I moved to the UK in 2004 to study my Masters in Theatre Directing. I’d been here previously on scholarship to study design at Central Saint Martins and was inspired by London and what it had to culturally offer. The Masters course I chose involved studying in Moscow at GITIS, the school Meyerhold founded, so I felt I was coming to a city where a world of possibilities could be realised.
Honestly I don’t think I definitively knew how long I was going to stay in the UK. My plan was to work, study and achieve international directing credits. As it happens I’m still working, learning and I’ve been lucky enough to work from show to show. I’d of course now love to direct a show back in Australia. As a director you’re the artistic backbone of the production and your priority is to enrol the producers, the creative team, the actors and the technical departments in your vision for the show and the story you want to tell. There is an incredible potential for creativity when this synchronicity is achieved.
The biggest difference working in the UK is the perception of theatre to the public and within the industry. Australia is going to continue to be “new” for a few decades yet, our classics referring to the New Wave of the 70s as opposed to Shakespeare or Jonson, which is an incredibly liberating position to be in. I’ve been incredibly fortunate with work and the career opportunities that I’ve been privy to. Above all I couldn’t have ever envisaged the wonderful and inspiring people who are now part of my life. I feel very lucky indeed.
I love how reserved the British public are because there is nothing greater than the possibility of evoking an emotional response from them. I dislike when the Australians lose the cricket, rugby and well sporting events in general as I never hear the end of it.
In Australia there is, to a degree, greater support for the arts, as it exists within a smaller community. Those that are advocates for theatre and Australian culture are fervently passion about its survival, reach and propagation into the international market. This passion and reinforcement of the industry is second to none, in my experience. I think this is why Australians are so readily received; we have a superb work ethic because we have to. The UK is a vast cultural network, steeped in an intoxicating theatrical history. I feel this is very much part of the fabric of UK life and has been for generations. There is a respect for both the old and new, giving rise to a talented next generation of artists.
I grew up five minutes from Bondi and was a state swimmer so the sheer distance from the seaside or local pool took quite a while to get used to. Last year was the first opportunity I had to return to Australia to catch the summer, it was wholly idyllic! I try to get back to Australia once a year.
I travel a lot for work so sometimes it’s actually wonderful to spend the weekend locally. I have very close friends in Paris and New York so they’re the next trips planned. Maybe a Greek Island or two. My typical weekend in the UK involves the theatre, markets, yoga, food, friends, films, a gallery and Skype.
The biggest career challenge that I have faced since moving to the UK has been making the choices that are most authentic and advantageous to myself as an artist. I don’t think this is particularly a UK based challenge. All artists, regardless of geography need to make these choices on a daily basis. The theatre industry is more prolific here and hence there have been more opportunities to pursue within the UK.
I think that Australians come to the UK looking for a shift in gear to their usual reality, but seeking familiarity. Ten years ago if Australians wanted to work in another country, London was the first choice for a variety of fields – law, the financial and business sector, the arts — now however, many can go to the States and be afforded these same opportunities. The Australian dollar and economy is also vastly stronger than it was ten years ago so I think this has affected how and why Australians have sought their international experiences.
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