, who’ve been supporting me by providing tickets to many of their shows. This has given me an incredible opportunity to study some of the most prominent and interesting international directors working today – a perfect way to kick off the residency.

Over the next two years the Main Stage Director in Residence post will give me the opportunity to reflect on my own and others approaches to classic texts, to participate in the operations of the theatre gaining an insight into the complexities of programming a season, workshop a number of classic plays and direct my own production as part of the Citizens Theatre’s season.

It’s all incredibly exciting and working on Hamlet has already been hugely inspiring as a process. Below are some more detailed thoughts from my time in rehearsals, but safe to say the show promises to be a playful, thrilling and inspiring production – much like my residency as a whole.

In Rehearsals

It’s a week before we preview our production of Hamlet and there is a fight taking place. Brain Ferguson (Hamlet) and Adam Best (Laertes) are tearing into each other with swords, fists and whatever else they can get their hands on. Luckily it’s just a rehearsal, with our fight director keeping a close eye on the safety of both actors. Even so, when they’re going at full speed, its pretty terrifying and will make a thrilling finale to this production.

Surrounding them are all the items we’ve used in the play – microphones, piano carcasses, electric guitars, clothes rails and booze (lots of booze) – and this is how it will be in just over a weeks time, on the Citizens stage, everything there, for everyone to see, right from the start of the play. Oh, and there is a real skull knocking about somewhere.

Hopefully this gives you an indication of the physical world of this production. An overtly theatrical and fluid staging of Hamlet that strips back any notions of an opulent royal household to create a brooding, sleazy world that acts like a pressure cooker for each and every character.

In fact this production is far less concerned with the grand Politics of a Royal household and its relationship with the outside world (Fortinbras and his army) and instead places the focus firmly on the personal politics of the characters – two families torn apart, their relationships, and the different preoccupations eating each of them up.

Sound will also play a large part in the staging of this production, with the vast majority of underscoring being played live on stage by the cast helping to explore the psychology of the piece and enhance the sense of a crumbling and decrepit world.

As we finish rehearsals for the day and the swords are placed safely back into storage there is a sense of excitement in the air. Hamlet is a wild and at times relentless play that throws innumerable challenges at actors and audiences alike – but it’s these challenges that give it its enduring appeal.  This production promises to confront these challenges head on to produce a contemporary and darkly thrilling version of Hamlet that will move and delight in equal measure.

Gareth Nicholls

Main Stage Director in residence