From their exhilarating collaborations to a supper for two that ended in tears, the director shares his most personal memories of the musicals legend who took theatre to extraordinary new heights

He kept a selection of grooming utensils in his guest bathroom: nail scissors, implements for trimming nose hair, that sort of thing. He had a slightly shambolic air, and a listing gait, like a grad student impersonating a grownup, or as if his nanny had brushed his hair for him that morning. He would rock his head back when he talked and often spoke with his eyes closed, like someone communing with a higher power, which he probably was. His latest enthusiasms were always near the surface – to hear him speak about Rory Kinnear’s Hamlet, for example, was to make one want to go and see it all over again (he actually flew a group of his New York friends to London to see the production). He was equally expressive in his condemnation of work he didn’t care for. He was passionate, opinionated, uningratiating, sharp as a knife.

Until his later years, when he chose to spend more time in Connecticut, he was all New York. Steve saw everything: he taught me how to calculate exactly the amount of time it would take to walk to each individual theatre by judging how many blocks east to west (five minutes per block) and north to south (two minutes). For this particular wide-eyed Brit, Steve’s life on East 49th Street was a dream of New York in the 20th century. A beautiful brownstone, wood-panelled, with walls full of framed word games and puzzles. A grand piano looked out on a walled garden filled with vines and flowers.

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