Q&A with Adelaide Waldrop, Intimacy Director

7 Jun 2023

Whilst she was working as part of the Anna Karenina creative team, we sat down with Adelaide Waldrop to discuss her work as Intimacy Director on the production...

How did you get into your job as an Intimacy Director & Coordinator?

I grew up acting from a young age and started directing theatre when I was a student at the University of St Andrews. I just so happened to direct a number of plays with explicit intimate content very early on in my career (Spring Awakening, HAIR, and Angels in America: Millennium Approaches). As a young director, I was confronted with the challenge of how to choreograph and support this intimate content without *any* idea what I was doing. I remember thinking it was strange that I had choreographers for dances, and fight directors for stage combat, but no one to help me make this detailed physical storytelling look convincing and feel effective. All I knew was that I wanted to provide a safer and more creative space for my actors than I'd experienced growing up – I did my best to develop my own practice at the time, but never forgot that feeling that there was something missing.

Fast forward several years, I was getting my MA in Directing at LAMDA in 2017 when I met a movement practitioner who mentioned she was starting to explore Intimacy Direction – I was immediately intrigued. I started training with her that year and she went on to become the first Intimacy Coordinator in the UK. From there, I trained with a variety of practitioners in the States and the UK, ultimately getting my certification from Intimacy from Stage and Screen. I've been very lucky to be involved in this community from its early days as we shape our new role in the industry. That role is still changing and growing all the time, and our community is constantly learning and refining what this practice is and should be.

What drew you to working on Lesley and Polina's adaptation of Anna Karenina?

When I read this adaptation of Anna Karenina, I was hooked. The language and structure of the script, with scenes crashing into one another, builds this sense of acceleration and excitement throughout the piece, but there's humour in it too! And while the translation really makes these characters feel modern and accessible, they're still rooted in their setting and time period which is so essential to the key conflict and tension of the story. I just fell in love with the writing and can't wait to see it in its final form onstage.

What does being an Intimacy Practitioner entail?

I work as both an Intimacy Coordinator (for screen) and an Intimacy Director (for theatre). The two roles are similar, but they have very different implications in live versus recorded media given all the differences in their processes and final forms. The main tenets of the work are the same, however:  my job is to safeguard actors in the performance of intimate/high exposure content, mitigating against the risks involved in that work (especially emotional or psychological risk to the performers). But my job is also creative! I help build choreography that looks believable and fits within the overarching vision for the piece. It's a very collaborative role, and every project is different.

What do you love about your job?

There are so many things I love about this work. I find it really rewarding to introduce artists to this practice and find ways to make it accessible for a variety of creative practices – it can and should be adaptable and flexible. At its best, this work helps reframe physical intimacy as something that's just as creative as any other part of the storytelling. 

I also love the opportunity to diversify representations of sex, sexuality, and bodies on stage and screen. Working in theatre, especially, allows for more abstracted, stylised representations of intimacy which I really find inspiring – very true of the style of this production. The main thing I love is that it affords me the opportunity to collaborate with a wide range of artists and creatives across the industry. That really is the best part.

What is your favourite thing about Anna Karenina?

I've always been fascinated by the story of Anna Karenina – how boldly she defies the conventions of her time and her gender. She flies so high and her fall is so great, and yet I can't help rooting for her every time. Anna's story is a fascinating example of the ways that oppressive systems force tragedy upon people who could otherwise live full, enriched lives, and I've always felt her story is an important reminder of the perils of patriarchy which we're still working to dismantle today. The way Anna so bravely (and recklessly) rails against the cage she's been put in only elevates the inevitable tragedy of her story.

My favourite thing about the character of Anna, specifically, is her charm and style. She's got such a quick wit and dark, playful humor to her... I just think she'd be fabulous to hang out with. I'd love to buy her a drink.