Trevor Nunn

Trevor Robert Nunn

(1940-01-14) 14 January 1940 (age 84)
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Alma materDowning College, Cambridge
OccupationTheatre director
Years active1960s–present
(m. 1969; div. 1986)
Sharon Lee-Hill
(m. 1986; div. 1991)
(m. 1994; sep. 2011)
Children5, including Laurie and Ellie

Sir Trevor Robert Nunn CBE (born 14 January 1940) is an English theatre director. He has been the artistic director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal Haymarket. He has directed dramas for the stage, like Macbeth, as well as opera and musicals, such as Cats (1981) and Les Misérables (1985).

Nunn has been nominated for the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play, the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director, and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical, winning Tonys for Cats, Les Misérables, and Nicholas Nickleby and the Olivier Awards for productions of Summerfolk, The Merchant of Venice, Troilus and Cressida, and Nicholas Nickleby. In 2008 The Telegraph named him among the most influential people in British culture.[1] He has also directed works for film and television.

Early years

Nunn was born in Ipswich, England, to Dorothy May Piper and Robert Alexander Nunn, a cabinetmaker .[2] As a small boy he loved reading but his parents had little money for books. However an aunt had more books, including the complete works of Shakespeare which he read whenever the family visited her. In the end his aunt gave it to him.[3]

He was educated at Northgate Grammar School, Ipswich, and Downing College, Cambridge.[4] At Northgate, he had an inspiring English teacher, Peter Hewett, who also directed the school plays. Hewett encouraged him to sit the scholarship exam in Cambridge in the hope of studying under F. R. Leavis at Downing. Hewett also persuaded the headmaster to help with the cost of Nunn staying in Cambridge to take the exam. Nunn's father could not afford it and the headmaster had refused at first so Nunn was close to giving up.[3] At Downing, Nunn began his stage career and first met contemporaries Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.[4] In 1962, he directed Macbeth for The Marlowe Society and he directed that year's Footlights.[5] He also won a director's scholarship, becoming a trainee director at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry.[4]


In 1964, Nunn joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and in 1968 he was appointed artistic director of the RSC, a position he held until 1986 (latterly with Terry Hands from 1978).[4]

His first wife, Janet Suzman, appeared in many of his productions, such as the 1974 televised version of his Antony and Cleopatra.[6] Nunn directed the RSC production of Macbeth starring Ian McKellen in the title role and Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth in 1976.[7] Nunn staged the action of the drama with not only the paying audience, but also the audience of all of the actors in the production not in the ongoing scene—they sat on wooden crates just beyond the main playing space.[8]

Nunn became a leading figure in theatrical circles, and was responsible for many significant productions, such as the RSC's version of Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, co-directed with John Caird,[4] and a 1976 musical adaptation of the Shakespeare play The Comedy of Errors.[9][10]

A director of musicals in the non-subsidised sector, Nunn directed Cats (1981),[11] formerly the longest running musical in Broadway's history, and the first English production of Les Misérables in 1985, also with John Caird, which ran in London until the summer of 2019.[4][12] Nunn also directed the little-known 1986 Webber–Rice musical Cricket, at Windsor Castle.[13] Besides Cats and Les Misérables, Nunn's other musical credits include Starlight Express[14] and Sunset Boulevard.[15] He became artistic director of the Royal National Theatre in September 1997,[4] a position he retained until 2003.

Later London credits include My Fair Lady,[16] South Pacific (at the Royal National Theatre),[17] The Woman in White,[18] Othello and Acorn Antiques: The Musical! (2005),[19] The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Rock 'n' Roll[20] and Porgy and Bess in 2006 at the Savoy Theatre (an abridged version with dialogue instead of recitatives, unlike Nunn's first production of the opera).[21]

He directed We Happy Few, a play by his second wife Imogen Stubbs, in 2004.[22] Stubbs often appears in his productions, including the 1996 Twelfth Night film. Nunn directed a modern production of Shakespeare's Hamlet in 2004, which starred Ben Whishaw in the title role, and Imogen Stubbs as Gertrude, and was staged at The Old Vic theatre in London.[23]

In 2007, he directed the RSC productions of King Lear and The Seagull, which played at Stratford before embarking on a world tour (including the Brooklyn Academy of Music) and then playing at the New London Theatre from November 2007. The two plays both starred Ian McKellen, Romola Garai, Frances Barber, Sylvester McCoy, and William Gaunt.[24] Nunn's television production of King Lear was screened on Boxing Day, 2008 with McKellen in the title role.[25]

In 2008, he returned to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry (the theatre where he started his career) to direct Joanna Murray-Smith's adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's film Scenes from a Marriage starring Imogen Stubbs and Iain Glen.[26] His musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind opened at the New London Theatre in April 2008 and, after poor reviews, closed on 14 June 2008 after 79 performances.[27] In December 2008, he directed a revival of A Little Night Music at the Menier Chocolate Factory, which transferred to the West End at the Garrick Theatre in 2009.[28] The production transferred to Broadway, opening in November 2009, with Catherine Zeta-Jones as Desiree Armfeldt and Angela Lansbury as Madame Armfeldt. Other members of the original London cast also transferred with the production. The production closed in January 2011 after 425 performances.[29]

In 2010, Nunn directed a revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects of Love from July to September 2010 at the Menier Chocolate Factory[30] and the play Birdsong, which opened in September 2010 at the Comedy Theatre, based on the Sebastian Faulks novel of the same title.[31]

Nunn marked his debut as artistic director of the Theatre Royal Haymarket with a revival of Flare Path (as part of the playwright, Terence Rattigan's, centenary year celebrations). The production, starring Sienna Miller, James Purefoy and Sheridan Smith, opened in March 2011 and closed in June 2011,[32] and was followed by productions of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, (June–August 2011)[33] and The Tempest, starring Ralph Fiennes (September–October 2011).[34] His final production at the Haymarket, The Lion in Winter (November 2011 – January 2012), starred Joanna Lumley and Robert Lindsay.[35]

Nunn returned to the Haymarket in 2014 to direct the play Fatal Attraction.[36]

For Christmas 2018, Nunn directed a revival of Fiddler on the Roof at the Menier Chocolate Factory, before transferring to the Playhouse Theatre in London's West End for a limited season in spring 2019. The production starred Andy Nyman as Tevye and Judy Kuhn as Golde.

In 2020, he was due to direct a new musical Identical based on The Parent Trap. It was due to have its world premiere at the Nottingham Playhouse before transferring to the Theatre Royal, Bath, over the summer of 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, the production was delayed until August 2022.[37]

Film and opera

Nunn has directed opera at Glyndebourne. He re-staged his Glyndebourne production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for television in 1993,[4] and was highly praised.[38][39]

He has directed for film, including Lady Jane (1986), Hedda, an adaptation of Hedda Gabler, and a 1996 film version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.[40]

Personal life

Nunn has been married three times and has five children. He was married to actress Janet Suzman from 17 October 1969 until their divorce in 1986. They have one son, Joshua.[41][42] From 1986 until their 1991 divorce, he was married to Sharon Lee-Hill, with whom he has two children, Laurie and Amy.[43][44][45]

In 1994, he married actress Imogen Stubbs with whom he has two children, Ellie and Jesse.[46] In April 2011 Stubbs announced their separation.[45]

Nunn was in a brief relationship with Nancy Dell'Olio in 2011.[47][48]

In 1998, Nunn was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.[49] In 2002, he was knighted.[44]

In 2014, Nunn told The Telegraph that Shakespeare was his religion. "Shakespeare has more wisdom and insight about our lives, about how to live and how not to live, how to forgive and how to understand our fellow creatures, than any religious tract. One hundred times more than the Bible. I'm sorry to say that. But over and over again in the plays there is an understanding of the human condition that doesn't exist in religious books."[50]



Source: Internet Broadway Database[51]

West End

Source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust


Source: Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors[40]


Awards and nominations

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1975 London Assurance Drama Desk Award Unique Theatrical Experience Won
1977 Macbeth Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
1979 Once in a Lifetime Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
1980 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Won
1981 Cats Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
1982 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play Won
1983 All's Well that Ends Well Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play Won
1983 All's Well that Ends Well Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play Nominated
1983 Cats Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Won
1987 Les Misérables Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Won
1987 Starlight Express Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
1989 Othello Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
1990 Aspects of Love Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
1994 Arcadia Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
1995 Sunset Boulevard Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical Nominated
1995 The Merchant of Venice / Summerfolk Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Won
1995 Sunset Boulevard Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
1995 Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[53][54][55] Won
1999 Not About Nightingales Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play Won
1999 Not About Nightingales Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play Nominated
1999 Oklahoma! Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
2000 Summerfolk / The Merchant of Venice / Troilus and Cressida Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Won
2001 The Cherry Orchard Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated
2002 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement Won
2002 Oklahoma! Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical Nominated
2002 Oklahoma! Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical Nominated
2012 Induction into the American Theater Hall of Fame[56] Won
2020 Fiddler on the Roof Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director Nominated

Sources: Internet Broadway Database,[51] Tony Awards Database (,[57] Drama Desk History,[58] Olivier Awards: Past Nominees and Winners[59]


  1. ^ "The 100 most powerful people in British culture: 61–80". The Telegraph. 18 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Trevor Nunn Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  3. ^ a b Sir Trevor Nunn, interviewed on Desert Island Discs, repeat broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra, 5 April 2015
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Stars Over Broadway: Trevor Nunn", PBS, accessed 16 November 2011
  5. ^ Norman Armstrong, "Headmaster's Report", Northgate Grammar School for Boys Magazine, Winter 1962, p. 12
  6. ^ Antony and Cleopatra at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  7. ^ "Macbeth, 1976, production listing",, accessed 16 November 2011
  8. ^ Rowe, Katherine. "Macbeth, Trevor Nunn" Macbeth: Evans Shakespeare Editions (2011), Cengage Learning, ISBN 0-495-91120-8, pp. 59–60
  9. ^ Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archive Catalogue
  10. ^ "The Comedy of Errors Productions", Royal Shakespeare Company, accessed 16 November 2011
  11. ^ "Cats History" Archived 14 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine (Really Useful Group), accessed 16 November 2011
  12. ^ Masters, Tim (1 October 2010). "Bon Anniversaire! 25 Facts About Les Mis". BBC News. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  13. ^ "Cricket Production History",, accessed 16 November 2011
  14. ^ "Starlight Express, The Original Creative Team" Archived 13 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Really Useful Group, accessed 9 December 2011
  15. ^ Rich, Frank. "Upstaging a New Lloyd Webber Musical", The New York Times, 14 July 1993
  16. ^ "My Fair Lady Facts",, accessed 5 December 2011
  17. ^ "National Theatre archive of South Pacific", Royal National Theatre
  18. ^ "The Woman in White Creative Team", Really Useful Group, accessed 9 December 2011
  19. ^ Bartlett, Chris (17 February 2005). "Review: Acorn Antiques – The Musical!". The Stage. Archived from the original on 18 February 2005.
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew; Nathan, John (15 February 2007). "Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll Is Heading to Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  21. ^ "Press views: Porgy and Bess". BBC News. 11 November 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  22. ^ Billington, Michael. "We Happy Few review", The Guardian, 4 July 2004
  23. ^ Spencer, Charles. "An unforgettable and most lovable Hamlet" The Telegraph, 28 April 2004
  24. ^ Riding, Alan. "Every Inch a King (and Buff, Too)", The New York Times, 2 September 2007
  25. ^ "King Lear Production History",, accessed 16 November 2011
  26. ^ Spencer, Charles. "Scenes from a Marriage: Love laid daringly bare", The Telegraph, 17 January 2008
  27. ^ Gans, Andrew; Shenton, Mark (30 May 2008). "London Musical Gone with the Wind to Close". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  28. ^ Shenton, Mark (28 March 2009). "Isn't It Rich?: Menier A Little Night Music Arrives in the West End March 28". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew (5 October 2010). "Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch Extend Run in Broadway's A Little Night Music". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  30. ^ Bosanquet, Theo (18 February 2010). "Nunn Revives Aspects of Love at Menier, 15 Jul". WhatsOnStage. Archived from the original on 22 February 2010.
  31. ^ "Casting: Birdsong Starring Ben Barnes". West End Theatre. 9 August 2010.
  32. ^ "Flare Path Closes at the Theatre Royal Haymarket", BroadwayWorld, 11 June 2011
  33. ^ Hitchings, Henry."Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" Archived 2 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 22 June 2011
  34. ^ Billington, Michael. "The Tempest- Review", The Guardian, 7 September 2011
  35. ^ Billington, Michael. "The Lion in Winter – review", The Guardian, 15 November 2011
  36. ^ Ng, David (23 September 2013). "'Fatal Attraction' to become a stage play, will debut in London". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  37. ^ Clare Brennan. "Identical review – a new musical of The Parent Trap has its own special effect". Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  38. ^ O'Connor, John J. (6 October 1993). "Review/Television; Two Law Series Return, With Some Revisions". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  39. ^ "Porgy & Bess Movie DVD Review". Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  40. ^ a b Yoram Allon; Del Cullen; Hannah Patterson (2001). Contemporary British and Irish Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide. Wallflower Press. p. 252. ISBN 978-1-903364-21-5.
  41. ^ (no author). "Divorce for Janet Suzman", The Times (London), 19 April 1986
  42. ^ "Janet Suzman Biography-see Companions and Family",, accessed 20 April 2012
  43. ^ (no author). "Nunn divorce", The Times, 21 May 1991, Home news
  44. ^ a b Dickson, Andrew. "Trevor Nunn Life in Theatre", The Guardian, 18 November 2011
  45. ^ a b Savill, Richard; Wardrop, Murray (25 April 2011). "Imogen Stubbs and Sir Trevor Nunn separate after 21 years". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  46. ^ (no author). "Actress Imogen Goes Back to Her Roots for Marriage Blessing", Press Association, 18 September 1994, Home News
  47. ^ Walker, Tim; Eden, Richard (1 May 2011). "Sven-Goran Eriksson's former lover Nancy Dell'Olio insists: 'I'm drawn to men of passion'". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  48. ^ "Nancy Dell'Olio loses court action over 'man eater' newspaper comments". The Telegraph. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  49. ^ "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998.
  50. ^ Grice, Elizabeth (16 March 2014). "Trevor Nunn: 'The Bard is more relevant than the Bible'". The Telegraph.
  51. ^ a b Trevor Nunn at the Internet Broadway Database
  52. ^ "Shakespeare Uncovered – Trevor Nunn on The Tempest". BBC Four. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  53. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  54. ^ "2017 Summit Highlights Photo". 2017. Academy Awards Council member and Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Trevor Nunn, presents the Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award to critically-acclaimed Irish novelist John Banville.
  55. ^ "2019 Summit Highlights Photo". 2019. Theatrical director Sir Trevor Nunn presents the Golden Plate Award to award-winning novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan at the Banquet of the Golden Plate gala ceremonies during the International Achievement Summit.
  56. ^ Gans, Andrew; Gioia, Michael (24 September 2012). "Exclusive: Betty Buckley, Sam Waterston, Trevor Nunn, Christopher Durang, Andre Bishop Among Theater Hall of Fame Inductees". Playbill. Retrieved 3 April 2022.
  57. ^ "Trevor Nunn Listing, Tony Awards", accessed 17 November 2011
  58. ^ "Drama Desk History" Archived 18 May 2008 at, accessed 17 November 2011
  59. ^ "Olivier Awards, Past Nominees and Winners", accessed 17 November 2011

Further reading