Carmen in rehearsal

Ashley Pearson, Assistant Director on  Carmen  

Ashley Pearson, Assistant Director on Carmen 

Catch up on our running blogs from Carmen assistant director, Ashley Pearson, along with members of the Carmen cast and crew as we follow them through rehearsals and onto the stage at Soho Theatre...

Have you always wanted to be a director? What attracts you to the job?
I think I’ve always wanted to be a director, but when I was young I didn’t really know it was a job that existed. I did some acting at school, as well as stage management and technical theatre, and I played a lot of music, but I always wanted to shape the story. I can remember when I was really young, being in a production called How to Eat Like a Child, I must have been about 6, and I was in this short scene where someone said,“Would you rather be burned to death or freezed alive?” and my lines were, “Burned to death—no. Freezed alive— no. Burned to death—“ and I can remember being on stage and constantly giving myself notes on what I was doing— ‘you should say this one like this, and that one like that’— Even then I couldn’t help directing in my head.

I love working with people— I feed off the creative energy of a group, and I like being the person who gets to channel that creative energy. I also revel in the challenge of creating a world that the audience can lose themselves in, and which acts as a framework the actors and other creatives can inhabit.

Have you ever worked on operas before? What are you most looking forward to?
I could just listen to these singers for days on end. I know it’s really simple, but I’m looking forward to listening! I’m also really excited to see the piece come together. There are some really brilliant ideas behind it.
The first opera I worked on wasAcis and Galatea, not an easy one! Handel’s music is challenging to make dramatic and accessible for a modern audience. I set it as a Canadian camping trip— lots of flannel and picnic blankets. I wanted to give the piece a very modern, quirky physical life that would give the music a renewed energy.

What opera would you most like to direct and why?
At the moment I’d love to directPelléas et Mélisande. I’m a bit obsessed with Debussy’s music. I think it’s so beautiful—mysterious and haunting. I also love the elusiveness of it, there’s something in it that reminds me a bit of a fairy story or dream, but it also has wonderfully deep, human characters.

I also have a strong desire to direct Einstein on the Beach, but I totally don’t understand it yet—I feel like I need to listen to it about a hundred more times. Right now it’s my cleaning music; I listen to it while I’m doing chores.

 What is the biggest challenge to your role as assistant director?
I think being an assistant changes so much depending on who you’re assisting. Robin has been amazing to work with so far, she’s got a great rapport with the singers and we’re doing very detailed in depth character work. Everyone in this company knew each other really well before coming together on this piece, so I guess fitting into a group that’s already got a strong established relationship is a bit challenging, but everyone’s been great about including me.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a hard question.

I’d like to be creating work that asks big questions about the challenges we’re facing as a society. I’d also love to direct some work back home in Canada, I think Canada and the UK are culturally close in some ways, but are very distinct from each other, and we can learn from these differences. Right now, I’m interested in exploring how we relate to nature and the environment, and the challenges that face my generation (gen Y) both politically and culturally. Since moving to the UK, I’ve realized what a strong impact being Canadian has on my work, so I’d like to get back to my roots.

Describe OperaUpClose’s Carmen in one sentence!
Hot, sexy, dirty, rough.

Carmen is at Soho Theatre, 5 August - 19 September 2015
Buy tickets here