Ousted ENO director attacks 'backstabbers'

Opera boss accused of inability to plan ahead hits back - with a production that will open in 30 years' time
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The Independent Online

When Sean Doran was ousted as boss of English National Opera, he was the subject of a vicious whispering campaign. Yesterday, for the first time, he hit back and outlined his plans to prove wrong the critics who said he could not plan ahead.

Speaking exclusively to The Independent on Sunday, Mr Doran revealed his plans for a theatre production that will be staged in 30 years' time. Indeed, neither he nor his cast know whether they will even live to see his production of Samuel Beckett's play Krapp's Last Tape.

The project will for the first time give a literal interpretation of the celebrated play, in which a decrepit 69-year-old listens to tapes of himself made 30 years earlier, and it will need one of the longest gestation periods in stage history.

Three eminent 39-year-old actors will record on tape over the next few months, and then, in 2037, perform live at the Royal Court, London, with the recordings they made three decades earlier. One actor is already in the can - Sam West, the artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, who recorded his part recently with the theatre director Katie Mitchell. Two other actors, including a Hollywood star, are in the process of signing up.

"Venues are talking to their financial people about plotting in something for 30 years' time," said Mr Doran in his first interview since he left ENO. "We are putting things in the pipeline that people who probably aren't even born yet will be making decisions on."

Mr Doran broke his silence as the new season at ENO, which was largely planned by him, opened with the controversial Gaddafi: A Living Myth, which he commissioned. His departure from the Coliseum last November left ENO in turmoil when his successors were appointed without the post being advertised. The subsequent uproar led to the resignation of ENO's chairman, Martin Smith.

When he left it was said Mr Doran's plan for the 2006/07 season was behind schedule. "It has been said that the season was cobbled together after I left and that's just not true," he counters. "Three-quarters of the season was in place. There were ideological differences. I'm an agent for change - that's why I get appointed. But that alienated the core opera people. But they are decisions I feel very proud about - and these decisions have not been reversed, and there can't be a better reward than that.

"Obviously when I arrived the company was in incredible turmoil; Nick [Payne, the previous artistic director] had resigned, there was debt and there were redundancies and strikes all before I arrived. The opera infrastructure is made up of people who have grown up within the ranks and I was very much an outsider. I know people were saying 'Sean who?' But my answer is, look at the evidence. It is no coincidence that we had the biggest box office for years and won two Oliviers."