By Hazel Doolan
In late January 2019, I put myself forward for the directing role of Rena Bryson’s ‘Vlogger’. Though fresh from my previous directing gig for Dayshift, I wished to challenge myself further in opting for a raw gripping drama with a hint of comedy. The idea of integrating technology into live theatre always terrified me, as something could easily go wrong whether it be timing of cues or technical faults. This fear was however one that I wished to face by embracing modern technology and combining it with old school live theatre.
One of the elements I wish to achieve as director is to give both characters a story. I want to show that there is more to them than the vlogger and the girlfriend. They have pasts, a present and wishes for the future. In search for Sandra I aimed to cast an actor who would give the character substance, be relatable to the audience and make the relationship with Mia genuine. In my minds eye, Sandra is from a humble background and a good family, never went through anything hugely dramatic. Sandra felt however that she was different. She felt oppressed in her home life, by her family and couldn’t figure out why. It was when she discovered that she was LGBT and came out to her family she realised it was her family oppressing her hence her estrangement. Leona Burke was successful in casting as she gave Sandra likeable, grounded and genuine qualities. I honestly thought that I could sit down and have a cup of tea with this girl. As for Mia, I took inspiration from certain vloggers on Youtube which ranged from girly routines to very personal content. Mia is as one would call ‘basic’, pastel clothes, pastel decor, inspirational quotes, pink smoothies and so forth. There is however, an underlying anxiety within Mia that only becomes amplified the more she immerses herself into the vlogger lifestyle. She then feels obligated to share more personal content hence putting a strain on her relationships.
During the first three rehearsals in particular I reached back to my go to techniques of characterisation inspired by Stanislavski. I was interested to know the subtext of each character while the actors were on their feet. For example, during one scene I would shout ‘Stop, character’s name’ that said character would then verbalise their internal thoughts during the said scene. I integrated this into other characterisation exercises which enabled the actors to get an understanding of how and why they are how they are at a certain point of the play. For example, I had the actors reimagine and relive the moment that their characters came out to their families. During this phase I asked the actors to stop and verbalise their internal thoughts again while asking further questions about what is happening, how they feel and if certain things make them a certain way. For example, if a family member reacted in a way that dismissed the character what does that make the character feel and what does that say about them as a person.
Then the fun began when it came to directing the projections. Working with the production team, the script was gone through with a fine tooth comb to pinpoint the exact projections needed whether they be images and or video clips. Even after every production meeting I would always turn back and say ‘Did we forget anything?!’ Jokes aside, this was the element that was going to challenge me as a director as my knowledge of filming and technology was very limited. When it came to working behind the camera, I have learned an immense amount about how the smallest things can make a difference. For example, I had not been that aware of lighting and would’ve thought that as long as it were day light that it would be fine. However, with the expertees and know how our designer and videographer, I have first hand seen how the slightest adjustments improves the quality of the image. As for style, I have taken inspiration from other vloggers and was given the freedom to play around with angles, styles and create the vision for Mia’s Youtube channel. Since then, the projections have just been completed and all set for the show.
We’re still in the process of developing Vlogger however the experience has exposed me to a new kind of theatre which is interactive, modern and relevant to Irish youth. I have been enabled to integrate my own style with this new approach and hope to bring another dimension of storytelling to the script. I believe it is a way forward to create theatre for a young audience while maintaining the lifestyle of theatre.