Backstage: Former RSC chief Sir Michael Boyd goes à la carte for his next ‘Big Meal’


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Two years after stepping down as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Sir Michael Boyd is enjoying being forced to learn new skills.

“What I am having to do is learn how to be a freelance,” he tells me. “Because although I don’t have to go to a board meeting or deal with 10 requests to sort managerial or administrative things, or make big decisions, I have my next jobs knocking at the door wanting casting decisions, design, adaptation, editing decisions. It’s nice having lunch breaks and coffee breaks, that’s a lovely luxury.”

Having spent 10 successful years at the RSC, Boyd has gone back to directing just plays and has, he says, projects lined up with the Royal Opera House and abroad. His first play away from the RSC is The Big Meal at the Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath – an epic and comic family tale by Dan LeFranc set around a kind of everytown restaurant.

“The heart of it is satire,” he says. “A classic, big American family drama that sort of rams us up against mortality and the sheer difficulty of getting through family life and coming through the other end surviving, without killing each other.”

Diana Quick, Keith Bartlett and Jo Stone-Fewings star, alongside some “crazily talented kids” creating a family atmosphere, but Boyd says that they are not using it to work through their own issues.

“Most people are recognising an awful lot,” he says. “It’s not therapy; we’re too busy trying to get it right to gaze at our navels too much.”

Cash loss not too steep for Hill

After admitting working for union-minimum on The Wolf of Wall Street, Oscar-nominee Jonah Hill admits he would have gone further in order to work for director Martin Scorsese.

Goodfellas is the reason I want to spend my life making movies, and money is never a concern when working with people like Martin,” he said at the nominees lunch. “I would do whatever. I would paint his house if he asked me to.” If he can find a few more Hills hanging around Hollywood (and no doubt he can), Scorsese could completely renovate his home.

Delpy upstages her detractor with an Oscar nod

Julie Delpy has twice been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (including this year for Before Midnight), and has directed four films.  The actress says that an early run-in with celebrated playwright Sam Shepard almost made her give up writing.

“I was working with Sam Shepard on a movie when I was 20, and I kind of translated a line of one of my films and he laughed and said ‘Julie, you’re very pretty, please don’t do that to yourself’ ”, she says. “Listen, he’s a great writer, he’s a much better writer than me… It’s very funny. But it kind of blocked me for years, thinking ‘Ok, so I’m not a writer’. When I wrote on Before Sunrise it felt so good and then I started writing again. So I had a block for like two years because a great American playwright thinks I shouldn’t write, so why should I write? But it came back pretty quickly, luckily it wasn’t forever a trauma.”

While it’s not the only measure of success, she has one more Oscar nod than he does.

Help Elli support vulnerable kids

Finally, an unashamed plug. The singer Elli Ingram will be among the performers at the Heart of Gold event on 6 March.

An emerging talent, she joins Laura Mvula and Jamie Cullum on the bill in west London to raise money for the charity Kids Company, which provides practical, emotional and educational support for  vulnerable inner-city children across the country.

For tickets visit: