July 9, 2019

Chelsey Gillard English and Drama graduate

Hi, I’m Chelsey, a freelance theatre director and Co-Founder of PowderHouse a Cardiff-based Theatre Company. I studied English and Drama degree at Cardiff Met. I started uni with no idea what I wanted to do with my life and career, but through the huge support from the teaching staff and the varied and stimulating curriculum I was able to find my own path and gain the confidence to follow my passion.

The course

The drama side of the course was really demanding, but has prepared me so well for freelance life after uni, working irregular hours and having to flit between projects. Now I have a broad knowledge of theatre styles and practitioners and a real understanding of the technical aspects of theatre making. Meanwhile, the English part of my studies has helped me to interrogate a text and delve into subtext, symbols and theme, which is so important when preparing for rehearsals on a new project.

I didn’t quite realise it at the time but the facilities and support on campus are incredible. I was part of the first year which offered practical dissertations, which meant I didn’t have to write a huge essay and I got to direct a show instead! I was able to make a really experimental piece whilst developing my practice as a director, as well as try out some ideas out that were bound to fail (I don’t recommend making costumes out of bandages and bandage tape!).

Chelsey in rehearsals (photo by Dan Green).

My Top tips!

Whilst studying, I worked as a theatre critic, which meant I got to see loads of work for free and made some brilliant connections with professionals already working in Cardiff and beyond. This meant that I was able to find a job soon after graduating. I became part of the team who established The Other Room – Cardiff’s pub theatre, where I directed my very first professional show. So I would definitely recommend making the most of every opportunity you have.

There are also so many great companies making exciting work in Cardiff and they have great ticket deals for students and under 25s or under 30s – so make the most of those offers whilst they last and every opportunity that you come across!

Life after Uni

Now I work as a freelance director, dramaturg and community theatre facilitator. It’s important to have many strings to your bow and I have certainly pulled lots of pints in my time to make ends meet.

I’ve also set up my own theatre company with fellow theatre director Jac Ifan Moore. We are called PowderHouse and are lucky enough to be the company in residence at Sherman Theatre. The work of the company is based in the experimental work I was investigating in my dissertation. We make shows from scratch in lots of languages. We like to take stories from Wales and view them with an international perspective. Our recent show Saethu Cwningod/ Shooting Rabbits was inspired by the Welsh miners who volunteered to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and asked questions about modern politics and activism.

Saethu Cwningod Shooting Rabbits by PowderHouse (photo by Jorge Lizalde).

We have huge ambition as a theatre company. We have another project in the pipeline as well as plans to tour Europe. I’m so excited about what the future holds!