Phyllida contacted me soon after the programme had begun to arrange our first meeting before she had to fly to New York to take her all-female cast production of Henry IV to Broadway. We met at the end of November at a rehearsal studio in Southwark, where she was rehearsing finishing touches with her cast. It was very exciting to have a taste of her world and to see famous cast members from her show. She’d kindly bought me lunch and we chatted in the studio for an hour, occasionally joined by several of her friendly cast. I’d researched Phyllida’s career thoroughly and I’d prepared a long list of potential questions, depending on where the conversation led me.
We discussed her vision of who and what theatre is created for; her attitude to critics and critical appeal; how she directs operas in different languages; the rehearsal time allowed in different genres of theatre/opera etc. by the major companies; her theatrical approach to, and her techniques for opera choruses; how she works dramatically with singers (particularly operatic singers); how she rehearses a cast and formulates dramatic ideas, and how she thoroughly researches the issues, themes and topics in her theatrical works. We talked briefly about how Phyllida found herself directing as a student and the journey she’d taken in her career. We also briefly discussed my initial ideas for Britten’s Beggar’s Opera which I’m directing at the Barber Institute for the University’s Summer Music Festival.