Woolf: Examining the human psyche

    Jay Crutchley is our RTYDS (Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme) Resident Assistant Director and will be assisting David Mercatali on our upcoming production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Jay found a quiet moment ahead of the maelstrom of the start of rehearsals to tell us how he is preparing to work on such an iconic play.

    My name is Jay Crutchley and I am the Assistant Director for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. When I speak to people and we get onto my job, I often get asked about what an assistant director actually does.

    I always refer to myself as an observer and an investigator, meaning that I try to feed in observations from the world around me to discover new things in a rehearsal room, which can then be investigated and explored in a variety of creative ways.

    Personally I don’t think there’s one solid answer or job description for my role, as it completely depends on a few varying factors and the director you’re working with. For example, my preparations for Woolf currently consist of a lot of reading and researching. Albee’s play is an absolute beast! There are so many layers to unpick, which gives me a great opportunity to investigate the characters and the things that really drive them from their core.

    Since Albee explores the various psychological games people play with each other, part of my research is reading about subconscious human behaviour and understanding some basic principles of psychology. Also, the play is set in the USA during the 1960’s, so I am researching American culture from the era and the social and political climate surrounding the play (it’s more fun than it sounds!). If you’re thinking, well I thought that was the director’s job! – yes, in one sense you would be correct. But I suppose another part of my job is to support the director to enable them to meet their artistic vision. The director has a million things to think about, so me taking things like some of the preparatory research away allows more space for them to be creative and get the best out of the actors.

    So, I am really looking forward to all the learning I will undertake for this production and then being in a position to share it with the actors to help their performances. I am really excited to work on a text that is so rich in psychological warfare but I am also nervous about getting into a massive research hole examining the human psyche!


    Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? runs at Tobacco Factory Theatres from Wed 19 February – Sat 21 March.

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