A unique honour for ex-Crucible director

Director Nikolai Foster in rehearsals for Sherlock Holmes -- The Best Kept Secret
Director Nikolai Foster in rehearsals for Sherlock Holmes -- The Best Kept Secret
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A theatre director who learned his craft at Sheffield Theatres has been accorded the unique accolade of having two plays running at the same time at a Leeds theatre.

Nikolai Foster was a drama student in London about 10 years ago who was interested in pursuing a career in directing. He got on to a prestigious apprentice directing scheme.

When the chance came to choose which theatre to go to, Nikolai put the Crucible down as first, second and third choices after he met Michael Grandage, who was then the theatres’ artistic director.

Nikolai said: “It couldn’t have been a more amazing, inspirational, incredible time to be at the Crucible.”

One of the productions he worked on was The Tempest, starring Sir Derek Jacobi as Prospero. The cast featured Daniel Evans as Ariel.

He said of the Sheffield Theatres artistic director: “Daniel is doing incredible work. When The Tempest went to London to the Old Vic I was involved with the transfer of that.

“I remember being in awe of Daniel as an actor. He’s absolutely amazing. He’s proved himself as an actor and a director.”

Nikolai was asked to stay on as a resident director for two and a half years.

Michael Grandage asked him to direct the Crucible’s memorable production of A Chorus Line. He said: “Most directors do a nice steady piece at their first attempt. I did one of the great Broadway musicals on one of the biggest stages in the city!”

One of the cast he worked with was Jason Durr, who plays the title role in one of the Leeds plays, Sherlock Holmes – The Best Kept Secret.

A later Sheffield Theatres boss Samuel West invited Nikolai back for the Stephen Sondheim musical Assassins in 2006 and he was also at the helm for Amadeus, which was the last production on the Crucible stage before it closed for refurbishment.

He said that a lot of his touring work has also been at the Lyceum, including Aspects of Love, Witches of Eastwick and All the Fun of the Fair.

He said of his time in the city: “I have brilliant memories. It’s a great city and the change is amazing. When I first arrived in the early 2000s, there was still yet to be the incredible regeneration and transformation. It was just starting and things were changing.

“The friends I made when I was an apprentice director are still friends now. They’re very special to me.”

Nikolai now works at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and is the first director to get productions on in both houses at the same time.

He said: “It’s mind-blowing and an incredible honour in one of our amazing regional theatres and centre for the arts to have this.”

The shows are Beautiful Thing, described as “a glorious urban love story between two young men coming to grips with their sexuality and the effect it has on the people in their lives.”

It runs from June 3 to 8.

The Sherlock play has been written by Mark Catley, who started at the playhouse and became head writer at the BBC.

Nikolai said: “If you’re a Conan Doyle fan I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. He’s taken Reichenbach Falls and other stories, mixed them up and turns them into a brand new story.

“It’s big in theatrical sweep with all the same and new murders, more importantly story of friendship and unrequited love with Irene Adler.”

He says that the look is very Steampunk, which mixes up Victoriana with sci-fi.

The show runs until June 8.

Box office: 0113 213 7700 or go to www.wyp.org.uk.