Skip to main content

Amanda Gaughan - Obituary

Amanda Gaughan – Theatre director

Born August 27 1982; died March 12 2018

Amanda Gaughan, who has died suddenly aged 35, was one of the brightest young directing talents to blaze a trail through Scotland’s theatre scene over the last decade. Much of her work focused on strong women, and, as is the case with the best artists, reflected her own personality. Gaughan’s main stage productions of Hecuba and Hedda Gabler were vibrant, impassioned and full of life, always questioning, always getting behind the surface veneer to expose the sometimes brutal truth of things. Moreover, Gaughan’s work was always delivered with heart and soul bursting from the core of it’s being and barely contained by whatever stage it appeared on.

Gaughan’s work may have been seen at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, the Lyceum, Edinburgh or Dundee Rep, but it felt like she was only at the start of a career which by rights should have grown and matured over several decades. As it is, what Gaughan already achieved has been inspirational, both for the performers and artists who fed off her infectious energy, and for audiences who experienced first-hand the pulse of that energy.

Amanda Margaret Gaughan was born in Paisley, and was first exposed to theatre while a pupil at St James’ Primary School. This was through PACE Youth Theatre, the Paisley-based company with whom she would eventually work, helping to inspire new generations of young people just as she had been inspired.

When a curious Gaughan visited PACE with a view to becoming a member, she was smitten, and within weeks dropped all other activities to focus solely on PACE. Even before then, the foundations for this had been set when, aged five, she and her cousin Emma were selected to sing High Hopes together at their first dance school show. With Gaughan having learnt the lines first, she took charge of rehearsing both the song and the choreographed moves that went with it with a commitment and dedication that amused and captivated all those who caught sight of the girls’ routine in progress.

The performance at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow was effectively Gaughan’s first mini-production, and brought the house down. It was a pointer of things to come, and over her eight years with PACE, Gaughan became fearless in everything she did.

Between 2000 and 2004, Gaughan joined the BA Contemporary Theatre Practice course at what was then the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD), later the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), creating and performing in new and experimental work. After graduating with First Class Honours, Gaughan returned to PACE as a full-time member of the artistic team, running drama workshops with young people, touring schools and directing performances.  In 2008, she returned to RSAMD for a new MA Classical and Contemporary Text course, specialising in directing.

During her time on the course, Gaughan helped develop Fever Dream, a new play by Douglas Maxwell that would later be produced both at RCS and at the Citizens Theatre as Fever Dream: Southside. Gaughan also worked as an assistant director at the Globe Theatre while on the course, graduating with Distinction in 2009.

Between 2009 and 2015, Gaughan acted as creative producer of On the Verge, a festival of new work by students who, just as she had done, were ready to take the leap into the world beyond academe. As a director, Gaughan first made her mark professionally at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow in 2011 with her production of Dennis Kelly’s claustrophobic end-of-the-world two-hander, After the End. This was followed by a return to the RCS to direct final year acting students in Liz Lochhead’s version of Medea.

The same year, Gaughan won a Bank of Scotland New Directors placement with the National Theatre of Scotland, assisting John Tiffany on the stage adaptation of Andrew O’Hagan’s book, The Missing. Also with the NTS, Gaughan directed Martin Travers’ debut play, Roman Bridge, at the Citz as part of the NTS’ Reveal season.

In 2012, Gaughan worked with Scottish Opera on Last One Out, a mini opera by Johnny McKnight and Gareth Williams. Her relationship with music theatre continued with Forest Boy, a new piece by writer Scott Gilmour and composer Claire McKenzie.

At Dundee Rep, Gaughan directed a bold production of Euripides’ great anti-war play, Hecuba, and with the NTS, Gaughan oversaw contributions to its 24 Hour plays initiative. She contributed to the company’s seasons of international work, directing Catherine Grosvenor’s translation of Chinese writer Xu Nuo’s play, Fox Attack in 2013, and Lynda Radley’s take on Brazilian playwright Michelle Ferrier’s There is Someone Who Hates Us in 2016.

Other plays Gaughan worked on included Romance by Ross Dunsmore with Cumbernauld Theatre, and numerous rehearsed readings with Playwrights Studio Scotland by the likes of Linda Maclean, Rosanna Hall and Kathy McKean. In 2014, Gaughan was associate director on The James Plays, Rona Munro’s epic trilogy of Scottish history plays co-produced by the NTS, the National Theatre of Great Britain and Edinburgh International Festival.

Between 2014 and 2016, Gaughan was associate artist at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, where she directed Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler in 2015 and Conor McPherson’s modern classic, The Weir, a year later. One of Gaughan’s final projects was on Annville, a new play by Martin Travers, a nineteenth century set murder story with music based on Heather Spars’ novel, The Flourish. Streamed live online, the rehearsed readings of what looked set to be a far larger project was seen all over the world.

Gaughan’s resume became a kind of manifesto for everything she held dear about theatre, and everything she felt it could be.

‘Fundamentally,’ she wrote, ‘we must always be questioning, challenging, collaborating, nurturing and evaluating, asking ‘what do our artists want to tell stories about?’ and ‘What do our audiences want to engage with?’ By asking these questions I believe that a truthful and visceral programme of work can develop that both audiences and artists can engage with and enter into an imaginative and thought-provoking discourse about.

‘Theatre enables us to research, explore and share our experiences of humanity. The best theatrical productions I have seen, and indeed the kinds that I aim to create, are those which call the audience to be 'witnesses'; to be complicit in the action and the story.’

In her brief career, Gaughan achieved all of this with unflinching guts and passion. One can only speculate what else she might have achieved.

Amanda Gaughan is survived by her mother Margaret, her father Jim and her partner Shaun Mason.

The Herald, March 31st 2018

ends





Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Futureproof 2017

Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow until February 4th 2018
Four stars

Now in its ninth year, Futureproof's showcase of recent graduate photographers from seven Scottish art schools and universities returns to its spiritual home at Street Level, with nineteen artists embracing photo essays, abstraction and constructed narratives. It is Karlyn Marshall's Willies, Beuys and Me that grabs you first. Tucked in a corner, this depiction of a woman impersonating iconic artist Joseph Beuys says much about gender stereotyping, and recalls Manfred Karge's play, Man to Man, in which a German woman took on her dead husband's identity.

The personal and the political converge throughout. Ben Soedera's Foreign Sands contrasts natural resources and the constructed world. Gareth and Gavin Bragdon's The Bragdon Brothers moves onto the carnivalesque streets of Edinburgh. Kieran Delaney's Moments also looks at the apparently ordinary. Matthew Buick goes further afield, as tourists…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Bdy_Prts

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Saturday December 2nd


It should probably come as no surprise that professional dancers are in the audience for the Edinburgh leg of this mini tour by spectral performance art/pop auteurs Bdy_Prts on the back of the release of their sublime debut album, The Invisible Hero. Beyond the music, the raison d’etre of Bdy_Prts’ dynamic duo of Jill O'Sullivan and Jenny Reeve, after all, is a flamboyantly costumed display of kinetic physical jerks and modernist shape-throwing to illustrate a set of fizzing machine-age chorales.

In this sense, the Bdy_Prts live experience is several works of art for the price of one that's a long way from the pair's formative work fronting Sparrow and the Workshop (O'Sullivan) and Strike the Colours (Reeve). Part living sculptures, part Bloomsbury Group super-heroines, part widescreen pop fabulists, O'Sullivan and Reeve paint their faces with ancient symbols and sport customised shoulder pads that look both seasonally …