Nina Raine is one of those annoying – sorry I mean admirable – people who excel at not just one, but two things. Starting her career as a director she trained at the Royal Court and went on to direct Shades at the venue, for which she was awarded a TMA Best Director Award. After secretly writing in her evenings she found success with her first play Rabbit, which soon transferred into the West End following its premiere at the Old Red Lion. Since then her plays Tribes and Tiger Country have all found success. She returned to directing with April De Angelis’ Jumpy, which is currently playing at the Duke of York’s following its premiere at what seems her second home, the Royal Court.
Raine tells Official London Theatre how she walks the two creative roads simultaneously, what is important to her off stage and revealed herself to be just as nice as you would hope such a successful artist to be. Annoyingly not annoying at all then.
Jumpy started life at the Royal Court where you trained. Do you feel particularly at home there?
Yes I do. It is really lovely as I worked with Dominic [Cooke] all those years ago and he welcomed me back into the fold. It is fantastic to see some of the same faces on stage door and it was nice to rehearse Jumpy there this time round in the same rehearsal room as we used for the premiere, even with the same background noise of carpentry from the brilliant set builders there.
This is your first foray into the West End, is it exciting?
It is exciting. Walking out of stage door and being on St Martin’s Lane is quite a thrill. Also the director gets the perk of the JM Barrie room at the Duke of York’s with a fridge full of drinks! Apparently it is where royalty go when they see the shows so there is even a royal loo in there.
When you wrote your first play, was it frightening moving into a new field?
No, it was thrilling as it was like a secret life – I was working as an assistant director all day and secretly going home and writing. It got scary when it was on, especially as having written and directed, I only had myself to blame if it went wrong.
What is the finest performance you have ever seen?
All three performances in 4:48 Psychosis in the original production at the Royal Court Upstairs. (Daniel Evans, Jo McInnes, Madeleine Potter).
What does winning awards mean to you?
It is a nice validation, but you can’t let it make you feel you’re a failure if you don’t win so I am very inconsistent. I convince myself they’re meaningless if I don’t win, but see it as a validation if I do!
What do you do when you’re not working?
I buy endless bits of make-up I don’t need, try to go jogging and go on the internet too much!
Who or what has inspired you?
The existence of wonderful playwrights who have directed their own plays like Patrick Marber and Harold Pinter.
Comedy or tragedy?
Tragedy because all my favourite Shakespeare’s are tragedies and all the plays I’ve written are hopefully funny in parts but turn dark, and I suppose that is what I think of as the punch of a play. Same thing with Jumpy, the humour draws you in through the first act and then it has real moments of bleakness in the second act and a really poignant ending.
Do you have any regrets?
Plays I passed up directing. On the other hand I did it to focus on writing and that has been so important to me too.
Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
I didn’t earn much for quite a while but I never really felt that was a sacrifice as I like what I do and I was lucky enough to be able to choose to do something I love.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
My Mum making me a picnic that encompassed a full woodland scene including “fly agaric mushrooms” (tomatoes with mayo spots!).
What would you choose as a last meal?
Simple carbs to keep me calm – pasta with a simple tomato sauce. I think carbs would help me face execution with equanimity.
What book, film or album do you find yourself recommending time and time again?
I love the Maple Stories by John Updike.
What could you not be without?
Where do you head after a show?
The bus stop.
What ambitions would you like to fulfill?
Writing a film.
Pub, club or dinner?
I am off booze at the moment so pub. I am fantasising about Hoegarden and fragrant Belgian beer a lot.
If you could only ever direct or only ever write again, which would you choose?
Directing is great as it gets you out of the house, but when you write you have ultimate control – until it gets on stage – and I am a control freak. Of course the only way to really have ultimate control is to direct it as well!
If you weren’t working in theatre, what would you be doing?
I think I’d be a doctor or a teacher.
What subject would you like to tackle next? Are you writing at the moment?
I’d like to tackle the law and yes I am writing something at the moment…