Amy Bonsall, assistant director

 31 October 2012

Amy Bonsall studied for a postgraduate degree in theatre directing. She now freelances in the profession.

"It's a demanding role because you have to be able to have all the skills of a director, yet you are not in charge."

Hometown?

I'm originally from Chester, but I'm now based in London.

What job do you do?

I'm a self-employed assistant director. I also work as a theatre director, script reader and dramaturg.

What previous jobs in theatre have you done?

I did consider a career in nursing or jewellery design when I was at school, because theatre was seen as such an unstable and difficult industry to get into.

I began directing plays in the back garden from the age of about five, so perhaps it's not really surprising that I've made directing my career.

"You have to become an expert in anticipating what the director’s wants and needs are."

My first professional job in the theatre was my one and only foray into acting. I was in one play. 

I then assistant directed on a number of shows. These included 'An Inspector Calls' at Theatr Clwyd in Wales, which also went on tour, and a production of Hamlet at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

As a director, I've worked on productions for festivals in the UK, Oval House Theatre in London, Liverpool's Joe H Makin Drama Centre, Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End, and a theatre in Bankok.

I’ve also worked briefly as a stage manager and I've co-produced a new writing festival in South Africa.

Finally, I've marked theatre studies A level papers.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a degree in drama from Liverpool John Moore’s University, and an MA (second, higher-level degree) in theatre directing from Middlesex University.

Before that, I got a BTEC national in performing arts.

What do you do at work?

There isn't really really a ‘typical’ day as an assistant director. Your role, and what it entails, will depend on the director you are assisting and the nature of the production you are working on.

Generally, you can end up doing anything, from making tea and prompting during rehearsals through to directing small scenes, taking understudy rehearsals and going on tour with the play.

"You do have to be committed to your career. It can dominate your life."

It's a demanding role because you have to be able to have all the skills of a director, yet you are not in charge. You are there to assist. You must be good at gauging what it is the director wants you to do.

In some ways, the first week of working with a director is spent working out what your job is, what they expect from you, and how much creative input they want you to have.

You have to become an expert in anticipating what the director’s wants and needs are. You are there to assist them, not for them to carry you.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I feel privileged to have worked with some amazing theatre practitioners. Being an assistant director has allowed me to learn ‘on the job’ and grow in confidence, in particular dealing with big casts of actors.

Assisting lets you learn and develop as a director without having the full weight of responsibility upon your shoulders. I have a job that I always dreamed of, and I love going into work each and every day.

And the worst thing about the job?

The worst thing about the job is how difficult it is to break through into the industry in the first place, and sustain it.

The money is not too great either, especially while you are working your way up the ladder.

How do I get into theatre?

My advice:

  1. Be determined
    You have to have total belief that you will make it. You have to turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’. You must be open to any opportunities that come your way, big or small. 
  2. Take risks
    You must take risks both artistically and professionally. If you want a ‘safe’ job, do not consider assisting or directing. 
  3. Be committed
    Being in this industry can put a huge strain on your personal relationships. You do have to be committed to your career. It can dominate your life, especially in the early years.

 

Amy is part of our theatre experts panel. Ask Amy a question about working in theatre.


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