It's eight o'clock on an overcast October morning in the concrete tundra of London's South Bank as Genista McIntosh slips through the silent stage door of the Royal National Theatre (RNT). There's still an hour remaining before the telephones begin to ring in earnest and meetings gather in the wings. So McIntosh seizes the chance of a rare moment of quiet to study the previous day's box-office figures, to catch up with her correspondence and to bone up on some Young Vic paperwork before an imminent board meeting. Apart from a brief spell as agent, McIntosh has worked exclusively in the subsidised arts sector since 1972, latterly taking only a few sips from the poisoned chalice belonging to the chief executive of the Royal Opera House before gratefully reclaiming her post as the RNT's executive director, a position she has occupied since 1990.
In her early fifties, she is the divorced mother of Alexander (22) and Flora (19) and she adds to her RNT portfolio membership of the boards of the Young Vic, the Theatre Museum and the Sadler's Wells Trust. A fellow of the RSA, she chairs the South East London Common Purpose and has recently been appointed to the board of NESTA - the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. If there is a British arts establishment, McIntosh is its reigning queen and is often labelled in a piece of easy journalese that makes her wince 'the most powerful woman in the British theatre'.
Gradually the National stirs from its Thames-side torpor. Today there are both matinee and evening performances of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Lyttelton and of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, an adaptation of the novel by Salman Rushdie, in the Cottesloe.