This took place at the RADA Studios on July 1st, and featured Phyllida Lloyd CBE in dialogue with DCF Vice Chair Piers Haggard OBE about her rich and varied career in front of an audience of theatre, film and television directors, members of DUK, SDUK and JMK, and invited guests of the Directors Charitable Foundation. The debate was followed by some lively questions, before participants and audience retired to the bar to continue the discussions.

We asked theatre and television director Deborah Paige to share her thoughts about the event.


As Piers Haggard guided the audience at the RADA studios along the pathways of Phyllida Lloyd’s extraordinary career, it was impossible not to feel rushes of excitement at the way film and theatre have rubbed against each other in her work and created creative combustion points.

She spoke eloquently and with relish of her belief in the necessity of taking risks whatever the form. Mid-talk she asks: “What is it that creates a disturbance between actor and audience? What puts you on the edge of your seat and why?”

And we’ve been sitting forward in our seats since the very start when she described her early days as a director in regional theatre with an eye-wateringly packed time-table of productions and projects. Phyllida cited one of the most important things to come from that period as learning about design and the power of space. Not just about what play works best in which space, but the wider question of how an audience receives the work, whatever arena it is in.

It’s a running theme throughout the evening.

That sense of exploring the spaces we work in came through most strongly in her remarkable single-camera film of the Opera North production of Gloriana (Benjamin Britten) which takes us into the private and backstage world of the theatre and performers as the opera unfolds on stage.

One of the advantages of directing opera is the common practice of mounting revivals, which means you can have another go – and more time. Phyllida describes her work as “a journey of trying to get more time” and goes on to talk of her mission to “bring everybody to fulfilment” and to “encourage people to be as risky as they can”.

From the world of opera (including a wild Glastonbury main stage production of Die Walkure) we took a tour through an equally wild success story: Mama Mia!, from its West End beginnings to blockbuster movie.

Watching a clip of the Mama Mia! number ‘Voulez Vous’ I was uncannily reminded of a production I’d seen of The Comedy of Errors, many decades ago when Phyllida was a young associate director at The Bristol Old Vic. There was something of the same glorious sense of exuberance – of wit and seriousness combined, and an amazing set which captured the madness of the world of the play. It has stuck in my mind ever since and is a testament to Phyllida’s taste and style as an artist and the way that has grown and developed over such a varied career without losing authenticity.

Back to Phyllida herself in the auditorium, there were further examples of how this modest, clear-minded, rigorously honest woman with a passion for her work has followed her determination to do things her way, not least amidst the male dominated attitude she encountered on this her first big movie, where, “For the first time I felt like a female director in a male world.”

“Everything is Political . . . . from the stories we tell to the way we create work . . . . . the rehearsal room can be a model of how we want to live our lives”.

And nowhere can this have been expressed more clearly than in the next phase of her career, the extraordinary trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions (Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest) at the Donmar theatre, working with a company led by Dame Harriet Walter and in collaboration with ‘Clean Break’, a theatre company which works with women in prison.

Phyllida spoke movingly of the ways in which creative and inspirational relationships have grown from this extraordinary project and continue to thrive. Phyllida’s most recent film project (Herself) is co-written by Clare Dunne, who also stars alongside Harriet Walter, from that same Donmar company.

With a little laugh Phyllida talks about her progress ‘down the ladder’ from block-buster to low budget movie-making. From the un-graded, ‘warts and all’ clip she was generous enough to let us see, it’s a good direction to be going in!

Two hours fled by. Questions from the floor were happily dominated by younger members of the audience, and along with responses afterwards in the bar, clearly expressed how inspiring this rare and rich evening had been.

Perhaps the last words should be from Piers Haggard in his wonderful description of Phyllida as ‘A passionate director with an intellectual bent . . . ‘

That much is certain! There is much to look forward to.


Craft Debate Photographs: Brendan Foster Photography

the Participants


Phyllida Lloyd CBE has innumerable distinguished theatre and opera credits, the most recent being her acclaimed all-female Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar Theatre, Julius Caesar Henry IV and The Tempest, which she also filmed for the BBC. Her 1999 production of the musical Mamma Mia! is still running in the West End: her 2008 film of it is one of the highest grossing British movies of all time.

Phyllida’s other films include Gloriana, a radical adaptation of the Benjamin Britten opera, The Iron Lady for which Meryl Streep won an Oscar, and Herself, which is currently in post production.


Piers Haggard OBE has worked with distinction for many years in theatre, film and television, receiving a BAFTA Award for Pennies From Heaven.

Piers was closely involved in setting up The DGGB, Directors UK, Stage Directors UK and the DCF, of which he is Vice Chair. The Craft Debates are a favourite project of his.

DCF Launch Reception, October 2018

A gathering of top directors, producers, agents and industry figures were guests of Lord Puttnam and the DCF Trustees on October 16th in the Attlee Room in the House of Lords. With the Thames flowing by outside the window, guests sipped the DCF’s very own copyright cocktail ‘The Director’, as they discussed the recently formed charity, and heard about its activities from Chair Vladimir Mirodan, and Trustees Madani Younis and Piers Haggard, OBE.

The speakers emphasised the inclusivity of the Trust, which represents directors from both screen and stage, and stressed its priorities of Support for directors in economic difficulties, promotion of Access to the profession from all backgrounds via the Directors in Schools programme, and exploration of the Directing Craft at the highest level, with emphasis on the interaction of stage and screen skills.  

The distinguished guests came from all branches of the profession and included Lord Melvyn Bragg, Sir Alan Parker, writer/director Stephen Poliakoff, writer/producer John Lloyd, directors SJ Clarkson, Nikolai Foster and Tim Sheader, Dennis Davidson of DDA, Robert Delamere of Digital Theatre+, Andrew Chowns and Steve Smith of Directors UK accompanied by a number of DUK Board members, and agents Sue Rodgers and Nick Marston.Launch Reception