Skip to main content

Drama course leads to an unexpected but revered career choice

When acclaimed theatre director Indhu Rubasingham started her course at the University of Hull she had no idea what kind of career she wanted, but by jumping in at the deep end and taking advantage of every opportunity, she has carved out a surprising but successful career. 

20th September 2016

Acclaimed theatre director Indhu Rubasingham had never even considered theatre as a career when she started studying drama at the University of Hull.

Rubasingham, the current artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre in London, said: “It was a true education for me, in the sense that I started my degree in drama feeling unsure and intimidated by the theatre world.

“I believed I was going to work in radio or media, but then I discovered my vocation: directing in theatre. Hull opened my eyes to something I didn’t know about.

“The first play I directed at university [Low Level Panic by Clare McIntyre] got selected for the National Student Drama Festival where Fiona Shaw and Phyllida Lloyd were judges and the opportunity very much led to where I am today.”

Under Rubasingham, the Tricycle Theatre received an Olivier Award for its production of Moira Buffini’s Handbagged, which later transferred to the  West End  and went on national tour under her direction.

Another highlight was a production of Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti, based on the story of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello, which won  the Evening Standard Award and the Critics' Circle Theatre Award.

Red Velvet  was Rubasingham’s first production as artistic director and a point of particular pride, having tried to put it on at a number of theatres in the past only for it to be rejected.

 “So when I programmed it at the Tricycle it ended up being an incredible achievement: it’s been nominated for Olivier awards, transferred to the West End and gone to New York,” she said.

“Don Roy, the head of my drama department at the University of Hull, came to see the play. I found out he’d researched Ira Aldridge and the times he performed in Hull. I could tell Don was really proud.”

As she looks back on these fantastic achievements, Rubasingham has some good advice for the current crop of drama students, some of whom no doubt have the same doubts she did when she began her degree.

“Try everything and don’t be intimidated; that’s what made me direct a play as I’d been too intimidated to do the directing course,” she said.

“Jump in at the deep end; it’s the best way to learn and discover what you’re good at. Unless you try, you never know.”

“Jump in at the deep end; it’s the best way to learn and discover what you’re good at. Unless you try, you never know.”

“It was a true education for me, in the sense that I started my degree in drama feeling unsure and intimidated by the theatre world. “I believed I was going to work in radio or media, but then I discovered my vocation: directing in theatre. Hull opened my eyes to something I didn’t know about."