An artist speaks back to bullying directors

An artist speaks back to bullying directors


norman lebrecht

September 04, 2014

This is from an open letter by Phelim McDermott, a director at Improbable, which has staged productions at the Met, ENO and Sydney Opera House:

Let’s try and break this cycle where performers want revenge for what was done to them. I say this because it’s making theatre bad and it’s making our rehearsal rooms uncreative. Did you know that fear isn’t just isolated to your rehearsal room? It’s infecting other rehearsal rooms too. Our rehearsal rooms can become a place where performers are so bruised that they can’t feel their own bodies anymore. They are so removed from their own sensitivities that they aren’t aware of the atmosphere they are creating because they have been made too afraid to play. It’s a place where they aren’t being supported to trust their own impulses and in turn don’t trust others. It’s taking us into a downward spiral of the lowest common denominator.


Full, fascinating letter here.





  • David Murphy says:

    Much to ponder here for the conducting profession. The conductor/orchestra relationship can so easily succumb to the same negative dynamic

  • Neil McGowan says:

    Having seen his production of SATYAGRAHA, I think audiences too have many rightful grievances against this man.

    The most static pile of cobblers I’ve ever paid to see. No ‘direction’ at all – just a hubristic parade of megabudget scenery which had no relevance to the story of Gandhi in the slightest.

    The unveiling of a back-wall box with WG Grace sitting in it (allegedly the author Tagore) for 3 seconds before the curtain fell on Act II (and only visible from the Stalls) has gone down in the ENO annals of clueless ideas of the John Berry era.

    Improbable. Unfeasible. Indefensible. Risible.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      I’m glad you found Satyagraha more rewarding than I did :))

      I thought the Improbable production failed to serve the piece. Even so, many of the problems with Satyagraha arise from the libretto itself. Glass did at least learn his lesson from it, and used professionals thereafter.