Jason trained at Arts Educational schools and began his career in RSC/Opera North’s production of Showboat at the London Palladium and as Benjamin in the original cast of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Palladium. Jason has travelled worldwide as an actor in musicals and plays. Jason wrote and directed A Christmas Carol in Norway this year. As director recent work includes Landscape with Weapon, Cockpit Theatre, God of Carnage, OSO Arts Centre, Meet Me for the Holidays, Hen and Chickens Theatre. In 2023 Jason will direct Neil Simon’s California Suite at OSO Arts Centre.
What first attracted you to the theatre?
When I was ten years old, I was asked by my godmother’s daughter to be in a local production of the musical Oliver which she was directing. I loved every moment of it, from rehearsals to opening night. I cried for a week when the show finished. I was the understudy to Oliver and so wanted to play the role. I realised later that what attracted me to theatre is how stories can be told and shared through text, music, lighting, set and costume design. This to me was the beginning of a passion that continues today.
If you could pick any one person or theatre company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?
Without hesitation Robert LePage. He is a master at telling stories, he takes great care to develop with his actors the characters and the stories they are telling on stage. The subject matter of his work is so varied, from epic to the very simple, yet he draws you in to observe the microscopic human experience. I also love how he works with language and invariably his plays have at least four languages spoken in them.
What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?
The Off West End theatre has so much to offer! First of all, there is such a wide variety of venues, from small pub theatres to larger mid-range theatres. That kind of versatility lends itself to attracting all kinds of theatre companies, from student/youth theatre to larger, more established companies. West End theatres are completely out of reach for most theatre troupes. The financial burden makes it impossible. What Off West End Theatre provides is an invaluable opportunity for actors and creatives to show their work. Imagine a world without that?
What was the most inspiring production you have ever seen? Why?
Again, back to Robert Lepage. He created a piece called Lipsynch which was on at the Barbican. The play was epic and led the audience through many stories across the world about how we communicate and live in difficult circumstances. The play was set in four languages which was a major part of the plot.
The play used recorded voices, projections on the actors and it even had a plane which one of the characters walked on top of. It could have been a mess of a play, but Lepage always comes back to the story and links everything together. Plus, it was about nine hours long (with breaks). It captivated me. I have always known the importance of storytelling and that we are not creating plays for ourselves, but when I saw this play, I really understood that the audience are an important part of any performance because at the end of the day we are sharing this story and experience with them.
What piece of work are you the most proud of?
This might sound like a cliché but I’m most proud of what I’m working on right now. For example, I recently wrote and directed A Christmas Carol in Norway (which is still running) and that had a cast of fifty. By contrast The Elephant Song which I am working on right now only has a cast of three. These two productions are very different experiences in many ways but just as much fun and I’m equally proud of both.
What things in your personal life do you draw upon when you direct?
Like many people, I have had ups and downs in relationships, be it with family, friends, lovers. Because I am drawn to plays about the human experience, it’s quite easy for me to tap into my own past experiences. Sometimes I can use those moments to inspire actors. It really comes down to the human connection. Do you see me? Am I heard? Do you understand?
We’re all longing for that.
Are there any actors/actresses you would like to direct?
How long is a piece of string????? If I had a wish list this is just a few. Fiona Shaw, Naomi Harris, Jessie Buckley, Kathryn Hunter, Sophie Okenedo, Florence Pugh, Ben Whishaw, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rory Kinnear, Lennie James, David Harewood, Bill Nighy, Mark Rylance, Giles Terera, Jason Watkins.
Which director do you respect most on OffWestEnd at the moment?
I Loved Scott Le Crass’s Rose at the Park because you could see his vision and how he wanted the play to have its journey while at the same time giving room for Maureen Lipman to be her brilliant self. For me that is how a director can serve the play; being in charge while allowing collaboration and letting the play evolve. In a way, a play becomes an organic thing, a mixture of different energies coming from the director and the actors and coming together to make…well, magic!
Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?
I am currently rehearsing The Elephant Song by Nicolas Billon which opens 18 January and runs ntil 11 February at the Park Theatre. I’m very excited as this will be the play’s UK premiere. It’s a very interesting play about how we listen or don’t listen to each other and the consequences of our actions. There are also elements of the psychological thriller about the play. After that I’m directing the comedy California Suite by Neil Simon which opens at OSO Arts Centre in Barnes on 21 February.