Gemma Coclough is the show director of The Hunting of the Snark, a new musical-comedy for the whole family that’s debuting in Hong Kong on 20 September. The musical is based on the story of a young boy and his estranged father’s travel to Snark Island in search of a mythical creature called the Snark. We catch up with Gemma, who is in Hong Kong getting ready for the show, to talk about a life in the theatre and some of her favourite things.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where you live how you got started in theatrical production?
I’m a theatre director, and lead of Alice House Theatre. I live near London with my partner, along with Dog Snoop and Cat Monkey. I’ve been working in theatre for 15 years and am absolutely thrilled to be bringing The Hunting of The Snark to Hong Kong in September.
What are your favourite parts of the show?
I love the songs and the puppetry – we’ve created a really colourful world in Snark Island with lots of funny and fearsome creatures to encounter.
Why is the The Hunting of the Snark so appealing to both parents and kids?
The story is universal, that of family and journey, and the comedy is similar – there’s literal humour, physical comedy, and slapstick gags galore.
What is it about theatrical production that is most meaningful to you?
I’ve wanted to stage The Hunting of the Snark since I began working in theatre 15 years ago – it’s a wonderfully silly concept, and allows the audience to escape the real world for an hour and step into the land of the Snark where literally anything can happen!
What is a typical working day like for you?
When I’m in rehearsals, I like to start early. I get to the theatre around 8am and catch up on correspondence before starting work with the cast at 9am. We often spend time working through scenes, consolidating yesterday’s work, and moving forward in the play. In the evening I read new scripts sent to me by young writers, looking for the next piece of work, I spend time talking to my creative team and planning the next day’s rehearsal. And then it’s off to bed!
Most important thing/ part of running a successful theatrical production?
Creating successful and enjoyable theatre takes time and bravery – to go beyond what is already done and try something new. It’s about working with the very best people you can, and allowing them to flourish, and giving new artists a chance to be bold.
Most difficult thing about what you do?
It can be hard to be adaptable when something means so much to you – to stop yourself becoming possessive of the work. As a general rule, people are here to help, not hinder, but it can be hard to let go and let a piece develop.
A mantra you live by when making important decisions in your life, business and personal?
Never settle for compromise, you will only live to regret it.
What are your top five theatrical shows of all time and why?
The Revenger’s Tragedy – a visceral tale of revenge
Hamlet – I must have seen this 20 times and I love it more every time
Edward II – Marlowe’s best
Avenue Q – a wonderfully funny musical
Wicked – Just amazing music and an incredible design
What do you eat for breakfast?
And finally, what have you noticed about Hong Kong that stands out for you?
An exciting young audience and a large appetite for culture.