Joe Hill-Gibbins is the supremely talented, Deputy Artistic Director of the Young Vic. A master puppeteer of real-life people, Gibbins is paving the way for next generation theatre.
A forward-thinking advocate of new blood, South West London born Joe first read drama at Manchester University before deciding to step behind the curtains and commanding the scripts as opposed to the stage. Directing his first professional production, he then went on to win the James Menzies-Kitchen Trust Award for Young Directors, securing him kudos enough to go on and train at the Royal Court, whilst working as an assistant director to Dominic Cooke, James Macdonald and Ian Rickson.
Today, working closely with the Genesis Directors Program, Joe’s prime objective is to help develop the new breed of British theatre directors, to give others the opportunities he benefitted from when he was establishing himself. Now working predominantly with scripts that centre around and dissect sexual politics and family affairs, he can mostly be found watching productions nervously from the wings, learning and developing his powerful and critically acclaimed techniques as he goes.
From his debut performance (not playing a wise man for his school’s Nativity play) to his outstanding production of ‘The Beauty Queen Of Leenane’ now showing at The Young Vic, Joe is a driving force perpetuating the youth movement that is keeping theatre alive today. A true hero and important talent that deserves recognition, i-D online caught up with Gibbins for a cup of tea and a bit of chat.
So can you talk me through a typical day working at the Young Vic? It varies. I mean if I’m working on one of my own productions it’s pretty flat out, whether I’m in rehearsals with the actors or in technical rehearsals with crew establishing where to add lights, sound and the costume – it’s full-on. But when I’m not working on my own shows quite often I’m helping out on other people’s.
Do young directors approach you, or do you scout them out? A bit of both, we have a thing called the Genesis Directors Program, which is all about finding and developing the next generation of British theatre directors. We also have an online network where directors can talk to each other and exchange ideas. We put out details of our workshops on the network or just chat or invite people to see the shows.
And which directors have you discovered through the program that you are excited about? Oh loads of people, I mean there’s a guy most recently who was my assistant director on Beauty Queen called Cathal Cleary and now he’s doing his own show here, Disco Pigs, an Irish play by a guy called Enda Walsh.
Favourite international theatres? My favourites are all in Berlin actually, I really love Berlin so places like The Schaubühne or The Deutsches or The Thalia Theatre in Hamburg.
What is so special about German theatre? They’re very avant-garde and wacky and they’re very well-funded. So they can do crazy things on a scale that one just can’t over here. They often take classics and put, literally, well sometimes literally, a lot of dynamite under them and blow them up! So they have very radical and unusual productions with whatever… forklift trucks and swimming pools, and it’s very fun and invigorating.
What advice would you give to aspiring young directors? I would advise them to start talking to people and writing letters. I mean sometimes when people start out, you don’t know anyone and contacts are very important in theatre, like they are in any field. But people are often willing to sit down and have a chat or a cup of tea and answer questions. So if there’s a theatre you like the work of or an artist or a director you like the work of then send them a postcard.
Joe Hill-Gibbins’s Ones To watch
1. Kyle Soller
2. Romola Garai
3. Leo Bill
4. Sinead Matthews
The Beauty Queen of Leenane runs at London’s Young Vic Theatre from now until the 3rd of September.