Cathal Cleary is the 2011 winner of the JMK award. The award recognises young directors with outstanding potential. Cleary’s winning production of Disco Pigs is currently running at the Young Vic.


How does it feel to be the winner of the coveted JMK award?
It feels lovely. Having seen the work of other previous winners, it’s obviously something that means a lot in the industry and it gives people who may not have had the opportunity to direct a show, a budget and venue to get their show on. It also gives you the clout to be able to attract more established talented people to come on board. So it’s been marvellous.

As part of the process, you had to choose a play and submit a proposal for a production. Why did you choose Disco Pigs?
For JMK, every applicant picks a play from a list of plays on their website. Disco Pigs is a play that I knew very well, I tried to do in Ireland, but it just didn’t come together. So when I saw that on the list, it just seemed like a show that a director can put his or her stamp on.

You were assistant director under Joe Hill-Gibbins and Polly Findlay who were previous winners. What did you learn from working alongside them?
Working with Joe I got to see how a talented director works with actors, the preparation that goes into understanding a script, understanding what you want to do with it and understanding the process that goes with getting a show ready.  It was amazing to watch that and to be part of that. From my perspective, that’s better training then you could ever get in university.

With Polly on Twisted Tales, it was a different experience because it was a new piece of writing. The script changed quite a lot through rehearsals and even into previews and Polly was amazing.  The agenda kept changing and she dealt with that type of pressure incredibly well. I couldn’t have asked for two better directors to have worked with last year.

What do you think are the challenges that face young directors?
Getting a show on.  JMK allows you to put a show on. To get a show on in a fringe venue in London, you’re looking at twelve grand. That’s before you pay anybody. That’s a massive challenge. Without sounding too pessimistic, I can’t see what route I would’ve been able to take to get a show on if I hadn’t won the JMK.

What advice would you give other young directors who are looking to apply for the award?
Well I can tell them what I did. I picked a play that I really liked. I picked a play that I thought a director could put their stamp on.  I also tried to look at it from a practical point of view, and picked a play that could be put on for twelve thousand pounds, which is the amount you win. The other big thing that I think made a massive difference was the team. If you’re lucky enough to get through the first round, you’re asked to get a team together.  I was really lucky to get a really good team on board.

What’s next for you after the run of Disco Pigs?
I’ve not a clue. I really don’t. I would love to say I have nine projects lined up but I don’t. I have contacted a few people and I have a few things I would like to do, but the only thing I can concentrate on right now is getting the show on and hopefully having a good run. After that, I’ll see how I can pay my bills. 

Disco Pigs continues until 24 September 2011