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Monday, 04 April 2022 16:33

Esteemed Director Phillip Breen discusses True West

Headshots for news articles Portrait PBGraduating Actors enjoyed a wonderful evening discussing True West with director Phillip Breen.

Phillip studied Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University and trained at Clwyd Theatr Cymru under Terry Hands. He is an associate at The Royal Shakespeare Company and has directed over 50 professional productions across the UK. The first of these was Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Six productions followed at the Citizens theatre including True West by Sam Shepard.

During the talk, Phillip discussed his relationship with Sam Shepard. He described the nerve-wracking experience of Shepard attending two of the performances in Glasgow. In entertaining anecdotes, Phillip told us about Shepard’s praise of the adaptation, and its progress to the Tricycle (now Kiln) Theatre. Shepard was so impressed by the production he gave Phillip the rights to the play.

Digital Theatre + partnered with Phillip to film the production for its online library, which our students are fortunate enough to have access to.

In the Q&A, Phillip was asked whether he thought authentic American accents were essential to the play. To Phillip, the type of actor was far more important than their accent. They needed to have a ‘cool heads and warm hearts’ to convincingly portray the characters.

He also stated that the relationship between himself and the actors was extremely important. This relationship allowed them to share ideas and sustain the development of humour and darkness throughout the play.

This was also achieved by Phillip’s pacing of the play. He made the decision to take time over the scene changes. This gave both the audience and actors a moment of respite.

Most importantly, Phillip states that all involved must have total trust in the play. Actors must not worry about ‘playing the reputation of the play’ but have total commitment to make it a success. He stated that Alex Ferns (Lee) left nothing in the dressing room, which made him so successful in the role. He explained that the same is true for himself as a director. By ignoring the reputation of the play, he was able to see the different stories available and the comedic aspects of True West.