Marianne Elliott is the first woman to win two Tony awards for theatre direction: the first for War Horse and the second for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Both transferred to Broadway from the National Theatre, London, and have gone on to travel the world. Marianne's parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all worked in the theatre. Her father, Michael Elliott, was a founding director of the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester and her mother, Rosalind Knight, now in her 80s, has enjoyed a lifetime on the stage and is still working. Although Marianne read Drama at Hull University, it wasn't until she was in her late 20s that her career began, when she became assistant director at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre. She went on to follow in her father's footsteps, working at the Royal Exchange, before becoming Associate Director at the National Theatre in London. In 2017 she left to set up her own theatre company with producer Chris Harper. Their next show will be Stephen Sondheim's Company. In addition to all her theatrical prizes, she has just been awarded the OBE for services to theatre in the 2018 Birthday Honours list. She is married to actor Nick Sidi and they have one daughter. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc hello, I'm kirsty young, welcome to desert on an discs where, every week I asked my guests to choose the eight tracks, the book and the luxury item that they want to take with them. If they were cast away on a desert island for rights reasons, the music on these podcast versions is shorter than in the original broadcast. You can find over two thousand more additions to listen to and download on a desert island discs website My castaway today is the theatre director marian alias war horse, the key
serious incidents of the dog in the night time angels in america. Her productions are always ambitious off nor dishes and frequently thrilling. She must have a pretty big mental multi award winning on both sides of the atlantic. She also happen to be the only woman director with two tony's and has recently been honoured with an o b e. Looking at her lineage, it's easy to assume the die is cast early. Her theatrical pedigree goes three generations and her father was one of the funding directors the royal exchange in manchester, her mothers sixty year long acting career is still going strong, but in policy amid all the theatrical of her background. My castaway was a quiet shy. Little and was in her late twenties. Before she made a living directing, she says, theatre, and fundamentally change
who you are and how you view things. Therefore, the stakes are really high. You have to take risks immediately. I read bass. Marianne, I wondered when you talked about fundamentally changing who a person is he talking about the people doing So is often better people watching it. Oh yeah, I'm talking about people watching it. I don't really think there's much point getting out of bed and less that's what your aim is, because Wait. So what I call emotion expensive is so difficult to do. It cost so much my study of yourself, to do it, that why do if you'll just doing something it's easy or just a bit apply entertainment. It does have the potential to fundamentally affect people hugely and when I think of you, a production, something there big ones, something like war horse or something like the curious incident which recreated what it is like to experience the world? You are a young person with Asperger's
the risk of deciding to try to communicate something as complex as that seems like a pretty big risk risk is something it obviously comfortable with that. I'm not really come to power that I find it a terrifying that the job is terrifying, but I think that it's worth it because the challenge is a creative one, and if you have a good collaboration with people around you menu choose right actors, then it can be so exciting because your working together towards something nice just out of reach and possibly you might just grab at one day, will you say collaborative of course you are so reliance upon the skills. You know artistic and technical of all the people that are part of your team as a director What specific skills to you need as a director to be good at the job. From my point of view, I think you need to be able to manage people really work. Sometimes hundreds of me,
working for you. You need to have a great imagination say: oh, you can be comfortable with visual statements, but you, I think, I end of directing which a lot of directors would negates, is the acting it's a really skilful craft and it's very deep call to quantify as while in a request, it come to a show, might think an actor is too good doctor because their acting it really well or they might think it, because the writings really good they re will fix because a deterrent, but you know that already does have a huge amount to do with the acting and should do and am path understand what that scheme how to help guide it and help it blossom. Tell me what you first disk today, man. What are we gonna hear Oh, this is katrina, the waves walking on sunshine. I option newly love, good big, and if I ever hear this, I just have to get up in her myself around out on us in it.
Sort of to me. I suppose they always personified feeling like hey. need my heart beat her. I said it also comes between and the waves and with you in the sunshine sue
You were born in nineteen sixty six in london to rosalind nice and to Michael Elliot. Tell me if you would just a little bit about your dad, sir. My father was a fish director he said: The real exchange with the greek father directors and try to find a space outside london and eventually designed new theater, I may mad, why bohemian lifestyle, I suppose absolutely no money, but it do. It was just normal for me, that's how was, and how would you describe him? What was his personality like he was very quiet, kind, gentle, very intellectual, really, deep thinker, you talk to me bout philosophy and spirituality and astronomy. He loved classical music. You had these huge speak as he was very proud. All great big brown, ugly things, and he would play really loudly on a sunday but were having suddenly and it would just blast across the whole house. I much worthy in the household sort of domesticated
was it you stay they were around having? This is a good slightly strange childhood. I suppose, because I didn't really speak much and tell us maybe about five. I could speak, but I didn't speak. I sat under the table allowed. We had a big girl table tennis table, it was our dining table. And I would say the very far end of it near the wall. I think I was a bit over wound really because I was aware from a really early age that there were undercurrents going on. There were other layers, another atmospheres beyond what was projected on surface, and I found that its tricky, like a very quiet, very watchful. My father was very ill and both parents went to punish the age of seven. They had formal relationship with their parents and possibly quite formal relationship with each other, though full of love and respect- and I was picking up all of that- sounds like a printer blue europe.
watson love love. One silences, though quite lost decided says. My father was quite a deep thinker and sometimes a depressive, and you said he what he was also physically, all as well as even physical area, because he had kidney malfunction. So he was on. I can him she most of his life and then eventually what he died of. But you know: that's, it totally has dictated how I work now is really interesting and aunt Rachel
spartacus he until a new house during this this programme- really, you know, I'm always about subtext and always about what's going on, underneath the words Jemmy button next piece of music harem, alias okay, so this is feasible unmarried leaving. On a jet plain, I had a looking incredibly large woman in my life. She was hugely colorful big loud laugh. She worked in a pump and I would go stay with her she's like a kind of child care. I spoke a kind of adopted. Hers are godmother. She picked
and she loved flowers and we would go unknown walks. Foes should tell us the names of all the wild flowers and she loved this song. I remember quite an alley. Edge thinking go ashore united song, you you, you officer, feeding some sudden desire will something that's outside of me. How day? What's her name, she's got sally. Her fasting was Sally flowers, which is the most amazing day for her, but then she and again to a gorgeous my uncle bat. So if Sally Ann, I ever went on it a little journey together we go and adventures in a coffin. now now shopping with some stupid thing. Indeed, always that gives it a word of caution, choice.
Me me me me me, some men, so many as people and marion leaving on a jet plain and memories for you. Marianna lay at the sounds like very vivid ones of of salient in the fund that you haven't. Sorry, I'm so the family life
four times quite silent, quite complex. What was school like for you? We move to manchester when I was eight and I went to the local school and was bullies because in a way that I did speak so had an ip absent, but once I work out how to be properly my cane him, I love. tat? There was no expectation four main x, I wasn't a hugely bright and I was told why you know just do your best is fine how'd you device, though it was actually because I became very motivated. Rarely conscientious amid the difficulties at whom you father was somebody who had, I was gonna, say affairs. Can I is it pluto here yet, and so he left the family home. It is when you were held. I think carefully about fifth d
He was in lots of ways the post I was absolutely the closest to, but when he left, I found a very difficult. So I did. I just want to speak to him for it for about year, and I We believe that he would leave looking back on. I think you should have left probably a lot earlier, because I think maybe they were very happy. I dont know, but he had a very strong sense of duty, so he stayed until we were old enough I understand he died. Relatively soon after having let you we're gonna have me saying tat: he was only fifty two. I think people is better now at dealing with death, but at the time I remember then, going into my a level year. Nobody really spoke to me about it I'm not doing very well at my animals, and my history teacher is very close to saying well
I dont awaiting gonna, go with those animals moran and to be honest to me about ten years to get over that death because it was never metabolize or let it into the air. It was something that I just repressed and get on with it. You know that's what does what people did? You ve hardly referred to your mother and all of this, how much will be available to you? She was available, yet she was there. I think she didn't have the language for a tie that, because she was put up in the worn, not really brought up by her parents. I think that they were trying to protect me, and I think that I wasn't very verbose and that so, therefore they probably didn't know, that's that's what I needed in august
if tax locked to get it out of my emanate from my friends nowadays have just of plum call bottle of wine. Don t ask me questions until I'm ready drunken then also talking about Martha too late for you have given me the fact that what was on the table here and tell me about your next piece of music- and this is your third, so accede- is appropriate, because when I was doing my levels, I was living in the house on my aim because my dad died by the state and university and my mother had to get work and she had been told by the road exchange that she was not going to get any help or support. so she found work is an actress over in sheffield, which was the making of her, and she lived with these two guys became. Those and that she woke me down the aisle, but at the time
I was living on my own and I was doing I levels. I couldn't supply myself some sort of bordering on anything disorder, but I had this wreck whole plan and I would just play the style councils have again and again and again and again, and It was beautiful jars, sort of a sense of e learning and a sense of sophistication style
That was a the council and the best marian at marion and so well, I'm sort of poles but your teachers.
what're you gonna do with these results you had been studying. Was I mean I didn t John? I didn't really want to do it. If I was incredibly boring, I used to complain to my parents all the time it ever talking shop. I was rebelling out and are demanding to do that. But I did drama university because I could really do anything out you and how I went out here. I didn't have enough, creates for anything else and I thought I could do drawn up. So I did a biopsy, never thought I would go into it and I started directing them com and I really enjoyed it. Can I still think that I would do it if I had to be a man. I know surfers than I thought. You'd be a man because they are all male. So therefore, is clearly not something I can
do and when you weren't, directing in those early days. You know how university what was a sensation of it did you feel like a fish in water air? I think I did. I felt an enormous sense of belonging and maybe power as well and I've worked out. I've got older, that's what I probably love subconsciously about directing is the father. The work speaks for me, I'm not very good at speaking for myself and so to be really at the heart of imagining something as creative. The group of other people, it's very much a family and what you say is vital, and so, for I mean how do is prepared to listen to the syrian expert music areas. Tell me about your forth
So this is the stone roses. This is the one I did a production of ports by Simon Stevens who I've worked with huge mount. We are very close. He was brought up in supple. I was put on his report and it is about a young girl and her brother, who are brought up in support, and this is absolutely what I mean about subtext because its work, about what is it said. Oh, what said between the lines, I suppose- and they sat in this car overnight, and she's, really that to ask if she can leave- and nobody says in the scene, I love you. Nobody says I forgive you. Nothing like I said, but actually is full, of love, and the very last lines of the play are sons coming up, took up over hills, the sun's coming up, and we played this as the sun came up where the big bank of huge bank of lights
The lights were slowly rise up to the top of the ceiling for who'll outside and change color, as they did while the sun rises play so basically about the beginning off haven, beginning all joy, understanding for basic information, leaving
That was the stone roses, and this is the one sumerian areas when you were in those are the beginnings of europe but when I introduce you to day, I said you don't you were really in your late twenties before you were directing property, you done a number of jobs after I graduated you, you watch, it cannot a tv in the german departments. You does an assistant direct regions park, opening a theatre in london and then you went to the royal extra change in manchester. What what was yourself break for people to know that she knows what she's doing, I suppose it was going to thee change and there was a young direct tobacco gregg herself who so I was talented also he thought way before I ever thought I was, and he gave me lots of opportunities. It was helpful us both. He wasn't part of my father's too.
you said you know you more than alluded to the fact that is ended badly. The wounds have, will they yield when I got there and the weird thing was that of a complex morning or discuss population. who I was just kind of dropped, and couple years later somebody said to me: I am the office that you had when you arrive on. How was your dad's push? So it was a weird it's just calming down of things it was. It will start to feel much more easy, I suppose, and an gregg just help me a large. Maybe I did have a real confidence crisis. I I never thought I could do so that they can do. But no of course you know you can't do it even the you may have sort of tempering moments of crisis, but back then in your early thirties, especially given that you are working at the real exchange where your father had been such a prominent and important figure when
dotage yourself. How did your marshall, your resources, think I can, and I will I just put my head down on with the work I mean, I'm a slow worker. I do a lot of pressure and I spent a lot of time with a text. You sometimes you go into a vast roman and I too has a completely different view of the characters cost so much better than mine, but eve eddies. You got some areas leaf and you never wanted to act. I did I to invest, as I had to do this terrible tyrant. Goodness it was a local play and I had to pay this kind of. sexy avenue- and I remember the director saying to me yeah you could do that again, but do sexy this by Marianne S or trying to figure you you just great between two sexy and I learned so much from that because of cause, I stood there in this ridiculous costume. This ridiculous stage. Thinking. How am I doing? I hate it if you really exposed, I want to do
what you're doing sitting in the story telling people what today, that's what I wanted it so I realise that you can't tell anybody what effect they should be giving off. What you should be doing is getting the act to concentrate on what they are trying to change in the person that their speaking too so they're, not thinking about themselves. The thinking about the other person, if sexy It is a subsidiary of outright thanks piece of music man, and his tell me about this. I loved the smiths, and this is please please, please let me get what I want this. displayed as I walked down the aisle getting married to my husband, nick city and he's Our northern also lost the smiths, and we thought it would be very funny, but it also depicted exactly how I felt at the time The market is amazing man and the guy was getting what I wanted
haven't had a man along five legged once in my life, what would be? The first would be the first there was this man, sam, please, please, please let me get what I want Marie anne elliot, you move to the national theatre in london in two thousand and five you your job. There was associate direction sooner. To arrive she directed well it will.
to become nothing short of a blockbuster war horse that was adapted from the book by Michael, more programme. Is the story of course, of albert and his relationship with joy, his horse, who ends up on the battlefield during the first world war, when you very first started eyes, what gave you the confidence to take on? Well, I just thought is quite exciting. The book was first person in the voice of the horse, which other will act clearly cannot happen. I met tomorrow's who said in our working with incredible puppet company, and I thought this just sounds mad. Possibly not possible potential for disaster would seem view gyre everytime. I try to do something vague, the protection of it being awful. Its mass, but you know at the time I just thought that.
Going to a workshop. You know we'll just explore it explain to me the workshop piecing because for those of us who are not in the world of slaughter consigned to the indulgent, why does it matter? What is it for? Well, if you're doing huge projects like that which hundreds of people involved you used, over the book- and you think you are how the hell are we going to do battle with hundreds, if not thousands, of horses I mean how we learn to portray that with one puppet holes or how are we going to tell a story that this foul jovi they spend more time with then rose up to this big horse. When how do we do that, so you can naturally into a room with actors and just throw out ideas and try things, and you don't have to worry about doing production at the end of it. It doesn't have to be polished, it doesn't have to be good, can be terrible and sometimes, if its tablets really help
both cause. Your craggy does not do that. Let's go to the other extreme, I'm talking about your next piece of music music. So this is the dark eyed sailor, sung here by olivia cheney. This is a song that my sister taught my daughter to really early age. My daughter loves singing, and my sister was the same. Then they both our very talented. I am not at all musically, talented and nothing watching. People saying is a bit like watching an alien fly to me. I just don't stan. I can do it plenary every time it together was nagging I'm so please please policing that song and they will do. Its and they know that the lines- and they just throw himself into with such abandon this beautiful he's
Why do the day she he doesn t my dad, night. Stop that wasn't a view cheney and the dark eyed sailor marianne elliot its clear from talking about the productions, that you are so well known for unjust from talking to you today that an awful lot of thought and hard work goes into what you do. Have you suffered any point in your creative life, appeared of burn out
yeah yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I've often thought you know. Maybe it's the unhealthy. The way that work, because it so addictive and it takes you over. She do reach burner yeah. How does that manifest itself with you? I'm gonna go nowadays. I try, and only due to shows year, but your burnt out? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Well, just take a dried up old. Ask really many nights needs people somewhere. We can start absorbing and growing and getting moist to get lucky. and do you have a technique for that, very, very private love spending time at home with family. I love holiday,
yes and time away from the theatres really important going to an art gallery the scraps editing nothing to do with anything that you working on reading a book under a tree or something other into something very different. Have you ever thought about talking is in yes I've? Yes, I have here many times yeah, because Don't find it easy and it's not an easy thing, and I think maybe it costs me more than most, because I was that quiet girl under the table. I don't find it easy to throw myself into a big room full of people and say I know how to do this and then get hundreds of people's comes here and then get critics to say publicly what they feel about it, but there's something in the process of time.
really enjoy an eye. I think is very important for me and I think the art form is very important, but it dusk it does cost inexpensive music when talking about this is your sentence. So this is an ec drake northern sky and I'm a fan of his beautiful music, but he was brother off Gabrielle drake, who was a great friend, our family and I once plucked up courage to ask her how she felt by his death because he took his own life and she said the most remarkable thing she said well, it was his choice, so I have to accept that that's his choice and I thought that's just the most extraordinary thing. I've ever heard and people are just on ending, leave fastening thing, but I think that it also because I'm not very good at saying what I, what I feel about myself or talking about myself,
think it says everything I want to say to my husband I never saw a new budgetary rights. I wasn't drake and northern sky and dedicated you said marianne earlier to your husband earlier use
about how you going up to you didn't think that women could be direct, doesn't mean you said it with a rise. Smiling are faced with at the time as a young, in the eighties? That was really what you felt. What do you say? What would you say to any young woman listening who dream about following your footsteps I would say is no one right way and you have to fully rain instinct. You have to get you to what your instinct saying to you and follow that if it's not what Joe blogs is doing, that's ok Joe plugs into his own production, you just get on with the earth. How much is your work throughout the last twenty years Do you understand more about your father and about who he was and why he was wow? That's a good question. Isn't it I think I empathize with? who he was and what he was dealing with and he got so much out of life. There
I may, for example, I wouldn't have gone its directing if he was still alive. Please use your inspiring. needs to find my way, and you know, is to say the child his father to the man. Child feels always have to develop and move forward from their parents as quite hard you're coming from famous parents doing really extraordinary work. but you don't feel that you can be any better than them, and why would you even try, so I sort of feel thankful to him, everything, but would you say you have tried and you have been an uncomfortable, western sahara- has it to different different life, different career, I heard from him diplomatic, I'm about to cast away. How are you on your own, practical, ivy, terrible? I might be able to make
but they wouldn't be enough in their, so that would be rubbish. I'm not very good, enforced isolation quite like if I've chosen it. No, I often using I would be quite good at is the sun on imagining it's gonna, be a very sunny design and myspace serve, organise by other hold out much hope turn, but you're gonna be ok. Services be org, this is also quiet now. This reminds me of the women in my family, because it's very witty is very irreverent and it's slightly mad and its had an estate and quite joyous, and I love bureau because she is the
possessed of conventional and thus how I would say all the women that I've known in my life and all the women I've heard about in my life from my family are aids. So it's also state so as we work and also quite,
Let me give you some books. No marianne, you get to take to the silent, the bible and the complete whatso shakespeare and then one other book, but you choose. What are you gonna have I'd like anthology of poetry, written by women form the present on the last century, but will find you that's a luxury to hear of it. She key because I'd like a bath but with three taps. Three other lover path so yeah call tab hot top and a wind who would I be I d. Ninety, that's ok! Yeah we'll see what we can, find one of your somewhere in hollywood. Somebody with such a thing. We shall find it for you, man of these eight very carefully chosen discs, which one would you choose to save if you had to o. Probably nitrate, not this guy is yours. Man Elliot. Thank you very much for letting us EU desert island discs. Thank you.
hope you enjoy. My conversations with many in the desert. Island discs bet catalogue is stuffed with luminaries from the theatre, directors, jude, Kelly, richard air soapy, to haul playwrights on a whisker, lucy, Ganem and naming gala and david hair and, of course, many many wonderful actors, all just waiting for you to download them next time in the last programme before the summer break
my guess will be the poet payments. I do hope you join us. This is the BBC, the infinite monk cage returns with the one hundredth episode and waken to be asking. What do we know now that we didn't know during our first upside back in november, two thousand and nine. Ninety one under that sort is very ambitious. We have more gas than we ve ever tried to control before every keitel katy brand neil digress ice. Now it's roberts dave, gorman and hamilton the reverend richard coals, who will be discussing gravitational waves and whether he causes more of them link. It is to find the pot cast just search for the infinite monk cage wherever in the universe that you listening right now and hit subscribe.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-11.