I was born in the East End of London but spent most of my childhood on the move around the South East of England. My childhood was unusual and I developed a fascination with adult interaction and relationships. I can remember every lunchtime standing in my infant school playground shouting orders at my friends:
We’re in fairyland. Yvonne you’re an ogre and Melissa you’re a lost pixie and you’re very frightened…
I look back and think I was always a director in the making.
Following my A ‘levels I left the UK to study Drama and Classics at Trinity College Dublin. I was Chairperson of Players which was the drama society there and in those days produced 2 shows a week – a matinee one act play and a full-length evening show. It was a fabulous training for what I do now.
I returned to London after Trinity and after a brief spell in a shoe shop and a call centre, a successful interview process at the Royal Court Theatre allowed me to assist Max Stafford Clark on his 10 th anniversary production of Top Girls. This for me was a dream come true- a play, a writer and a director I had studied and loved at university and a cast that included Lesley Manville, Deborah Findlay and Lesley Sharp! The John Fernarld Scholarship allowed me to stay at The Royal Court as an assistant director for a remarkable year where I began to realise all I had to learn as a director. The next 3 years saw me as a staff director at the National Theatre and asssisting some of the greats: Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Trevor Nunn, Howard Davies, and Harold Pinter to name a few. Exceptional people who all shared a passion for humanity and a meticulous eye for detail.
Taking a short break to have my son Oscar gave me pause for thought. If I was going to have to leave him to work, then it had to be worth it and as wonderful as being an assistant was it had never been my ambition to be the world’s best assistant director...
Jenny Topper, then Artistic Director at Hampstead Theatre took a punt on me, having observed my work transferring other directors’ work into the West End and a small fringe show I had directed at the then Latchmere pub theatre and gave me a new play by Hanan Al Shaikh to direct on the main stage.
And I was off!
Of course nothing is as simple as that phrase implies and the next 10 years of my freelance career directing all around the country were a roller- coaster of joy and despair, triumph and what sometimes felt like bitter failure. And leaving Oscar to direct around the country never got easier.
And then early in 2003 I got an email from Deborah Aydon asking me if I was going to apply to become the Artistic Director of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres because she was thinking of applying for the position of Executive Director...
And it felt like the right time and place to finally put down some roots and the right executive to do that with. If the board would have us.
13 years later and I have seen these theatres rise to the challenge of the European Capital of Culture, we have re-opened the Playhouse studio, launched a reinvigorated and award -winning youth programme (YEP) across both theatres, knocked down and then rebuilt the Everyman and then seen it win the Stirling Prize for architecture. Our work has played in our communities, has transferred to the West End and New York and right now we are embarking on our next adventure, with the launch of the Everyman Company, an ensemble of 14 actors who will perform 5 shows in repertory over 6 months.
Who knows what’s next?
The Playhouse needs some TLC...
Life Lessons with Gemma Bodinetz
- Find collaborators that you trust and inspire you. You don’t have to do this alone!
- Attention to detail is as important as the BIG idea and actually can be the big idea.
- No amount of “observing” or masterclasses will make you an artist. Don’t wait for permission or ideal circumstances. DO IT.
Assistant Director, 1990 - 1991
Staff Director, 1991 - 1993
Associate Director, 1995 - 2000
Freelance Director, 1995 - 2003
Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
Artistic Director, 2003 – present