Matthew Forbes works internationally as a Director, with a strong focus on puppetry, object manipulation and physical theatre. He originally trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as an actor specialising in Collaborative and Devised Theatre.
Alongside his professional directing career Matthew also teaches puppetry and movement internationally and has directed students in productions and projects from ArtsEd, East15 and the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.
What inspired you to become a director?
Matt: Well I trained as an actor originally, in the school of speech and drama in London and so, I was in War Horse for quite a long time in the west end. And then I started to realise I’d quite like being on the outside and seeing the full overview of everything and being aware of stylistic changes and producing the show, that sort of stuff. So, it came from that really, I was asked by the National [Theatre] because of my time in the show, was asked by them to look after the show because I knew it so intimately, so it happened by accident really. So since then, I’ve been very fortunate and started a very busy and freelance life as a director and opening a lot of doors which means people take you seriously which is great and its really nice and I’ve really been able to explore lots of different avenues but mainly puppetry work, or object manipulation or movement-based work.
What got you into puppeteering and movement-based work?
Because of my training at the school of speech and drama on the collaborative devised acting course, which is a slightly more contemporary approach to acting, slightly more physical based stuff. I think that’s what’s great about puppetry, it doesn’t need translation whereas a play that’s very text heavy that’ll need translation but actually, we can take these horse puppets anywhere and people love them, and you understand what they’re doing. So, puppetry work speaks to everyone and I like that, I like the fact you can tell a story without saying a word.
What made you want to be part of War Horse in the first place?
Obviously, it’s a hugely popular show, seen by millions and millions and because it’s a story of peace and loyalty and trust and friendship that especially in today’s climate and the world I think its really important we share a story like that and so, for me, that was a real draw. And also, the first world war it’s a really important story to be telling and to make sure we don’t forget all of that because of those sacrifices, we have now and so it’s a really important and powerful story to tell. Whilst it is theatre, there is something bigger about it I think with the lighting design and sound design and obviously, the puppetry-the whole package of a show it’s ‘otherworldy’ and that really excited me. It’s not just a few people in army clothes chatting, it really takes over and really engages the audience and I think that’s because of the puppetry and it’s nice to be part of something that engages people.
So did you find the transition between acting and directing difficult at all?
I think being an actor has really influenced my directing choices, and being a director really helps influence my acting choices because I still do a bit of both. I think one feeds and helps the other and vice versa because I’m aware of what goes through an actor’s mind and because of that I appreciate and I’m aware of what the actors are going through so I’m able to guide them carefully in my approach as a director. That said, when I do acting work, I find because I’m aware of what the director needs and I know the director is looking at the big picture I put more trust in them and a bigger appreciation of both roles.
Is there anything we should look forward to in Holes?
So that’s playing up in Nottingham Playhouse and it’s a fabulous show. So, its based on the book and there was a very popular movie made by Disney. We’ve got some brilliant yellow-spotted lizards in that, rattlesnakes and tarantulas and it’s a really beautiful show. The audience is loving it and I didn’t realise that there was such a big cult following for it.
Is there any reason why you’ve picked these certain texts to adapt?
I think if you have a really exciting and interesting book then you can do a lot with it. I think films have to cut a lot out because they have a certain amount of time, like we have a certain amount of time on stage, but I think because its on stage and happening live we have more licence to be more theatrical with it and more stylistic where you can’t do that in a film, it has to be naturalistic. We all have some real connections to big books and stories and often children’s stories or family stories are often the most rewarding to put on stage because they appeal to everybody and everyone is able to take something from it.