Martin Gibbons: Life as a Casting Director

It’s Monday afternoon and we’re joined in the PHA studio by Casting Director Martin Gibbons to find out all about how he became a casting director and why he never followed his dream of becoming a footballer.
  1. Martin it’s so great to have you back in the studio again. We’ve been wanting to ask for a while how exactly did you become a casting director?

It all spanned from setting up my own theatre company back in 2003 called Monkeywood where I gained experience casting for theatre. At the time I was an actor working for a telecoms company before I was made redundant. My next step came when I landed the job as a casting assistant working at Emma Stafford Casting. I learnt so much in my 5 years there before eventually setting up on my own.


  1. What’s your history both in acting & casting?

I’ve been acting ever since I was 12, my first ever role was the back end of a donkey in a pantomime, thrilling I know. My mum and dad used to put on amateur shows which I’d sell programmes at so I’ve spent my whole life around actors. I didn’t grow up wanting to be an actor, I wanted to be a footballer and even went to University to study Sports Science. I still did lots of acting on the side before setting up Monkeywood.

  1. Which casting are you most proud of?

Hands down it has to be Chris Morris’ film Four Lions, it was incredible to be a part of. I’m also really proud of the work I did casting for the BBC Short film ‘Sleeping Lions’ which won awards. Funnily enough we cast that in this very studio. One of the recent things I cast for which I’m really proud of has to be the commercial for ‘This Girl Can’ which also won awards.

martin awards
  1. What’s the worst thing you’ve experienced go wrong in a casting?

I was casting for a Hovis Farmer’s commercial, it was a group casting of 4 and the idea was for them to run towards the camera before jumping over a tiny fence. We filmed it in a car park in Chorlton where one guy ended up falling and tore his leg open, there was blood everywhere.

  1. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve been asked to do in a casting?

I could write a whole book! The strangest one though would have to be when I had to propose to a man to get their reaction on camera. One guy didn’t take it too well.


  1. What are your plans for Martin Gibbons casting moving forward?

Well, things are getting busier which is obviously great. I’m blessed enough to say that I love my job so I intend on growing even further. I feel a real sense of achievement with every job that I take on so continuing with that will be a success.

  1. We hear you also do a bit of directing from time to time, are you working on anything at the minute?

I’m currently directing ‘Just Sayin’ as part of JB Shorts in November which is very exciting for me. I’ve also got some great things lines up for next year as I’ll be directing ‘The Manchester Project’ at HOME Theatre as part of the Push Season in January and ‘Witch’ with Bolton Octagon in May.


  1. Any advice for an aspiring actor coming to cast with you?

The main thing I see from actors is that they have it in their heads that we are here to trick them or catch them out. Trust me we want you to brilliant so go into every casting with the confidence that you’re here because we believe in you.

  1. What sets you apart from other casting directors?

Ooh that’s a good question. I get told quite a lot that I make people feel comfortable and relaxed in a room and because I direct as well I’m able to give good direction to get the most out of a person.



  1. What is it you like most about casting at PHA?

There’s a whole host of reasons I love casting here. The studio space is huge which makes it perfect for a big casting. I’ve done all sorts here, football, dance, running you name it! The staff are also amazing and very welcoming which makes me feel right at home every time I return.



View the Commercial for This Girl Can here. 

Team PHA x


David Chafer, playing Peter Taylor in Red Ladder’s production of ‘The Damned United’, touring and Edinburgh Fringe 2017


We caught up with Icon’s David Chafer to find out all the gossip on his latest role in ‘The Damned United’ which has had raving reviews so far. Here’s what he had to say:



This is the first time I have worked at the Fringe, after 20 years of coming to the festival and soaking up the myriad of theatre, dance, music, comedy and cabaret that August in Edinburgh has to offer. I love it here, always have and especially this year!


This production of ‘The Damned United’ is a re-imagined version from the company’s original West Yorkshire premiere in 2016. Director Rod Dixon and writer Anders Lustgarten have judiciously trimmed the script to ensure we hit the hour-long version required by The Pleasance, as a result the universal view is that this version highlights more the relationships between Brian Clough (played by Luke Dickson) and his sidekick Taylor and Clough’s trials and tribulations with the numerous football club directors and coaches (played by Jamie Smelt). This is a great company and it’s brilliant to work with a group of Yorkshire based theatre-makers and actors – something very important to me and my own company The Melting Shop.



We were fortunate to have a number of performances pre Edinburgh, including a couple of gigs at Hibernian FC the weekend prior to our opening at the Fringe. It is certainly a play that appeals to football fans, particularly those of a certain age – like me – who remember the days of Clough and Taylor at Derby and Nottingham Forest. But what has also been interesting is that even for those with little or no knowledge of the beautiful game and these well-known figures, it has also appealed because the football and the story are the backdrop to the relationships between the characters: the highs and lows, the egos and power-brokering. Audience reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with a number of sell-out shows in the 146-seat Pleasance Above venue. It helps when there are a smattering of four-star reviews to give the show further traction (apologies for the shameless bragging)!


Fringe life is pretty full on – our show has had two days off in the month – and ensuring that the show is up and ready in a 20-minute turnaround after the previous performance, including building walls, connecting projectors and setting props/costume etc, certainly concentrates the mind. Yes, the post-show fun is good, but pacing yourself is equally important! We are a tight company, with a similar sense of humour and we all enjoy a beer and good food. At times, life in the flat has resembled one of those TV family cooking shows – we’re thinking of applying.


Our Damned United journey does not end in Edinburgh, the show is set to tour again later this year, including a week at The Pleasance, Islington (13-18 Nov) and plans are being drawn up for a further tour in 2018. Back of the net!


If you can’t wait until November you can still catch David in action until Monday 28th August at the The Pleasance, Edinburgh. Get your tickets now before the sell out!