David Mercatali’s star seems to forever shine even brighter with every production he works on. 5 years ago, Mecatali was nominated for an Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Newcomer and has gone on to fulfil the Award’s championing of his work to stage pieces that get audiences talking. In 2013, he went on to win a Fringe First Award for his staging of Dark Vanilla Jungle and subsequently went on to be nominated for Off West End Awards in 2011 and 2014. Having also worked with theatre’s most exciting talents, Mercatali shows no signs of slowing down. Ahead of his staging of Tess Berry-Hart’s Cargo soon to show at the Arcola Theatre, Theatrefullstop were luck enough to speak with the award winning director about the show!
Hi David, you are currently directing Tess Berry-Hart’s Cargo which will play at the Arcola theatre from July, how are you feeling ahead of the run?
Excited. I have wanted to do this play for a long time and the combination of the script, cast and team is everything I could hope for.
Cargo places a spotlight on the very timely topic of migration, what drew you to direct the piece?
We are currently going through the greatest humanitarian crisis of my lifetime, and my work is a response to the world around me. I have to tell this story, the play shines the most startling and unsettling light on this issue. The play is also beautifully written and genuinely thrilling, so delighted to be doing it.
How have you approached directing Cargo?
I have approached it as I approach any work, through collaboration. I have given freedom and room to my designer Max Dorey and he had created something that elevates the play is every way. While working with the cast it is important to allow them to express themselves, the good work will come from them ultimately.
Is there a typical day in rehearsals?
Well, days can be structured similarly, but every day is a discovery, every day the piece grows, and you have to be willing to adapt as you go. You can’t really approach it like any other job, even if the structure is tight. That structure allows for shifts in focus as and when they come up.
You’ve enjoyed a successful directorial career, having picked up a Fringe First Award for your 2013 production of Dark Vanilla, been nominated for both Off West End and an Evening Standard Award, and also successfully staging the works of critically acclaimed new voices such as Barney Norris. How does it feel to be acknowledged in this manner for your work?
It’s the best feeling to work with brilliant artists, because they make you better just through the process. It is nice when people praise you and of course you enjoy it but you have to be careful. Belief in your work still has to be rooted in you, it can’t be in what people say about you. What if they stop liking the work? Do you lose all self-confidence? So you have to be careful not to rely on the praise of others.
You are an Associate Director at the Southwark Playhouse, what drew you to be affiliated with the theatre?
I had successful work there and it made sense to cement the relationship. It’s a brilliant venue with brilliant people. I’m lucky to be associated with it.
Who and/or what are your inspirations as a director?
The people I work with, the writers, actors, designers, crew and producers. They inspire me every day.
What advice would you give to aspiring directors?
Find a way of making the work happen, and when an opportunity comes along that may change your career, don’t hesitate for a moment.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
Cargo will be showing at the Arcola Theatre from Wednesday 6th July until Saturday 6th August. For more information on the production, visit here…