The first day of rehearsals for Vincent in Brixton @ RADA is imminent tomorrow – was supposed to be today, but today (19 Sept 22) is the late-Queen’s state funeral, so a bank holiday.

At this stage before every other rehearsal start, I have been in turmoil, nerves all concentrated on how to proceed with the first few minutes. It’s become a neurosis, convinced those first few moments dictate the entire course of the production.

Surprise myself by being not so anxious. Is it to do with the passing of an age & therefore intimations of mortality? Or just that there’s been a seemingly endless period of resting/lethargy – no “work” for 6 months at least…

Whatever the cause, I fear jinxing myself, writing this. By rituals are we know – and theatre is the greatest ritual of all, everywhere… as I watch the massed ranks of the armed forces marching in formation to assume their assigned places in the funeral.


First Day’s rehearsals are ended, cast are good, as are the production & technical teams. Now I need to keep a curb on my over-enthusiasm – not thinking ahead and therefore ignoring the smaller details that make the  eventual picture. Is directing then like a pointillist or impressionist painting? Seeing Vincent’s work – at least as it emerges in Nicholas Wright’s play – is to be energised by its passionate intensity – wild, earthy, painful.

Mary mother of Christ & Mary Magdalene…


First week’s over on Vincent. All I can think of is what is yet to be done. Not quite lift-off, but I think the wheel is in motion. Except a nagging thought – what if the tracks I’ve laid down are wrong?

What a difference good actors make! Remarkable, jaw-dropping (& drooling) when they are so open – generous, receptive, without sides in a way that no other humans can be.

And – surprising me still – just being back in rehearsal room, energised/challenged, feeling needed. These 4 weeks better get their just reward for those who’ve been forced to play with me…


Actors in rehearsal arguably best express humility. This little-seen, perhaps even under-rated virtue, is the most valuable, elevating actors to the level of priests and prophets… certainly exemplars to most of us. And even if not exemplars, it is an enormous privilege to be witnesses to the baring of the soul that actors do day in day out, seemingly effortlessly. It is as if they have no ‘skin’: just instinct.

As we climb into the fourth week of rehearsals, I need to nurture this virtue more than ever, if the text is to gain life. Van Gogh’s Good Samaritan keeps coming to mind…


Here it is, after nearly 3 months’ effort – having to let go, the show now what it (the cast & crew) will make it be. Time has come to hand it over / let go / disengage… all the words and phrases I’ve always found difficult to get into my heart and head. Like a parent unable to let go of its child.

Is the solution to this perennial agony of making and then letting go of family(s) to do lots of shows – have no time for reflection as I go from production to production or work to work?

Or is it to hold on to, be grateful for the sense of being extraordinarily privileged to be working with people – actors – whose job, calling has ever been to bare their souls. A kind of love that is difficult to find elsewhere.

Like Vincent, sketching, sketching until you are forced to “complete” the painting, hand it over whatever your reservations. And see what others make of it. While you & perhaps the actors, if you’re lucky, hold in their hearts the memories of possibilities on the rehearsal floor.