Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC

The director on her varied career, directing a rep company, and what it is like working with the RSC

By: Jul. 08, 2024
Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC
Get Access To Every Broadway Story

Unlock access to every one of the hundreds of articles published daily on BroadwayWorld by logging in with one click.




Existing user? Just click login.

Few directors are as comfortable helming a sparkly winter panto as they are a psychologically gruelling Sarah Kane play. But few directors have credits as varied as Tinuke Craig. A former Bayliss Associate at The Old Vic, she is now making her RSC directorial debut with Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, a restoration comedy written in 1777. 247 years later – what can it tell us today?

“It doesn’t feel like a complete leap to today. The bulk of the piece is about the gap between the way you see yourself and the way other people see you, how you want people to perceive you and the length you're willing to go to in order to mask your true self.”

Tinuke was charmed by Sheridan’s rich language. “You're in real quick. It’s genuinely very funny. There are proper gags, and not in that university academic chuckle way. The rehearsal process has been joyful because the characters are super vivid, the world is super clear, the speed. Comedy works when it is up against the clock right?”

Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC
Rehearsal for The School for Scandal
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Directing The School for Scandal has been a unique challenge. The production is playing in repertory alongside The Merry Wives of Windsor meaning the same cast perform across both productions concurrently.

“You couldn't, for example, just have everybody in because the person you need for a certain part might be up on stage doing a different scene in The Merry Wives. I had to be quite specific about who I wanted and when.”  

Tinuke worked closely with Blanche McIntyre, directing The Merry Wives of Windsor. They cast and rehearsed the productions in tandem, negotiating schedules to rehearse with different actors. There’s a silver lining to the unorthodox process. The cast all knew each other by the time rehearsals started for School For Scandal. “All that time that you spend in rehearsal trying to get the lay of the land and form bonds from the company was already done.”

It takes a certain type of actor to thrive in a rep company. “It's arduous. From the outside, it looks impossible. But that’s the kind of actor I want to work with.” Some of the cast are understudying three parts in either play - “that’s eight parts in their head at any given moment.”

It also meant Tinuke had breathing room to fix scenes.

Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC
Rehearsal for The School for Scandal
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

“I could come in and I could sit down with the assistant director, Ellie, and Joe, the CSM (company stage manager). We had time to reflect: Why didn't that scene work yesterday? How can we fix it? All that stuff that you would normally have to do at 2:30 in the morning when you're frazzled, you could just do in the room with your colleagues and have real thinking space.”

In a nod to their Shakespearean roots, the RSC usually programmes a rep season. But the Almedia are cottoning on too. Their Autumn season will see Arnold Wesker’s Roots face off against John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. Is there is a curatorial element to pairing two plays in rep?

“It's hard to say whether School for Scandal and Merry Wives marry up. The productions are really different – it’s great for the audience to experience both. It feels like there will be something for everyone across the two shows.”

On a practical side it offers a unique challenge for the actors. Some are playing similar or parallel parts in both shows. Others are doing wildly different things.

“Anyone who watches both shows might be able to see more parallels than I can, but we have one movement director working across both shows, so there will be some interesting consistency there.”

This is Tinuke’s second experience of working at the RSC. In 2013 she was an assistant director during Michael Boyd’s last season as artistic director.

“In a theatre-nerd-little-girl-who-really-wanted-to-be-a-director way, I'm just absolutely giddy all the time. The RSC is a huge name and huge in every respect - literally just the size of the theatre is extraordinary.”

The School for Scandal is part of the opening salvos for artistic directors Daniel Evans and Tamara Harveys’ first season at the RSC. Tinuke has worked alongside Evans, at Chichester, his former haunt.

Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC
Rehearsal for The School for Scandal
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

“Daniel was really good at taking this very particular audience who really are very theatre literate, who know what they like, gaining their trust with shows that they like, but then offering [them] something a little different. They trust him and he trusts them. They come and see, and then they are open-hearted, they do have a good time, and now they've got more stuff in their repertoire.”

That dynamic has found its way into the new season, a cocktail of canonical classics curated alongside more boundary-pushing offerings.

“It is such a clever and useful way of expanding the minds, perceptions and expectations of the core audience, but also getting new artists.”

Tinuke cut her teeth as The Gate Theatre's Associate Director in 2015. Her time as Bayliss Associate at the Old Vic was a big step up into the commercial side of the industry, culminating in a critically acclaimed production of August Wilson’s Jitney.

“It was really cool to get to know the inner workings of a theatre and a theatre at that scale. It's much more obligated to give the people what they want on a commercial venture. That's so much more the name of the game when you're not publicly funded.”

She briefly delved into the world of opera with a production of Jeanine Tesori’s Blue at the English National Opera.

“I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I hadn't been an opera person before. I never made an opera before, but also I'd never been an opera-goer, really.”

Interview: 'From The Outside, It Looks Impossible': Director Tinuke Craig on Rep Theatre, Genre-Jumping and THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL at the RSC
Blue at the London Coliseum
Photo Credit: Zoe Martin

Tinuke had 18 months to prepare not just for the production, but to work in a New Medium that brings with it a new audience with their own expectations: “the relationship between the work is a very different relationship, there’s a fascinating triad between the music, the audience and the story.”  

Tackling police brutality and racism in present day America, Blue is a contemporary opera for a small cast. Tinuke’s production was nominated for the Tait Award for Best New Opera Production at this year’s Olivier awards.

“I cared about the subject matter. It felt like it was something I could get my teeth into. There was a good clear mission statement under the storytelling.”

Directorially, she approached the opera as she would a play:

“Everyone sat around and read the libretto without singing it, just read it as text. I'm always invested in the text. I was really lucky to work with an innovative and collaborative group of singers who were really up for the acting. There were a lot of Black people and other people of colour on the team. We were very invested.”

Is there a risk of jumping from genre to genre with specialising? “You can't repeat the process that we did for Crave for a panto. I've always had to slightly reinvent the process, so it didn't feel so crazy to take on an opera.”

Tinuke’s dream play to direct is The Iceman cometh by Eugene O'Neill.

“I'm an O'Neill fan. I love how vividly drawn all those characters are, how to the man, desperate they are. In terms of clear want and drive, it's all like the characters are so, so, so vivid.”

She does admit that it’s length, clocking in at over three hours with two intermissions, is something to contend with. But that is part of the play’s beauty: “so much of it is in real-time. You get characters to fall asleep on stage and the whole scenes go by, and they wake up. It's a bit…It’s a challenge. And I’m always up for a challenge.”

School for Scandal plays at the RSC until 6 September

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner




Comments

To post a comment, you must register and login.



Videos