I plunged in as an opera singer and sang in a lot of opera houses all over the world with many singers far more talented than I would ever be. At the start of the new millenium, I decided to do things differently and replace the time I spent singing, worrying about singing, and sitting around frustrated in hotel rooms and rented flats, with time at home spent writing and dreaming up shows in my head. Thanks to leaps of faith by various people, I published my first novel, Long Gone Anybody (Transworld-Black Swan) in 2004, and the second, Cold Comfort (Transworld-Doubleday) in 2006, and directed my first piece of writing for the theatre in 2001, (the regina monologues – Covent Garden Festival). Then I assisted Richard Jones at Glyndebourne (a theatre in which I had last sang Cherubino, and who had helped me by sending me to the National Opera Studio). Then I started my own company, The Paddock, and in the last seven years, we did lots of exciting things, large and small, involving theatre, opera and dance, usually in unexpected places, some of which I wrote, or directed or both, and some of which I handed over to other talented people. Meanwhile I began teaching writing at University of Sussex, and sometimes, if I was lucky, for the Arvon Foundation, and mentoring online for The Literary Consultancy.
In March 2013 I directed a new opera, Imago, by Orlando Gough and Stephen Plaice, at Glyndebourne. I had the chance to work with a chorus of 80 amazing singers from age 17 to 75, a cast of wonderful, committed principals, and a creative team which included the conductor Nicholas Collon, assistant conductor Christopher Stark, chorus master Lee Reynolds, my most wonderful assistant director Fiona Dunn and choreographer Chris Tudor, the designer Es Devlin and her associate Bronia Housman, lighting designer Paul Pyant, and projection artist Finn Ross. I think I have been spoiled for life. Particularly by the stage management team at Glyndebourne.
In October 2013, I directed a new production of L’Etoile for New Sussex Opera, a smaller company who manage to put on show after show on nearly no resources. This time my collaborators were the New Sussex Opera chorus, a lovely bunch, a great cast of principals, the designer Nicola Blackwell and her assistant Pearl Bates, and the effervescent and energetic conductor, Nicholas Jenkins. It was hard work, but we put on a very sweet and funny show. Fantastic score.
I am currently in the last stages of my fourth novel, having carefully put aside but not abandoned my third. In May I am directing a new production of a Harrison Birtwistle opera, Down by the Greenwood Side, for the Brighton Festival. This will take place in a disused brewery depot, very close to the train station in Lewes. It’s actually a site my production company, The Paddock, used twice as a theatre in 2011 and 2o12, but it is usually empty and is soon to be converted into a brand-new, indie cinema, which is great news for Lewes. But we get to take over the space one last time. Performances of Down by The Greenwood Side happen on May 9, 10, 11. I am joined in this work by the conductor Christopher Stark, designer Nicola Blackwell and her associate Pearl Bates, the choreographer Chris Tudor, lighting designer Clare O’Donoghue, a cast that is still being confirmed.
Meanwhile, my teaching and mentoring work goes on. I have reduced my teaching load in order to give myself more writing time, but still really enjoying the Advanced Writing Workshop I run once a month. Have a look at the Writing Coach page, for more information on mentoring options and courses with New Writing South.