Interview with MA Director Theodora Tavener

Graduating MA Directing student Theodora Tavener will direct Valparaiso by Don DeLillo, running in The Linbury Studio on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 August. Book your tickets here.

Read our interview with Theodora below, where she tells us more about the production and training at LAMDA.

Tell us a bit more about your play. What appealed to you about this story?

For me, Don DeLillo articulates the experience of being a human being with a clarity and depth like no other author. He entices us, yes, with his masterly use of language, but his work is often both funny and erotic for its own sake, always retaining a truthful humanity. I’m intrigued to discover the uniquely surreal world of his characters in Valparaiso and honoured to be sharing this play with a UK audience, only the second time it’s been staged here. I was stunned by how relevant his tale from 1999 feels to our media-orientated and consumer-driven society. The life of an ‘ordinary’ American couple is turned inside out and violated by the media for the benefit of the public eye, and the sensitivity with which DeLillo tackles the subject of man’s willing (albeit self-destructive) attraction to fame is moving. If we reflect on our own cultural obsession with famous people and their illusory lives – through the mediums of Instagram or reality TV, for example – DeLillo’s tragic play will touch a nerve in all of us.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

The only response I ever got from my father when coming to him for advice was ‘do what you love’. For such a simple answer, it can often be challenging to implement. I believe, however, that it’s been invaluable in helping me to tune into my instinct when making decisions in my work.   

Why did you want to become a Director? 

So far in my life, I’ve found nothing that more truthfully reflects the human experience in this world than acting. As a director, I try to facilitate chasing the truth of a story with my actors and to ultimately achieve the unique and powerful experience of catharsis in the theatre. 

What are 5 things you’ve learnt during your time at LAMDA?

  1. Take your space in a room by allowing yourself adequate time to gather your thoughts when responding to a question.
  2. Hone your craft through reflection.
  3. To be (slightly more) comfortable in accepting that the experience of embarking into the unknown is essential to discovery.
  4. There are no rules to what’s expected of you.
  5. You can never be too prepared. 

How would you describe your rehearsal process?

A calm exterior.

What has been your biggest influence?

I saw a production of Peter Brook’s 11 and 12 at the Barbican when I was sixteen, which was a minimalist, slow-moving, and philosophical performance exploring a Sufi ritual. Although I had no idea of the conceptual background, I found so much of it to be tangible in terms of story and character through the actor’s performances, and I completely loved it. This was my first experience of what I believe to be the director’s craft, and his work continues to inspire me. More recently, I have taken great influence from the collaboration between Krzysztof Warlikowski and Małgorzata Szczęśniak, who I was lucky enough to assist on their production of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead at the Royal Opera House last year.