Try this. I’m sure it’s not at all surprising. Directing is like being an arranger and a conductor. There’s so much argument (and weirdly, anger, and offence) now about how much directors should or shouldn’t contribute: it almost makes no sense. Clearly the critics are behind the times when they give those huge walrus-cries that the director is crushing the vision of the writer: you sometimes hear something similar from someone at the Royal Court (i’m guessing someone pretty unimaginative and with poor perception). Because of course the director’s idea of what the script says dominates it, however supportive he is trying to be to the writer’s idea – and if he leaves gaps, the actors will fill them. And they will also be making their own decisions when they do.
I really don’t see the controversy. If you hate the director’s vision of your favourite play, well, the play remains: it’s the director’s contribution that will only live in the memory. Possibly, another director will repond with a production that’s more in keeping with your own tastes. It feels as if the people who complain are really screaming out in the (lack of) realisation that they don’t own the play themselves: they thought it was theirs, but now this new egocentrist has corrupted it. Well that’s what plays are for.
So if you are doing the first production of a new play, you might well want to stage it with considerable simplicity – you are after all, finding out how it breathes. Or you might spot the potential for an amazing theatrical coup that the writer didn’t see – and (with or without consultation with the writer – you have your own ethics, I would discuss it) you make the most of it – for the material and for the audience. But if it’s Woyzeck or Macbeth, or, for goodness’ sake, The Seagull, then you’re engaging with a massive performance history. Sure, some of your audience won’t have seen it before, but they will have their own opportunities to compare it with other readings as they go and see more stuff. Your main responsibility is not to bore them rigid. Then they won’t ever want to see another production of it and will never form their own opinions. That would be really sad.
So the director should be more than a conductor. I think (s)he needs to arrange the music on the page, too. We pick the phrasing, the overall colour, work out how the melodies, motifs and chord structures of the piece can most beautifully or effectively be placed and repeated to suit the space, audience and political climate. That is what makes it a creative act.