The Yellow Wallpaper – Director Aoife Spillane-Hinks Interviewed

Roisin Agnew
Posted November 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

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A rising star among young directors and fast becoming a household name, Aoife Spillane-Hinks tells us about the process of reviving old work, finding your voice, growing some backbone and being a diva…

You’re not Irish…

No I’m from New Haven, Connecticut but I’ve been here for over six years.

Lovely. What was your favourite thing in the festival this year?

You know for once I mainly went to the Irish shows and it was really great, I had a wonderful festival experience. I think the ANU production [The Boys of Foley Street this year] for the past few years has been one of the highlights- it’s just so astounding what they’re doing and how they’re developing it every year.

The Yellow Wallpaper is an American gothic novella written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, mainly made up of journal entries. What drew you to this particular work?

I read it when I was seventeen in school, and it was on my mind for the next ten years. Then in 2009 I met Maeve [Fitzgerald] and at the end of that year she said ‘I want to do something with you’ and I said ‘Cool’. So we decided we would devise something. I sent her a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper but we never really did anything with it. Then one day after there’d been stories in the news, I said ‘Why don’t we just read The Yellow Wallpaper out loud.’ And we did and it was great. We worked on the adaptation with a dramaturge, Tanya Dean, but in the end we only really changed ten words. Then Maeve and I had three weeks on our own virtually We barely spoke – she’d do one of the sections, I would tell her what I saw, and she would do it again. We trusted each other so much, and we trusted the text so much that it just happened.

What did you learn from that way of working?

It was an exercise in listening and not putting our print all over it, just being vessels. It taught me a huge amount about directing, probably about life, about letting go and trusting the right choices you made earlier on.

Do you like working with writing-led plays?

I suppose it comes back to the idea of trust. I don’t consider myself an auteur director so I like to choose stuff where I can say that I will serve this peace and bring it to life. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any personality then.

How will the show work in the Project as opposed to the Boys School, and what’s it like coming back to it a year on?

It’s funny, when I was working on it I felt I was just finding my voice and my way of working and my taste. I feel a lot stronger as an artist now, so it’s interesting to come back to it from a different perspective. But it’s cool and new to bring it to the Project. In terms of set, we’ll have a gauze with big holes in it hanging across the stage and audience on both sides. It’s like the woman describes in the book, there’s people in the walls, so that without too heavy a hand, it suggests an element of complicity in what’s going on.

What frustrates you most about Irish theatre?

I think that theatre artists are and can be more virtuosic than they give themselves credit for – I think people have extraordinary abilities and capabilities in Irish theatre but I think people could go for broke a lot more. Risk having diva moments.

The Yellow Wallpaper runs from the 19th until the 24th November at Project Arts Centre.


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