Marianne Phoebe Elliott
27 December 1966
London, England, UK
|Parent(s)||Rosalind Knight |
Marianne Phoebe Elliott(born 27 December 1966) is a British theatre director. She is the recipient of three Laurence Olivier Awards and three Tony Awards.
Elliott was born in 1966 in London, the daughter of Michael Elliott, theatre director and co-founder of the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester, and actress Rosalind Knight. Her maternal grandfather was the actor Esmond Knight. The family moved to Manchester when she was eight years old and attended St Hilary's School, Alderley Edge, Didsbury Road Junior School in Heaton Moor and later Stockport Grammar School.
She has said she "hated" the theatrical professions as a child "and used to ask [her parents] not to talk shop". Despite this early ambivalence, she studied drama at Hull University, but used "to sneak into English lectures because she found them more interesting".
Elliott's father, Michael, died when she was a teenager. She said "I don’t think I would have gone into the theatre at all if my father had lived because he was so good at it. I didn’t make the decision to direct until I was in my late 20s, a good 10 years after he died."
After leaving university Elliott was, initially, determined not to go into the theatre and had a number of different jobs including casting director and drama secretary at Granada Television. It was an assistant director role at Regent's Park that first moved her in the direction of a theatrical career.
In 1995 she began to work at the Royal Exchange, where her father had been a founding Artistic Director. She was nurtured by Greg Hersov, who she has described as her "biggest influence", and she worked her way up including being appointed artistic director in 1998. In her own estimation, two stand-out productions from that period were a 2000 As You Like It and the world premiere of Simon Stephens' play Port.
In 2002 Elliott's career saw her move from Manchester to London, when she was invited by Artistic Director Ian Rickson to become an Associate Director of the Royal Court Theatre. During this time, Elliott's productions included Notes on Falling Leaves by Ayub Khan Din, The Sugar Syndrome by Lucy Prebble, Stoning Mary by Debbie Tucker Green and Local as well as many new writing workshops and play readings.
In 2006, she was invited by Nicholas Hytner, who Elliott has said "seemed to value [her] talent more highly than I did" to make her National Theatre debut with Ibsen's Pillars of the Community, which led to her being invited back to direct Saint Joan, starring Anne-Marie Duff, which won the Olivier Award for Best Revival in 2008. She became an Associate Director under Hytner, and directed a series of important, influential and highly successful productions including War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. She left the National Theatre in 2017.
In 2016 Elliott teamed up with theatre producer Chris Harper to set up theatre company Elliott & Harper Productions. Its first production was the West End premiere of Heisenberg by Simon Stephens, directed by Elliott at the Wyndham's Theatre (3 October 2017 - 6 January 2018) which garnered mixed reviews and poor houses; an inauspicious start to the collaboration. Elliott & Harper became co-producers of the National Theatre's Broadway transfer of Angels in America which opened in March 2018, also directed by Elliott. The company's latest West End production was Company in which Bobbie was played by a woman. It opened at the Gielgud Theatre in September 2018 and the cast included Rosalie Craig as Bobbie and Patti LuPone as Joanne. Elliott commented that Stephen Sondheim "didn’t like the idea at first, but he agreed to let me workshop it in London. We filmed part of it and sent it to him in New York, and he said he loved it. He has agreed to the odd lyric change, but essentially I’m hoping to tweak it as little as possible. Reviving Company 47 years on, I think it actually makes more sense for Bobbie to be a woman." Elliott & Harper have also produced a new adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Catherine Schreiber and West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Sally Cookson, it ran at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 27 January 2018 and transferred to the Bridge Theatre in London for Christmas 2019. It is due to go on a UK tour in Christmas 2021. In 2019, Elliott co-directed Death of a Salesman alongside Miranda Cromwell, which starred Wendell Pierce and Sharon D. Clarke at the Young Vic Theatre with an all-black Loman family. In autumn 2019, the production transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre and performed to rave reviews and sold-out out audiences, despite the ceiling collapse at the Piccadilly Theatre in November 2019. On March 2020, Elliott's Olivier-award winning production of Company was due to open at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre on Broadway on Stephen Sondheim's 90th Birthday Birthday. Sadly, the production was forced to close, along with the rest of Broadway, after just 12 previews as a result of the spread of Covid-19. The production is due to return to Broadway in the Autumn of 2021. Elliott most recently directed Tamsin Greig and Harriet Walter in the new version of Talking Heads by Alan Bennett for the BBC in 2020.
Elliott has several loyal creative relationships with collaborators that extend over decades, including the actor Anne-Marie Duff, whom she has directed several times.
Simon Stephens, the British playwright, spoke of her as having "an innate sense of democracy. She combines a fearlessly theatrical imagination with a real concern for her audience. [Curious Incident] has to be a piece of theatre you can come to if you’re 10 or if you’re 90. Marianne and the rest of the artistic team were completely committed to trying to get inside Christopher’s head and dramatise his world from within." With Stephens and her regular designer Bunny Christie, Elliott made the world premiere of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which won a then-record six Oliviers in 2013 and ran on Broadway for 800 performances.
In 2011 she won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play for the Broadway production of War Horse, along with co-director Tom Morris. In 2015, she received the award for a second time, winning for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which also won Best Play and Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Play for Alex Sharp. In 2018 Elliott won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play for Angels in America at the Neil Simon Theatre.
For The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director in 2013. In 2019 her production of Company won 4 Olivier Awards including Best Musical Revival and Best Director. She has won Best Director at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards twice: first in 2006 for Pillars of the Community and again in 2018 Company.
She has said that her philosophy would remain unchanged by her awards: "I don’t think an Olivier Award will make any difference. Proving that I am good enough – that’s what motivates me. To prove, prove, prove, push, push, push… Not very healthy, is it?".
Elliott was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to theatre.
Elliott married the actor Nick Sidi in 2002; they have one daughter.