When a young Vicky Featherstone, now Artistic Director of the Royal Court, first considered a career in theatre she did not know a job as anything other than an actor was possible. Now she’s running an institution with a global reputation and 70 members of staff.
It’s a remarkable journey and one she hopes to help others on the road to making, both in her role at the Royal Court and as an Ambassador of beyond-the-stage careers fair TheatreCraft 2014:
What excites you about being part of TheatreCraft?
For me it’s about the opportunity to pass on the passion and the drive, which those of us who are fortunate enough to have made careers in theatre have, on to the next generation. People who work in theatre really believe it’s an incredibly important part of our lives and our culture and we all take very seriously the responsibility of enabling as wide a group as possible to become part of that community.
Why is it so important to help young people in this way?
When I decided that I wanted to work in theatre I had never met anybody who had and it was an incredibly daunting thing. I think it’s important to break down the barriers and idea that theatre is closed and that you only go into it if you know somebody in it. I think it’s important that we make the bottom of the pyramid as wide as possible. Theatre is always about telling stories of the world we live in and it’s really important that we represent the whole of society within those stories. In order to do that and to get the best possible audiences in it’s really vital that as wide a group of people as possible are part of making theatre.
I take encouraging young people to get involved with theatre very seriously. As the world gets a harder and harder place to live in I think that we all have a moral responsibility and should be enabling young people to think outside the box to find different ways of becoming adults and find different routes to employment.
Why can it be difficult for young people to find their way into theatrical jobs?
I think it’s difficult for young people to get into theatre because in some places it is still seen as an elite activity, whereas actually the majority of people who work in theatre are very ordinary and are just like everyone else. I think it is about breaking down those barriers and misconceptions and saying that theatre is for everyone and by everyone, and that it’s a really important part of our culture which should be celebrated and that everyone should have access to.
Starting in any profession is always a difficult thing for young people as you’re jumping off into an unknown, it’s a big leap of faith and it’s a big step for anybody so I think it’s really important that we take their hand and make it as confident and clear a pathway as possible.
What more do you think can be done to help?
I think the government and people who are concerned about young people’s employment should think more about the creative industries and specifically theatre as an employment area that has a wide range of jobs within it. It is not just about acting, directing or writing, there are so many other job pathways. We employ 70 people at the Royal Court: ushers, bar staff, stage administrators, props buyers, van drivers, accountants; the message should be all ranges of society can work in theatre. I think that any apprenticeships, paid internships or open days, anything that opens up those possibilities, are really important.
Did you always want to be a director?
I didn’t always want to be a director; I didn’t know such a job existed. I knew that I wanted to work in theatre but I only thought you could be an actor. I didn’t know there could be a writer who was actually living. I thought they were all dead! So I thought about being an actor but I was rubbish at it. I only realised I wanted to be a director at university where one of my friends asked me to direct their play.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to work in the non-performance side of theatre?
Be passionate about theatre, be confident of your own opinions, what theatre you like and don’t like. Take every single opportunity to work with people, talk to people, see stuff. You never know where it will lead you.
TheatreCraft 2014, which is free and open to anyone aged between 16 and 25, takes place on 17 October at the Royal Opera House. For more information visit the TheatreCraft website.