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Chair by Edward Bond, Liverpool Everyman Theatre, Photograph by Shay Rowan.

Next in our series that is looking into the future of theatre in the North West of England Xposy.com catch up with Director Sarah Van-Parys. Sarah is a Drama graduate from Liverpool’s John Moores University who has now turned her attentions to Directing.

At what age did you become interested in theatre and what path did you take to get into directing.

My love for theatre started at a very young age! My parents were members of an amateur dramatics company back home in Preston so I’ve been acting in plays and helping out backstage and seeing the rehearsal process through to the final shows since 6-7. I always loved the process of creating something visually stimulating and loved seeing what could be achieved on stage rather than through the normal means of television or film. At university I wrote and directed a short play called ‘Pipedreams’ – a modern day, absurd ‘Groundhog Day’ story which was performed at the Luxembourg 10 Minute Theatre Festival shortly afterwards, this is when I got the directing ‘bug’ and realised it was definitely what I wanted to do not only as a hobby but as a career.

 

What type of theatre excites you most and what would your dream project be.

I love theatre which has really clever and powerful staging. I prefer abstract and stylised theatre with elements of naturalism as appose to completely realistic and naturalistic I love working out how to stage something to gain the most impact and I’m always really excited about trying new things. My dream project would be staging an adaptation of a psychological thriller film (my favourite genre!) like Shutter Island or Sixth Sense for the stage. I want to prove that you can create something just as powerful (even more so) on stage as you can through the means of film. I’ve wanted to stage something like this seeing The Woman in Black in the West End.

 

What draws you to certain types of plays is it just the script or the concept/idea 

I think it would be a mixture of both, I love a really powerful gritty script but the concept also needs to be there to make it work. I’ve mainly worked on new writing over the past few years with upcoming writers across the North West, and having the writer in rehearsals has been brilliant. A play is always a work in progress, especially for a writer who hasn’t seen that particular script staged before, it helps them work out what works and what doesn’t and helps them to develop their script further during rehearsals. Sometimes a writer has an amazing idea but needs to work it out in to the format of a script, things like script read through’s or rehearsed readings can also really help develop their idea in to the finished script.

 

What does the future hold, what projects do you have lined up and what is your greatest achievement so far.

My greatest achievement so far – that’s a hard one! Every single play I have directed so far has been a massive achievement, no matter how big or small. One of my main achievements is probably directing The Road to Skibbereen by Angela Walsh with Bee Loud and Straylight Australia which was taken to Edinburgh after winning the award for Best Play at the Write Now Festival in Liverpool 2013. We had a 3 week run in Edinburgh and had audience numbers of 60+ every day, which is great seen as the average fringe audience up there is 3! The play was a heart warming story about a young woman with learning difficulties and her relationship with her mother who had early onset Alzheimers. We had so many people come to see the show who had gone through similar things in their lives and it really touched a lot of hearts, we had so many messages and people approaching us to tell us their story – it was really eye-opening and inspiring.
My next project is actually my biggest so far – I’ve been given a 3 month placement at the Everyman Theatre starting next month by the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme where I’ll be Assistant Directing on Simon Armitage’s The Odyssey: Missing Presumed Dead directed by Nick Bagnall. It’s given me the chance to leave my full time job in an office and pursue directing as a full time career and I can’t wait to get started!

 

If you could change one thing about theatre locally what would it be.

To persuade more people to go and support their local emerging artists! We have found it so difficult in the past building up audiences of people in addition to our loyal family and friends. It would be great if more people ventured out to see smaller scale theatre as well as the larger scale shows at Liverpool’s big theatres.

 

What would you say to new actors starting out right now.

Enjoy yourself! Be part of plays you love and work with people you are inspired by. It’s a hard industry to crack so you’ve got to ignite the spark and the love for it early on. Join casting websites such as Star Now and Casting Call Pro and also join all of the casting Facebook groups in your area – so many people post castings and auditions on them these days!

 

What was the last play you went to see that you were not involved in.

I went to see Queertet by Grin Theatre last week at the Unity Theatre, it’s a night of play’s celebrating the LGBT community and the plays are all based on issues the LGBT community face (shown through a lot of comedy too!). My boyfriend was acting in one of the plays and a good friend of mine is one of the producers of the company. It really showed how much fun you can have with theatre, the audience were in fits of laughter from start to finish!

Manchester has the International Festival and the Fringe…do you think Liverpool could ever bring something to the city.

Yes I hope so. There are smaller scale festivals in Liverpool but nothing that seems to be as big as the Greater Manchester Fringe. It may be that we don’t have as many available venues for the smaller scale shows as Manchester does. There are so many people in Liverpool though that would love something like the fringe in our city, and I feel as though the city is producing more shows than ever at the moment. Liverpool also is brilliant for supporting new talent, we have the Makin Arts at the Unity and the Young Everyman Playhouse strands (Actors, Directors, Producers, Communicators, Technicians), The Lantern Theatre who accomodate upcoming and new theatre company’s (and that’s just to name a few).

New Dawn Fades by Brian Gorman, All Roads Meet NW Tour, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
New Dawn Fades by Brian Gorman, All Roads Meet NW Tour, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
Inference by Michael Rumney, Kings Arms in Manchester, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
Inference by Michael Rumney, Kings Arms in Manchester, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
Forever and Anon by Sarah Van Parys, Liverpool Everyman Theatre (YEP Director's Festival), Photograph by IXIOD.
Forever and Anon by Sarah Van Parys, Liverpool Everyman Theatre (YEP Director’s Festival), Photograph by IXIOD.
Committed by Stephen Smith, Liverpool Irish Festival at the Lantern Theatre, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
Committed by Stephen Smith, Liverpool Irish Festival at the Lantern Theatre, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
The Road to Skibbereen by Angela Walsh, Bee Loud and Straylight Australia, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Photograph by Shay Rowan.
The Road to Skibbereen by Angela Walsh, Bee Loud and Straylight Australia, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Photograph by Shay Rowan.

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