The directors: 6; Phyllida Lloyd

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The Independent Culture
Beginnings: Probably the only theatre director from Nempnett Thrubwell.

Training: Birmingham University in the late Seventies where she met and has often since worked with designer Mark Thompson and playwright Terry Johnson.

First job: Floor assistant at the BBC drama department. Escaped after five years to direct Sylvia Plath's Letters Home at the Swan Theatre, Worcester.

Early days: Gained a considerable reputation for sprucing up classics at the Cheltenham Everyman, Bristol Old Vic and Manchester Royal Exchange where she held associate directorships.

Strengths: Teamwork. Designer Anthony Ward, composer Gary Yershon and lighting designer Rick Fisher are nearly always on her productions.

Political manoeuvres: None. Like the other major female directors of her generation, she is resolutely disinterested in politicking. One of the few good directors of whom it can be said she will not be succeeding Richard Eyre at the National .

Career: An almost unique balance between classics and new writing with a particular commitment to Terry Johnson (Insignificance, Hysteria). Other hits include The Virtuoso at the RSC and Six Degrees of Separation at the Royal Court.

Choice of play: Unfashionable in the best sense. Those with an eye on the main chance are unlikely to be seen directing comedy (her speciality), which tends to reflect better on the writer than the director. They certainly steer clear of farce, whereas Lloyd has staged Orton's What the Butler Saw twice. Strong on Shakespearean comedy, including a striking Comedy of Errors at Bristol.

Critical opinion: Divided. The opera press love her. L'Etoile, La Boheme and Gloriana were rapturously received. Some theatre critics are less convinced, although words like cool, deft and intelligent crop up regularly in her reviews.

Manner: Articulate yet shy and reserved, can appear rather aloof. Her "softly, softly" approach can lead to panic when actors more used to director-

driven rehearsals feel unguided. Decision making is often left to the last minute with mixed results: a disastrous Pericles at the RNT; a fine multi-media The Threepenny Opera at the Donmar.

Now showing: What the Butler Saw (RNT). Plans include The Way of the World with Fiona Shaw and Medea with Josephine Barstow. Hysteria returns to the West End later this year