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Interview with Kindertransport director Andrew Hall

Approved by ATG's PR & Communications Officer, David Bradbury

The first major UK tour of Diane Samuels’ play Kindertransport is coming to Richmond Theatre from Monday 3 February. It’s an uplifting play about Mother/Daughter relationships but set against the background of the historical event known as the Kindertransport. In this short series of articles we look at the historical context of the play, and hear from the playwright and director about their thoughts on the production.

'This is a play about the relationship between mothers and daughters - it is not a play about the Holocaust.'

The Director
Andrew Hall

What was your first step in beginning the creative process for this production?

The first step was to read the play again and again. It is always the first step. Before making any decision about staging or casting or design, first and foremost I need to understand, what is the play about? What is the journey of the characters? What is the story? That’s the first step.

Did you undertake any specific research, when looking for inspiration?

To begin with, no. I met with Diane Samuels at a very early stage to discuss the possibility of directing her play and one of the points she made very strongly to me at that early meeting was that this is a play about the relationship between mothers and daughters – it is not a play about the Holocaust. That obscenity is the background to the play, it is a key component of the shaping of the lives of key protagonists, but it is not the story. However, in staging the representation of Eva’s journey, to hear the experiences of real life Kinder who had made that journey has been invaluable. I spent a lot of time looking at both the AJR and Journey to Safety websites, visited the Jewish Museum and spoke to my Jewish friends about some of their family experiences.

The production is touring to different sized venues. How does this affect your work?

It affects it on a very technical level. Firstly, working with the Designer to ensure that the set design will work in every space, then ‘blocking’ the play (blocking is the technical term for where actors are placed physically on stage during the action of the play) to ensure that all of the action will be properly visible and focused in every venue. Finally, also being sure that the size of the actors’ performances will be appropriate for each venue.

How would you define your role within the overall production process?

To create a working environment in which the actors will be secure and confident and thereby enable them to achieve the very best performance of the play. This means having a clear and comprehensive understanding of what the play is about, how the narrative should unfold, having a carefully planned rehearsal schedule that ensures every scene is fully explored and developed and that the play comes together as a whole ready for the first performance.

Do you have any advice for someone thinking of Directing as a career?

You need to understand every element of the production process to be able to properly exploit the different powers they offer to a production. You need the ability to analyse text to try to determine the playwright’s intention in individual scenes and the play as a whole; an understanding of the actor’s working process and technical vocabulary and an understanding of the technical tools at your disposal – lights/sound/projection etc.

You can start by trying to get a job as a part-time stagehand or dresser at your local theatre – get in there and soak up as much as you can. Go and see as much theatre as you possible can – including fringe and amateur theatre. Sometimes it may not be as good as you might hope, but sometimes you can learn as much from watching an unsuccessful production as you can from watching a hit. Analyse why something didn’t work. Read plays, think about how you might stage them. Consider a Director’s Course at one of the leading drama schools, or perhaps take an English/Drama degree first and look at a Post-Grad Director’s course to follow.

Kindertransport is at Richmond Theatre from Mon 3 - Sat 8 Feb.

Article by Hall & Childs Ltd