Interview: Alex Mullarky on ‘Clockwork’

Alex, you’ve had a lot of experience directing your own work in St Andrews. What have you learnt over the years and do you have any tips for other aspiring […]

Alex, you’ve had a lot of experience directing your own work in St Andrews. What have you learnt over the years and do you have any tips for other aspiring writer-directors?

I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced director (at all). I directed my own play for the first time last year and it was quite an adventure. I am eternally indebted to the lovely actors from Webs for putting up with me trying out different games on them, and occasionally ending a rehearsal halfway through because I just didn’t know what to do next. In fact … directing-wise, I’m still kind of a noob. Don’t take any advice from me, aspiring writer-directors. I will, however, say this: bring your actors snacks. This is my own method akin to Stanislavski… I call it ‘snackting’. Feed your actors and they will do the best they can to please you!

Cooper, you’re playing the lead role, Captain Silverdale, how have you been finding being directed by the playwright herself?

This is not the first time I’ve been directed by the playwright. In a sense, I feel there is a very unique perception and a sort of freedom brought to the table. Oftentimes, a more conventional director feels constrained either by the original author’s direction or by other versions in the past. In this case, Alex is starting with a fresh slate and little to go off of, so while she is quite consistent in her imagery and imagination, she’s also very open to suggestions and interpretation. As an actor, creative freedom is a rare privilege, so I’m appreciative that Alex is always eager for input and opinion.  

Caterina G: Being directed by Alex is certainly a wonderful experience as an actor. Playwrights hold the truths behind the pure script for which all thespians yearn. Having Alex readily available to answer questions about the text, characters, subplots, etc, is massively useful in developing characterisations and relationships true to the playwright’s intentions. However, she still encourages us to explore our own ideas and interpretations, which allows the characters to stay true to the play while becoming entirely our own.

Back to Alex – would you say you’ve been taking a different approach to your predominantly comedic pieces, Webs and Ladykiller?

In writing, certainly. Ladykiller was history taken with a pinch of salt and Webs was about student living (say no more). Clockwork, on the other hand, is a serious play. There are few moments of humour in it, though they’re not completely absent. It’s about the First World War, and Blackadder has already covered the bittersweet comedy. When it comes down to directing, though, we’re all nice people who get along and like to have a laugh so a serious scene can be very difficult to keep from falling to pieces. As one example, today a rubber snake (the only prop to hand) was substituted for a rifle in one key scene, with rather different results. I want us all to have fun; I think the choice is between all of us becoming depressed in every rehearsal, or maintaining a light-hearted attitude for the time being without taking the war for granted. The actors are brilliant and I have faith that the serious nature of the piece will be apparent in the final production.

Clockwork is a love story. Care to share where your inspiration was taken from?

I have a page of writing in a notebook from about six years ago, which describes an English soldier walking into a French boulangerie and the immediate connection between him and the girl behind the counter. And before that, I remember staring out of my bedroom window in Cumbria and imagining holding a bird in my hands and bringing it back to life. Somehow these two pieces of loveliness got tangled in my mind and became the much darker thing that is Clockwork. But there is hope in it still.

Sounds lovely. But what about Clockwork do you think will make audiences tick?

Nice pun.


If it’s not the loud ticking noise that plays throughout the show, I couldn’t say. Or maybe that will just tick them off… (you’ll have to come to the performance to find out whether that’s a joke or not). In short, I think it’s a good story, and that’s the kind of thing I love to see dramatized. Hopefully my audience will too.

If you would like to see a piece of fresh, student-written theatre, get yourself down to the Union, Venue 1, on November 6th and 7th at 7.30pm.