the directors 8. Max Stafford-Clark a weekly guide to British theatre's big players

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The Independent Culture
Early days: After being the artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh he and William Gaskill founded the hugely influential Joint Stock Theatre Company in 1974, killed off by the Arts Council in the late Eighties in one of their most foolish moves. The company pioneered a collaborative workshop approach to playwriting with Stafford-Clark encouraging an entire generation of writers including Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine) and David Hare (Fanshen).

Key job: Artistic Director of the Royal Court 1979-93. Critics complained of a "socio-realist house-style" but major writing talent was nurtured under his tenure thanks to his dramaturgical skills.

Hallmark: A marvellously detailed directorial style. Early rehearsals are spent with the actors working methodically through entire texts finding an action for every line. It drives certain actors batty but it makes performances glow, most noticeably in small roles and underwritten scenes. The process is elaborated upon in his Letters to George, one of the few decent books by a director.

Weakness: His use of design is perfunctory. A leading theatre director has described him as being "frightened of the theatrical".

Biggest career irony: This country's leading progenitor of women's writing (Churchill, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Andrea Dunbar, etc), despite being a totally unreconstructed Sixties male.

Biggest hits: Top Girls, Falklands Sound, Tom and Viv, Our Country's Good.

Current obsession: Restoration drama which he pursued as resident director at the RSC 1992-94 with A Jovial Crew and The Country Wife.

Moment of notoriety: Portrayed pseudonymously as the philandering director of a Sloane Square theatre in Hanif Kureishi's The Bhudda of Suburbia. He directed Kureishi's play Borderline in 1981. The book is not on sale at the Royal Court.

Recent venture: Formed Out of Joint in 1993. His hit production of Sue Townsend's The Queen and I is on tour and is being rewritten as The Queen in Oz.

Coming soon: Tours of his acclaimed production of The Steward of Christendom, plus a double of The Three Sisters and Timberlake Wertenbaker's new play The Break of Day.

DAVID BENEDICT

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