The Difficult Dozen -12 searching questions for the OFA team!

We wanted to know more about the festival team and what inspires, excites and amuses them. We probed them with our fiendish questions and this is what they told us:
1) What is the last theatre production you saw?
Michelle – gloriously sublime Handel’s Acis and Galathea (ROH live streaming) with Wayne McGregor’s choreography. Exceptional singing; exquisite dancing & choreography. A marvelous collaboration! Interdisciplinarity at its best… even more than opera innately already is.
Astrid –   All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James – I’ve a subscription to National Theatre Home so I enjoyed making the most of it during lockdown. I’m now craving some live theatre.
2) If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
M – Normally, I would probably say in the nave of the majestic, overwhelming grandeur and wonder of an empty cathedral (Romanesque or Gothic), listening to a choir… In these sad, uncertain times, with my wonderful family, having fun together – eating and drinking (I’m Mediterranean!), playing, joking and teasing each other, with my adorable nieces and nephews, who are my joy! (and, of course, my sisters and brothers-in-law and my mother, who I dearly love.)
A – On a family holiday in Rome. It was the last big holiday we cancelled before the first lockdown so we all feel the urge to visit. I love Italy but there’s something really special about the energy and pace of Rome, not to mention the culture!
3) Who makes you laugh?
M – I laugh quickly… my family and friends know that only too well.
A – It takes very little to make me laugh but I adore Rosie Jones – I’m guaranteed to laugh out loud every time I read her tweets.
4) Is there anything you love doing first thing in the morning?
M – One of the most beautiful things in the day – always – opening the blinds in my bathroom and seeing the sun stream through and the blue skies.
A – I always love starting the day (long before anybody else gets up) with a strong cup of tea and a serious catch-up of the day’s news, juggling between online newspapers, Radio 4, and whatever TV channels have got the best interviews.
5) What are you proudest of in your career?
 M – The thing that I am doing at that particular moment.
A – Oh, a difficult question! Some of the shows I did at Modern Art Oxford – especially Audible Light, About Vision: New British Painting in the 1990s, Experiment Experiencia (Brazilian sculpture), Gustav Metzger – but presenting Yoko Ono’s amazing Morning Beams in St Paul’s Cathedral has to be up there – a sort of ‘did I really do that!’ moment. 
6) Name one of the best artistic experiences you have had.
M – Difficult to decide. As a performer: conducting Richard Strauss’ Tod und Verklärung in the magnificent surroundings of Canterbury Cathedral, or the soul-tearing beauty of the last movement of Mahler 10, with the orchestra who will always hold a special place in my heart as nothing is more intense, beautiful or exciting than making music with friends (Malta Philharmonic Orchestra). As a punter? Hmmm…again, too many to choose from!
A – Seeing Bill Viola’s survey exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum about twenty years ago. I have seldom experienced art so breathtakingly moving or with such awe inspiring power. It was a true multisensory experience and absolutely mind blowing. It was the time when I realised that video and new media had the power to surpass more traditional art forms – an experience I’ll never forget. 
7) What do you enjoy reading?
M – Hmmm… I love historical fiction and cryptic or investigative/solving, mystery stuff; but mostly, I think, I love non-fiction, especially arts and history, or poetry. Fiction: Robert Harris’ Cicero Trilogy comes to mind.  And, I remember loving Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost.
A – I’m currently enjoying the brilliant and colossal Art and Trousers: Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Art by my old boss David Elliott. I like anything to do with politics – I loved Tribes by David Lammy. I also devour cookery books, and like to dip into a bit of contemporary fiction and poetry. 
8) What are some causes you care about?
M – Refugees, human rights (and everything that includes), protection of children, climate-change/environment, health, poverty, animal/pet care and protection, care for the elderly, access.
A – Too numerous to list but I’m a passionate supporter of the NHS. Deeply concerned about climate change and the environment. 
9) What are you happiest doing, when you’re not working?
M – I feel very lucky in that I chose to work doing what I love.  If I’m not curating or concocting plans or doing all sorts of things that a festival director has to do, I would be reading, or composing, or writing, or sketching (trying to!), cooking (love my experiments!), and, of course, going to the theatre, art gallery, concert hall etc. with my wonderful friends – or just spending time with them, walking (I love nature!), chatting, or discussing things over a bottle of very good wine.
A – Always, spending time with my family, and catching up with friends.
10) What (not who) would you miss most on a desert island?
M – Not being able to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
A – Sad but truthful answer – my iPhone as I’m a Twitter addict – pre iPhone days I would have said the radio and very strong tea (preferably Assam, but Yorkshire is fine).
11) Who would your favourite famous dinner party guest be (alive or dead)?
M – I would want to have the inventor of the time machine so that I can dip in and out of wonderful moments in history, seeing and speaking to people I’ve always wanted to in every ‘dinner party’ question I have ever been asked.
A – So difficult to choose so I’ll go for an easy contemporary one – Michael Sheen as I’ve loved everything he’s done, and I’m sure it would be an absolutely hilarious evening.
12) Have you ever been on TV?
M – Too many times (!) but mostly as a performer or being interviewed. I also used to be the Music Director of the most-viewed debate programme in Malta.  Funny story; I even formed a choir out of Members of Parliament, all wearing Father Christmas bonnets and even one soloist [a Minister!] with a Rudolph’s nose (!) as part of a fundraising event [L’Istrina] equivalent to the BBC’s Children in Need.  We did raise A LOT of money!
A – I was once ambushed by a local TV crew on a hospital ward just after I’d had major abdominal surgery – I couldn’t have had a less glamorous screen debut if I’d tried. It was all in a good cause though; it was an item to promote nurse recruitment so I put on a brave face. I’ve been avoiding TV cameras ever since.