With such a big buzz about Urinetown the Musical at St James Theatre, we had a chat with Resident Director Richard Fitch about what life is like as a director and what we can expect from the show.
What has drawn you to work on Urinetown?
I was extremely fortunate to be asked to meet Jamie at the end of 2013 about the project. With that said, I was already a huge fan his work and the show from when I first heard the soundtrack while I was at drama school. It¹s an incredible score and a vital, but vividly comical story. When the show was first announced as the mythical ³UGC London² my heart skipped a beat, having known the show and I was so thrilled to get the call after it was later revealed to be URINETOWN The Musical.
What inspired you to become a theatre director? Is there anyone Who particularly inspired you?
I trained as an actor at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. While there I took directing electives during my first and second year and I think it was having the opportunity to look and work at the craft I was learning as a training actor from a third-person perspective that excited me. The teacher of these electives pushed me in that direction and I started to assist on the public shows. Everyone at LIPA was incredibly supportive to the point where I directed my peers in a production of The Pillowman in my third year. The list of people that have inspired me is a long and varied list and it grows daily!
How did you get started?
One of my first tasks was research. This ranged from finding images relating to dystopia, class segregation, revolution, riots, toilets, poverty and on. I also ventured thoroughly into Thomas Robert Malthus and his An Essay on the Principal of Population where he describes what is now called the Malthusian Catastrophe as well as anything to do with climate change and prediction and the history (and prediction) of societies and political unrest. Alongside all of this, I also sifted through Greg and Mark¹s piece to create a glossary of terms. This took me from The Bible to US Legislation. But while URINETOWN is political and eco-aware, it is also an outrageously funny and poignant musical, so it was great to immerse myself in this research so that in the rehearsal room we could get down to telling a truthful, but hilarious and heart-warming story.
Describe your typical day.
Typical? Typical?! No two days in the rehearsal room for URINETOWN were the same. Often, three or more things would be going on at once – musical calls in one room, dance calls in another, scene work in another, meanwhile, props and costumes were being made just outside the main rehearsal room door. Along with the Company Stage Manager, it would be my responsibility to schedule all of these things in a way that no-one was needed in more than one room. Some days we would tackle the whole musical, some days we would target one 30 second segment of a particular scene. The only thing that was consistent from my perspective on a day-to-day basis was how busy everyone was, but also how much fun everyone was having – that sense of fun and excitement that we were creating something truly special never went away.
What do you like most about the job?
What do you think sets Urinetown apart from any other musical in the West End at the moment?
This piece has the ability to make you laugh and then gasp within the same space as a knife edge. The band that carries the music is incredible and the cast give their all – every single show. I don¹t think you can watch this show without having a sense of how tiny the space off stage is and this truly is part of its charm. It¹s just as much a dance backstage as it is on stage and that comes down to an incredible company of people that hit precision time after time. Not to mention it¹s an ensemble piece like no other.
Who have you enjoyed working with the most?
It never gets boring to say that every single person in this company are the most passionate group of people I¹ve ever experienced working with. So much so that it¹s impossible to pick people out. 8. What advice would you give to someone who would like to become a theatre director in the future?
Understand Acting. Assist lots of directors. Be patient. Read the news everyday. Never stop learning.
If you weren’t a theatre director, what would you be doing?
Despite initially wanting to act, I can¹t imagine myself doing anything else in this industry other than directing. So with that said, I love skiing and the French language so I¹d probably train to be a ski instructor in the Alps.
Finally, can you describe Urinetown in three words?
Mythical. Daring. Hilarious.
Urinetown the Musical will be at St James Theatre until 3 May.