Birkbeck took me to a new stage in life …

George Richmond-Scott enrolled at Birkbeck to study Theatre Directing to enable him to take a new path with his career. That step has brought almost instant rewards with an important role on the West End hit Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which this year achieved five Olivier Award nominations. Here George, who was awarded his MFA during spring graduation 2018, explains what drove him to a change in direction and how Birkbeck helped:

George Richmond-Scott, photographed by Katya Og

“I have been wholeheartedly engaged with the theatre all my life. After training originally as an actor and later as a voice coach at the Central School of Speech and Drama, including an apprenticeship at the RSC where I worked alongside the legendary Cicely Berry, my work had begun to focus increasingly on directing. I reached a staging post in life a few years ago – one of those moments where you feel the need to resist a comfortable, safe existence and want life to be a daring, exciting journey with a big jump into the dark. So after some serious reflection, I decided to study for the MFA in Theatre Directing at Birkbeck, which I was awarded in 2017 with distinction.

“To rewind a little, a year before I began the course I saw Robert Hastie’s production of My Night With Reg which had transferred from the Donmar Warehouse to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. I was deeply affected by its story and the clean, clear precision of its direction. So I could hardly believe it when I was given the chance to assist Rob at RADA during my first term at Birkbeck (my first ever assist!). I learned a huge amount on that play, observing how he allowed the actors space; holding off from saying too much and then knew exactly when to give a note that released a moment, or even a whole scene.

“Somehow the stars continued to align. I was determined to try and win my second-year placement at the Sheffield Crucible as I so admired the artistic director Daniel Evans and the work that was going on there. However, the Crucible was removed from our list of choices as Daniel announced he was leaving to take over at Chichester Festival Theatre and whoever succeeded him would need some space to settle in without student directors rattling around! Then I discovered that Robert Hastie was to be his successor as artistic director so I asked if I may still come up to be the resident assistant director from Birkbeck – we knew each other already and I would not be a nuisance! Happily, he said yes and two years after admiring his work from the stalls, I was assisting him on Julius Caesar on the extraordinary main stage of the Crucible.

“It was in Sheffield that I had the privilege of working on the original production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and when it was picked up by Nica Burns and Nimax for a West End run shortly afterwards it almost felt like deja vu to find my first job after leaving would be as associate director at that very same Apollo Theatre. I feel immensely lucky and the strange benefactor of a serendipity I have never experienced before in my life. Robert is an incredible director and mentor – and his grace, vision and lightness of touch continue to inspire me.

“My training was a complete game-changer for me: during the brilliantly diverse year at the Sheffield Crucible I also directed the NT Connections play Musical Differences in the Crucible Studio Theatre and co-directed 4×15, with Charlie Kenber, another Birkbeck graduate director. This was an experimental initiative to develop four local female playwrights’ work and explore the role of a movement director (working with two outstanding emerging movement practitioners, Patricia Suarez and Ste Clough).

“Alongside my current associate work on Jamie, I have directed at LAMDA and Mountview since finishing at Birkbeck and am currently developing a contemporary re-imagining of Lorca’s Blood Wedding for Omnibus Theatre later this year, for which I am crowdfunding. I am local to the theatre in Clapham and delighted to be working there on a piece I’ve long loved for its intense, surreal poetry and story of characters struggling against fateful circumstances.

“Story-telling through innovative movement choices and collaborating in a joyful, rigorous way, enabling all participants to find their voice in the room, are at the core of my current work. I feel Birkbeck opened so many doors, both in the profession I want to spend the rest of my life exploring and also within me. The course and my experiences taught me to really trust in what I have to offer and to prepare as fully and deeply as I can for every opportunity that presents itself.”

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