Kirsty Housley has directed a huge range of different forms and styles from The Encounter to Tao of Glass to Rich Kids, Believers are but Brothers and more. Her latest project is directing MEPHISTO [A RHAPSODY] at the Gate Theatre.
What inspired you to become a director?
I always loved stories. When I was younger I got my fix from books, TV, films, songs, and by making things up. But when I got to secondary school there was this incredible youth theatre run by our drama teacher Mark Wheeller, and that was my first experience of theatre. First I just watched, and then I joined in. And from then on I think I always wanted to direct because I find all the elements of theatre (words, sounds, images, performance, lighting, form, dramaturgy, other technologies) equally fascinating, and I love piecing all of those things together to convey meaning, feeling & story.
Can you tell us about your process of theatre-making?
The process is different every time, which can be pretty anxiety inducing for me and whoever I’m working with. But if you use the same process each time then some elements of your work will never be able to really change or genuinely fit and serve the central questions, themes & stories of each piece. But broadly speaking it’s always about asking questions, having an open dialogue with all of your team, doing a huge amount of prep and research, and figuring out why you’re making the piece. If you know what’s driving it then you can almost always figure out how to go about making it from there…. With that foundation you can then mess about a bit. Try things. On this show [Mephisto [A Rhapsody]], every time I’ve made a definitive statement about what I think something is or isn’t, we’ve then tried it out on the floor and I’ve been surprised by what actually emerges. So you have to let yourself (and everyone else in the room) be wrong! If you’re learning & discovering then it’s all useful.
Your latest project is Mephisto [A Rhapsody] at our very own Gate Theatre. Can you tell us a bit about the play?
Mephisto [A Rhapsody] is a very loose adaptation of Klaus Mann’s book Mephisto. It’s indirectly about his brother-in-law, Gustaf Gründgens, an actor who made radical anti-fascist work but then stayed in Berlin after Hitler came to power and ran the state theatre in Berlin. He chose his own career progression over his morals. This version is updated to the present day with some added twists!
What made you want to direct this play?
I think for me the reason I make theatre is tied in with the collective experience of all gathering in one room and sitting together and having space to think about who we are. To hear our stories & other people’s. That study that recently found that audiences’ heartbeats synch up when they sit together and watch a show: that’s incredible! The fact that that happens makes theatre really special.
What do you think the purpose of theatre is?
It’s 100% there for us to dream into, to imagine ourselves into, to practice empathy and exercise our emotions a bit. Which is all pretty cool.
Why should people come see Mephisto [A Rhapsody]?
I don’t want to spoil all our surprises and plot twists, but the play is completely brilliant, our cast and creative team are incredible and it will take you on a wild ride. So come!
Mephisto [A Rhapsody] will play at the Gate Theatre from 3 – 26 Oct. Book now.