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5 minutes with: Director Abbey Wright - 'I feel very inspired'

Fresh from her West End debut production of The Mentalists, Wright is reviving TS Eliot's The Cocktail Party at The Print Room

Abbey Wright with Mentalists stars Steffan Rhodri and Stephen Merchant
© Dan Wooller

I grew up in a town called Alcester, a rural market town in the midlands. My mum worked in the education department for the RSC, so I saw a lot of productions there which really sparked my passion for theatre. My dad was a drummer in the local pantomime and one year I auditioned to play Cinderella, which was my first acting job. I absolutely loved it and ended up going to drama school.

When I came to the end of my acting course I asked if I could write and direct my final project, which was based on Chekhov's Three Sisters. We took it to the London fringe and that led me on to being an assistant director, so I never really took the acting any further. I was sure by that stage that directing was what I wanted to pursue.

I worked as an assistant director at the Donmar with Sean Holmes, Peter Gill, Michael Grandage, Jamie Lloyd, Alan Rickman, Jeremy Herrin and John Tiffany. It was a life changing year and I felt incredibly lucky to have that chance. Straight after that I did my first proper professional production, The Ones that Flutter (2009) at Theatre503, which was a really special experience.

I've just directed my first production in the West End, The Mentalists, at Wyndham's Theatre. I loved working with Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri. It's a great two-hander by Richard Bean about the need for fantasy in the lives of these two grown up friends. I loved doing it. It's closing next month but we've had a good run - most plays at Wyndham's only do two months.

My new production is TS Eliot's The Cocktail Party at The Print Room. I think it's a really radical play about the life of a spirit and the hell of living in the city, and living with other people. It's based on a Greek play and feels very European; it's really of itself and some of the poetry is absolutely astonishing. It begins with a pastiche of a drawing room set-up and moves into an exploration of martyrdom and expiation. It's mind-blowing, and we've got a great cast.

We're reopening the main auditorium at the Coronet, the Print Room's new home. The space is an absolutely stunning W.G.R.Sprague-designed theatre, and there hasn't been a play in there for 100 years [during which time it's been used as a cinema]. It has quite a decrepid splendour; it's full of ghosts and has the most extraordinary atmosphere. It's the ideal venue for The Cocktail Party, which has a very spiritual element to it - Eliot was keen to explore our desire to create order amid the void.

In terms of dream projects, I am doing one at the moment: working with a team of remarkable people on an extraordinary play at a brilliant venue. I feel very inspired. My dream is to keep working, keep learning, keep being bolder. And maybe one day to work at the RSC!

The Mentalists is at Wyndham's Theatre until 29 August. The Cocktail Party runs at The Print Room at The Coronet from 14 September-10 October