February 28, 2014 1:35 pm

The Inventory: Sir Michael Boyd

‘My 20-year-old self would have a right old laugh at the knighthood,’ says the theatre director
Michael Boyd©The Guardian

Michael Boyd, 58, was artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 2002 to 2012. Among the many awards his productions have received are four Oliviers, including Best Director. He was knighted for services to drama in 2012.

What was your earliest ambition?

To be a fireman. Then managing director of ICI. I wrote plays and did a lot of acting from early on but it was just for fun.

Public school or state school? University or straight into work?

Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, a direct grant school, Daniel Stewart’s College in Edinburgh, then the University of Edinburgh.

Who was or still is your mentor?

An English teacher at Latymer, Christopher Cooper, who made me think I might have something to say. At Edinburgh, my tutor in English was Roger Savage, who got me really excited by the possibilities of theatre through the ages. And professionally, the first serious director I worked closely with, Anatoly Efros in Moscow.

How physically fit are you?

Not nearly as fit as I should be. I miss my son still being young and playing football with him.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

I think there is a third element: opportunity – a fuller name for luck.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No.

A Russian church with golden cupolas©Dreamstime

Politicised by: working in Russia

How politically committed are you?

Various moments have politicised me. One was moving away from London to Scotland: not being in the centre made me question the centre. And working in Russia made me much more alert to the dishonesty of power back home. The best theatre is inherently very political.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

I’m not too bad.

Do you have more than one home?

No. I loved it when I did – I rented a lovely house in Stratford. There was a lovely rhythm between the semi-rural and the metropolitan.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A house by the sea or by a lake.

What’s your biggest extravagance?

I love cooking and food.

In what place are you happiest?

Round the table with my family.

What ambitions do you still have?

To conceive and carry out the sort of projects I wouldn’t allow myself during 10 years as artistic director of the RSC.

What drives you on?

To get better at the thing I do best.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Michael Boyd's promo box

A theatre curtain, a theatre lamp and a heart.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

Making some kind of sense out of the lives of my children. Professionally, The Trick is to Keep Breathing at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow. The hardest thing I’ve pulled off, apart from, I hope, reviving the RSC, was Henry VI, Parts I, II and III and Richard III as part of The Histories.

What has been your greatest disappointment?

Not to be rich.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?

I think he’d have a right old laugh at the knighthood. And then he would say, “Don’t rest on your laurels.”

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

That’s why I’d like to be rich – I wouldn’t have to do anything. But, as I’m not, I think I would become a gallery director, starting small and becoming successful and wealthy.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

Yes, but I don’t know how to make sure the legislation wouldn’t put choice in the wrong people’s hands.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes, in the collective memory.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

Eight and a half.

‘The Big Meal’ by Dan LeFranc, directed by Michael Boyd, opens The American Season at the Ustinov Studio in Bath on March 6; theatreroyal.org.uk/ustinov

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