the directors 4. Jude Kelly a weekly guide to British theatre's big players

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The Independent Culture
Origins: One of a crop of directors who made their name on the "fringe" then brought that freshness of approach into the mainstream. Kelly worked with the National Theatre of Brent, Harvey and the Wallbangers and Fascinating Aida before being appointed as the first artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1990.

Before that she ran the Solent People's Theatre in

the 1970s and was the artistic director of

Battersea Arts Centre.

Acclaim: Her running of the West Yorkshire Playhouse has been one of the great success stories of the decade. Remaining true to her roots in community theatre, she has attracted prestigious names to the venue (Alan Bennett, Timothy West, Steven Berkoff, Alan Rickman, Prunella Scales, Barrie Rutter) to present a finely balanced programme of accessible but serious-minded work.

Consolidation: After three years as artistic director, Kelly also became chief executive, the first time anyone has combined the two roles since Trevor Nunn at the RSC. The theatre won the prestigous 1994 Prudential Award for the Arts,

and Kelly further enhanced her reputation by appearing on Start the Week and Question Time.

The next step: As soon as Richard Eyre announced his imminent departure from the National Theatre, Kelly's name started to crop up in the speculation.

The pros: She's one of the few women in the running with both the experience of running a large venue well and a high profile as a cultural figurehead.

The cons: Not much of her own work has been seen in London. Her production of Dario Fo's The Pope and the Witch transferred unsuccessfully to the West End. Her highly acclaimed Merchant of Venice didn't transfer,

but should have.

Her trick: She has encouraged actors to try their hand at directing - to surprisingly good effect (Alan Rickman directed Sharman Macdonald's The Winter Guest, Prunella Scales directed Alan Bennett's Getting On, Berkoff directed himself in Coriolanus).

She has also premiered the work of playwrights including Bernard Kops, Trevor Griffiths, Martin Crimp,

John McGrath.

Kelly was always ahead of the game (and the Arts Council) in terms of co-productions, joining forces with the Donmar Warehouse, the Almeida in Islington and the Lyric, Hammersmith,

all in the past year.

Future projects: Once again straddling the popular and the esoteric, Kelly has boldly decided to cast Warren Mitchell as King Lear. She is directing the premiere of Wole Soyinka's

new play in the autumn.