the directors 7. Stephen Daldry

a weekly guide to British theatre's big players
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Training: After a childhood spent watching his mother perform as a "music-hall artiste" he went to Sheffield University, courtesy of the RAF whose highly appropriate motto is "through hard work to the stars". Learnt how to fly but abandoned the military and went to drama school.

Similarity to John Major: Ran away from the circus. Having taught himself fire-eating and stilt-walking, he toured Italy with Il Circo di Nando Orfei.

First artistic directorship: Metro Theatre Company 1984-6, a co-operative financed by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme which kicked off with a small- scale tour of Stephen Lowe's adaptation of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Noted for: Putting the Gate Theatre on the map with hit revivals of European classics. Has made theatre fashionable, a double-edged success. His best work dictates fashion, at other times he merely courts it.

Personal style: Can charm the birds from the trees: very useful for fundraising, politicking and dealing with the press. Enjoys taking risks. "He has always flown by the seat of his pants," remarks an old friend.

Key collaborators: His designer and partner Ian MacNeil, composer Stephen Warbeck and the (ubiquitous) lighting designer Rick Fisher.

Hallmark: Visionary control of stagecraft which can completely reawaken a play. It is also his great weakness. The Kitchen ended up as a sensational piece of choreography with a cast of (barely paid) extras on a stunning set that sailed over its already outlandish budget.

Greatest hit: He and his team cleaned up at every awards ceremony going with an expressionist re-working of JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls which marked his National Theatre debut. He had already done a similar version at York Theatre Royal. The production went to the Broadway and then on a world tour. It returns to the West End this autumn.

Biggest flop: The Editing Process. Deemed to be over-produced and under- directed, it was the only new play he has directed at the Royal Court since taking over in October 1993.

Reputation: "The best young director since Peter Brook" (Michael Billington). His critics complain you can't see the plays for the productions and believe his natural home to be Hollywood. (He has been turning down offers.)

The future: Seen as gentleman-in-waiting for the National Theatre. Seems unlikely as he appears to be strengthening his position at the Court. Will direct a revival of Ron Hutchinson's Rat in the Skull at the Duke of York's this autumn.