Andrew Roberts said that the desire to be a leader is nearly always a sign of psychological disturbance

Voice message on my mobile from Virgin Rail customer care; they are replying to my long, impassioned voice message. They will ring again, they say. On 27 November, after accepting an honorary fellowship from Dartington College, I arrived at Totnes station to find that the advertised train back to Leeds had been cancelled - "due to engineering". I had to stay in London overnight, pay for a hotel and miss my children's swimming gala the next day. So I rang to protest that my trips to New York via Virgin are more reliable than my journeys on the train in Britain - could this be because Richard Branson travels by air? The emergency number is not manned at weekends. I am amazed.


Singing in the Rain rehearsals are exhilarating. I wanted to direct this musical on the eve of the millennium because it charts a moment in history when technology changed the movie industry for ever. Talking pictures swept away the silent films with terrifying speed. Now, with e-commerce, the Internet, video conferencing and virtual experiences, our cultural landscape is being reshaped daily. I love the pace of change - human imagination and determination running as fast as it can go. I'm using video-film and computer-generated imagery to create the settings, with Huntley Muir designing - a homage to the past and present.


Rang Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in Canada where they're filming X-Men together. Two northern Brits playing America's most famous comic-book characters after Superman and Batman. We're currently discussing a film project together, although Ian's off to New Zealand on 1 January for a year to play Gandalf in the film of Lord of the Rings.

I worked with Ian for seven months last year in Leeds, and even under the extreme pressure of workload, media bafflement ("Why Leeds, for God's sake?") and the publicity circus surrounding his Oscar nomination, he remained a kind, generous colleague. Everyone sings the praises of regional theatre and proclaims its importance in the arts "food chain" but, frankly, too few leading actors, directors and critics are prepared to forgo the convenience of London with its ready-made industry fan club. A strong democracy requires a genuine spread of resources and talents across the country - the arts world still plays lip-service to the concept of the highest quality work being available nationwide, and funding from central government and the Lottery demonstrates that in startling ways.

Anyway, I arrange with Patrick Stewart to do a presentation evening with me at the Guggenheim in New York of the Arthur Miller play he's going to do on Broadway. An incredible dynamic heiress - Mary Sharp Cronson - organises these events with the style, enthusiasm and stamina one expects from Americans and so rarely encounters in the British. No news from Virgin.


Lunchtime meeting with Ann, who's helping Mario Borzo and me create our business plan for "WET" - a large-scale installation/participation project - Water, Emotion and Time. We're looking for some major investors plus a major site-specific space in London. David Puttnam and Michael Jolly from Tussaud's have expressed enthusiasm for the concept. It's up to us now to find the capital.


Dithered and wavered about whether to forgo some precious rehearsal time on Singing and jump on the 4.10 train to the opening of Covent Garden. Decided that I could survive missing that historical moment and concentrated instead on developing more sexual chemistry between the two leading lovers. Celebrated in the bar when Stephen Mear, our fantastic choreographer, learnt that Cameron Mackintosh wants him to be co-choreographer for the new musical, Witches of Eastwick.


Recorded an episode of Heart of the Matter with Joan Bakewell. The theme was that of favourite leaders - are they born or made, and are they in short supply? Personally, I can't wait until the many thousands of women building community solidarity on gruesome estates or coping like the Lawrences with the grim realities of racism realise their potential as leaders and demand that the House of Commons more accurately reflects the experiences of common people. The historian Andrew Roberts said that the desire to be a leader was nearly always a sign of psychological disturbance. That explains Thatcher. Met Jo Brand, who is lovely, and Bishop David Jenkins - a really compassionate man.


My husband and I savagely whittle down the children's Christmas lists and then I prepare for the first Singing run-through in the rehearsal room. The foyer's packed with our over-55s group, Hey Days - 1,500 members all creating art, drama, music and dance. It's one of the many triumphs of the community policy here that makes the building so vital.


Leeds' Christmas lights are as splendid as ever. Thank God this northern city values things that sparkle: fountains, fairy lights and fireworks - well, anything that shines really. Not Barcelona, maybe - but not bad.

PS: Still no news from Virgin.

The author is Director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse

This article first appeared in the 06 December 1999 issue of the New Statesman, My night with Mad Frankie Fraser