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Thursday, 25 November 2021 18:34

Q&A with veteran director Sue Dunderdale

sue dunderdale1Sue is notable for directing EastEnders (1991-2005), Coronation Street (1997), The Bill (1993-1994) and Casualty (1994-2001), among many other TV dramas and films. She has had a prolific career in theatre and founded the Pentabus Theatre Company in 1974. She now works as a freelance director and writer.

The former Artistic Director of both the Soho and Greenwich Theatres has directed, amongst many other greats, the likes of Sean Bean and Helena Bonham-Carter. She told trainee actors they should always push themselves artistically and “never feel comfortable” in the rehearsal room in order to produce work of quality. They should be prepared to experiment in the rehearsal room environment because “you can’t work unless you can make a fool out of yourself” in the safe environment.

Sue’s book, Directing The Decades, was published in September by Routledge and examines the development of theatre in the UK since the 50s, from her perspective whilst also providing observations on directing. 

For me, as a trainee actor on the One Year Diploma in Professional Acting, I’ll use Sue’s tip on physical action in the early stages of the rehearsal process: for example, I’ll actually wear the shoes of my character early on in rehearsals to help me get into the physicality of the role. 

If I’m ever supposed to be out of breath in a scene, I’ll make sure I run up the stairs beforehand to make sure I’m really out of breath, and if I’m supposed to be carrying a heavy suitcase I’ll try to make sure it’s actually heavy. In such ways, according to Sue, fledgling actors can “conserve emotional energy… and allow the real emotional action of the scene to develop”. 

It was inspiring to hear her compare actors to athletes, yet slightly daunting to hear her say she views acting as “the greatest art form because it is the most vulnerable". 

“It was a great pleasure to welcome Sue Dunderdale to DSL to inspire our trainee actors and pass on her invaluable experience. She demonstrated her passion for her craft and profound understanding of the actor training process.” Emma Lucia Hands, Director of Drama Studio London

By Dave Speck, One Year Diploma in Professional Acting