the directors 5. Deborah Warner

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The Independent Culture
Background: A striking exception to the University (ie Oxbridge) mafia, she trained at Central School of Speech and Drama in Swiss Cottage.

Unusual job: Ex-administrator for Steven Berkoff. Worked in Bangladesh directing the first Bengali-speaking production of The Tempest.

Early hits: Founded Kick Theatre Company in 1980, which regularly overshadowed the big guns of the official Edinburgh Festival with breathtakingly powerful productions of Brecht, Buchner and Shakespeare on the fringe, including Woyzeck, King Lear and Coriolanus.

Reputation: High seriousness and ruthlessness. She is actually surprisingly larky both in and out of the rehearsal room. The nearest that she has come to directing a comedy, however, was a terrific Measure for Measure in 1984.

Hallmark: Textual and thematic clarity. She illuminates texts with highly intelligent readings produced with and through actors rather than imposing ideas upon them. Eschews high-concept theatre, opting instead for deceptively simple staging.

Main strength / main weakness: Casting. Bold, inventive actors flourish under her direction: Clare Higgins in King Lear, Paola Dionisotti in Richard II. Weaker ones flounder. Her critics describe her as ruthless, her fans as self-confident.

Famous for: An altercation with the executors of the Beckett estate who made fools of themselves by banning her mesmerising production of Footfalls. Why? She altered one of the stage directions. Her recent notoriety stems from casting Fiona Shaw as the king in Richard II. Critics have chosen not to notice that there were more than 50 female Hamlets in the 19th century alone.

Major collaborators: Designer Hildegard Bechtler (six productions); actress Fiona Shaw (four), and the actor Brian Cox (two).

Plays she is unlikely to direct: Charley's Aunt, anything by Alan Ayckbourn, Oklahoma.

Plans: She recently completed a screenplay of Measure for Measure.

Now showing: Richard II at the National Theatre, London. She is also currently revising her 1994 production of Mozart's Don Giovanni which will reopen at Glyndebourne on 31 July.

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