Delgado, Maria M., and Dan Rebellato, eds. Contemporary European Theatre Directors. Abingdon: Routledge, 2010.

The director is a relative newcomer to the theatre. While the actor may be 5000 years old, the playwright 2500, even the designer 400, the director emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as a decisive evolution of the stage manager and is only about 150. That said, the director established themselves as perhaps the creative force in twentieth century theatre; the director was a visionary, an outside eye, a force in actor training, an inspirer of design, an interpreter of text, an auteur. There have been many generations of directors - from Stanislavsky and Antoine to Meyerhold and Copeau, from Strehler and Jouvet to Mnouchkine and Stein - and they form a kind of canon of modern theatremaking. Director’s theatre is explicitly attempting to displace the playwright’s centrality and prestige. Not for nothing are such directors referred to as ‘auteurs‘ and their practice as, in Planchon’s phrase ‘écriture scénique’.  

Contemporary European Theatre Directors is an attempt to look at the range of work being undertaken by the latest generation of directors to emerge since the 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Each essay and interview places the director and their work in a context of a changing world and the emergence of the new Europe. Each article focuses on a small number of case studies to give a sense both of the range and the detail of the work. And each article includes full details of five key productions and a full bibliography.

The directors covered are: Ariane Mnouchkine, Patrice Chéreau, Lev Dodin, Silviu Purcărete, Frank Castorf, Daniel Mesguich, Declan Donnellan, Piotr Borowski, Christoph Marthaler, Jan Lauwers, Simon McBurney, Romeo Castellucci, Kristian Frédric, Calixto Bieito, Rodrigo García, Thomas Ostermeier, and my article on Katie Mitchell. The book also includes a substantial introduction by Maria Delgado, an interview with Peter Sellars, and a new perspective on the director from leading French theatre theorist, Patrice Pavis.

The book is illustrated with 17 full-colour plates.