PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Michael Grandage

By Kenneth Jones
05 Jun 2010

Your Hamlet was the first time I had seen a Michael Grandage-directed Shakespeare. I loved the clarity of it, and yet I loved the wintry darkness of it. It did not seem overly layered with clutter or "concept." Is it characteristic of your approach to Shakespeare?
MG: Well, it's my approach to everything, really. I want to serve the writer, first and foremost, and whether the writer is dead or alive, I think one of the most interesting things a director can do is try to get back into the writer's head and somehow work out the clarity of what the writer was trying to do when they first wrote the words onto a page. And so, "concepts," which I heartily approve of and love going to see they just aren't something that I enjoy doing a great deal myself, because they tend for me to get in the way sometimes. Rather than illuminate it for me, they tend to slightly get in the way of me being able to find a direct line to the text. So what you call a "concept-free production" although I hope there are things in it that illuminate through some form of creativity, obviously that is a good analysis of, probably, how I come to any piece of work, including Red. It doesn't mean you don't have a design, it doesn't mean you don't have a fantastically creative approach to the work as an interpretive artist, which is what I am as a director: an interpretive artist with a creative brief, if you like. And one's creativity happens through immense collaboration, with lighting designers, designers, composers, and of course, the actors, and if the writer is living, with the writer, as well. But it's something that I enjoy, particularly with writers who are long dead: trying to just find some kind of simple clarity back to where the starting point was.

"Words, words, words."
MG: Yes, yes, yes.

And having said that, can you give us a hint of what your Lear with Derek Jacobi will be this fall?
MG: Well, it will be exactly what I've just described to you in terms of its approach, which is, with Derek who I've worked with many times before now we and the company of actors of this extraordinary play will try and get to the heart of the piece as we see it. The process will start probably much earlier than the rehearsal room. We come up with a design idea or indeed a design concept, one can say. Because whatever it is, it's got some kind of design concept about it, as all one's productions have. So that process, though, is so far away at the moment, I can't actually help you today with any particular direction it's going to go in.

It's not set in a traveling carnival in Brighton, where everyone is nude?
MG: I can tell you that it won't be. [Laughs]. That much I can say this early.