Rising Star: Patsy Hughes

Back in Belfast for Christmas, the Welsh director looks forward to directing a one-man version of Faustus

Did you always want to work in theatre?

From a very early age, I was always keen to work in the arts in any creative capacity despite discouragement from every high school career's advisor. My family actively encouraged work which made me happy and my Dad has always told me that he thought I'd end up painting the streets of Paris. It was during my teen years that I made the decision that it was theatre in particular that I was most passionate about. Ten years on I still cannot name another art form that I care more about.

Did you always want to direct rather than act?

When you're young, I think it's hard to even understand that directing is an option for you. Directors were very old men who knew and understood everything about the world! I performed for years as a classical singer and acted in a few plays but made a firm decision when I went to university that I no longer wanted to perform. I wanted to understand every part of the theatre and discovered I was much more able to see a play as a whole than partake in it as a single unit.

What was your first production?

As a student, I was forever collaborating on one performance or another. I do, however, consider my final university production as my first major step as a director. The play was Mark Ravehill's Shopping and F***ing and although it was quite shocking for some, I believe that I was able to find it's core meaning.

Last time you were in Belfast it was to work on Not A Game for Boys. Your current one-man production of Faustus is a bit different. How so?

I'm keen to discover new possibilities with new productions, with new writing and with new casts. Faustus does have a dark aspect, though, which I suppose does creep into a lot of my work. It's the well-known story of a man who sells his soul to the Devil to receive 24 years of absolute power. When his final hours arrive, however, he has to face the consequence of the pact and question any possibility of repentance.

‘One-man’ adaptations are becoming increasingly popular. Why do you think that is?

For me, adapting the script to a one-man show seemed an obvious choice for this text. I'm lucky in the sense that my previous experience with one-man shows have all been extremely positive. Rachel O'Riordan's production of Absolution and Guy Masterson's Under Milkwood were both outstanding productions which I thoroughly enjoyed. In today's current climate, though, I do think one-man productions will become more popular for financial reasons rather than artistic.

How does Faustus adapt to that format?

Faustus adapts perfectly to this format. I'm surprised that I haven't been able to find a similar past production. Much of the play is about conscience, which stems from it's morality play influence. For a modern audience, I think the religious connotations become more about one's self and our own dilemna of what is good and evil.

It is being staged at the Crescent Arts Centre. What do you think of the refurbishment?

I recently visited the new Crescent Arts Centre building to attend the UAYD production of Spring Awakening and could not believe the transformation. I directed a production of Sarah Kane's Crave at the Crescent in 2007, my first production after graduating from Queen's. If I remember rightly, during one production, the audience were directed through the gallery to the auditorium due to water leaking from the ceiling! The practical improvements are fantastic.

Christmas is coming – that means panto season. If you could stage any play in the world as a panto, which would it be and who would you cast in the leading role?

There is an increasing popularity for children's fairy tales to be produced at Christmas time rather than pantomime, which I'm a firm believer in. Conor Mitchell's The Musician was a fantastic example of this. I'd love to direct the story of young Merlin and the Great Red Dragon of Wales for a Christmas Production. Daniel Radcliffe would be an obvious choice, especially after his Equus success.

Why should people come and see Faustus?

It's the opposite of what I would expect from a one-man show. It's high energy, thought provoking theatre that won't let you sit back in your seat for a second.

What are you doing next?

I'll be staying in Belfast to direct as part of the artistic team working on Music Theatre 4 Youth's Christmas Concert Oh What a Beautiful Evening at the Ulster Hall on December 12.

Faustus will be at the Crescent Arts Centre on December 7 and 8.