Trevor Nunn

Sir Trevor Nunn
Born Trevor Robert Nunn
(1940-01-14) 14 January 1940
Ipswich, Suffolk, England
Occupation Theatre director
Years active 1960s–present
Spouse(s) Janet Suzman
(1969–86; divorced)
Sharon Lee-Hill
(1986–91; divorced)
Imogen Stubbs
(1994–2011; separated)
Children 5

Sir Trevor Robert Nunn, CBE (born 14 January 1940) is an English theatre, film and television director. Nunn has been the Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has directed musicals and dramas for the stage, as well as opera. His well-known musicals are Cats (1981) and Les Misérables (1985). His dramas include Nicholas Nickleby and Macbeth.

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 the Tony Award (Musical) for Cats and Les Misérables and the Olivier Award for Summerfolk / The Merchant of Venice / Troilus and Cressida; and The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

Early years

Nunn was born in Ipswich, England, to Robert Alexander Nunn, a cabinetmaker, and Dorothy May Piper.[1] As a small boy he loved reading but his parents had little money for books. However an aunt had more books, including a complete Shakespeare which he devoured whenever the family visited her. In the end she gave it to him.[2]

He was educated at Northgate Grammar School, Ipswich and Downing College, Cambridge.[3] 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.[2][4] At Downing, Nunn began his stage career and first met contemporaries Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi.[3] 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.[3]


In 1964 Nunn joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and in 1968 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, a position he held until 1986.[3] He became Artistic Director of the Royal National Theatre in September 1997.[3]

His first wife, Janet Suzman, appeared in many of his productions, such as the 1974 televised version of his Antony and Cleopatra.[6] Nunn became a leading figure in theatrical circles, and was responsible for many ground-breaking productions, such as the RSC's version of Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, co-directed with John Caird,[3] and a 1976 musical adaptation of the Shakespeare play The Comedy of Errors.[7][8]

A very successful director of musicals, in the non-subsidised sector, Nunn directed the musical Cats (1981),[9] formerly the longest running musical in Broadway's history, and the first English production of Les Misérables in 1985, also with John Caird, which has been running continuously in London since opening.[3][10] Nunn also directed the little-known 1986 Webber–Rice musical Cricket, at Windsor Castle.[11] Besides Cats and Les Misérables Nunn's other musical credits include Starlight Express[12] and Sunset Boulevard.[13] Later London credits include My Fair Lady,[14] South Pacific (at the Royal National Theatre),[15]The Woman in White,[16]Othello and Acorn Antiques: The Musical! (2005),[17]The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Rock 'n' Roll[18] 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).[19]

Nunn directed the RSC production of Macbeth starring Ian McKellen in the title role and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth in 1976.[20] 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.[21]

He directed his wife's (Imogen Stubbs), play We Happy Few 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), stars Joanna Lumley and Robert Lindsay.[35]

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

Film and opera

Nunn has directed opera at Glyndebourne. He re-staged his highly successful Glyndebourne production of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess for television in 1993,[3] and was highly praised.[37][38]

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.[39]

Personal life

Nunn has been married three times. He was married to actress Janet Suzman from 17 October 1969 until their divorce in 1986. They have one child, Joshua. The Times reported in April 1986: "Janet Suzman, aged 47, the actress, was granted a divorce in London yesterday from Trevor Nunn, aged 46, the theatre director ... They have a son, Joshua, aged five."[40][41] He has another two children, Laurie and Amy, with his second wife, Sharon Lee-Hill; they divorced in 1991. According to The Times, "Trevor Nunn, the theatre director, was divorced yesterday by his wife Sharon Lee Hill."[42][43][44]

In 1994 he married actress Imogen Stubbs with whom he has two children, Ellie and Jesse. The Press Association reported on 18 September 1994: "Director Trevor Nunn and actress Imogen Stubbs, who wed in secret at a London register office on Saturday, had their marriage blessed today in a low-key service at a village church."[45] In April 2011 Stubbs announced that she and Sir Trevor were to separate.[44]

In 1998 Nunn was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party.[46] In 2002, he was knighted.[43]

As of May 2011, Nunn was in a relationship with Nancy Dell'Olio,[47] but by the end of the year it was reported the relationship had ended.[48]

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.”[49]



Source: Internet Broadway Database Listing[50]

West End

Source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust[51]


Source: Contemporary British and Irish film Directors[39]


Awards and nominations

Sources: Internet Broadway Database Listing[50] Tony Awards Database ([52] Drama Desk History[53] Olivier Awards, Past Nominees and Winners[54]


  1. "Trevor Nunn Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  2. 1 2 Sir Trevor Nunn, interviewed on Desert Island Discs, repeat broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra, 5 Apr 2015
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Stars Over Broadway:Trevor Nunn", accessed 16 November 2011
  4. For more information about Peter see here. accessed 27 Oct 2015
  5. Norman Armstrong, Headmaster's Report, Northgate Grammar School for Boys Magazine, Winter 1962, page 12
  6. Antony and Cleopatra at the Internet Movie Database
  7. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archive Catalogue
  8. "'The Comedy of Errors' Productions" Royal Shakespeare Company, accessed 16 November 2011
  9. "'Cats' History" (, accessed 16 November 2011
  10. Masters, Tim (1 October 2010). "Bon Anniversaire! 25 Facts About Les Mis". BBC News. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  11. "'Cricket' Production History", accessed 16 November 2011
  12. "'Starlight Express', The Original Creative Team", accessed 9 December 2011
  13. Rich, Frank. "Upstaging a New Lloyd Webber Musical" New York Times (abstract), 14 July 1993
  14. "My Fair Lady Facts", accessed 5 December 2011
  15. "National Theatre archive of 'South Pacific'"
  16. "'The Woman in White' Craetive Team", accessed 9 December 2011
  17. Bartlett, Chris.Review: 'Acorn Antiques – The Musical!'"The Stage (UK), 17 February 2005
  18. Gans, Andrew and Nathan, John.Stoppard's Rock 'N' Roll Is Heading to Broadway", 15 February 2007
  19. "Press views: Porgy And Bess". BBC News. 11 November 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2008.
  20. "'Macbeth', 1976, Production Listing", accessed 16 November 2011
  21. Rowe, Katherine."'Macbeth', Trevor Nunn" Macbeth: Evans Shakespeare Editions (2011), Cengage Learning, ISBN 0-495-91120-8, pp. 59–60
  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 and Mark Shenton."London Musical 'Gone with the Wind' to Close", 30 May 2008
  28. Shenton, Mark."Isn't It Rich?: Menier 'A Little Night Music' Arrives in the West End March 28", 28 March 2009
  29. Gans, Andrew."Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch Extend Run in Broadway's A Little Night Music", 5 October 2010
  30. Bosanquet, Theo.Nunn Revives Aspects of Love at Menier, 15 Jul, 18 February 2010
  31. "Casting: Birdsong Starring Ben Barnes". West End Theatre. 9 August 2010.
  32. "Flare Path Closes at the Theatre Royal Haymarket" Broadway World, 11 June 2011
  33. Hitchings, Henry."Review:'Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead'", 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. "'Fatal Attraction' to become a stage play, will debut in London". Los Angeles Times. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  37. O'Connor, John J. (6 October 1993). "Review/Television; Two Law Series Return, With Some Revisions". The New York Times abstract. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  38. "Porgy & Bess Movie DVD Review –". Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  39. 1 2 Allon, Yoram, Cullen, Del and Patterson, Hannah. "Trevor Nunn"Contemporary British and Irish film Directors (2001), Wallflower Press, ISBN 1-903364-21-3, p. 252
  40. (no author). "Divorce for Janet Suzman", The Times (London), 19 April 1986
  41. "Janet Suzman Biography-see Companions and Family", accessed April 20, 2012
  42. (no author). "Nunn divorce", The Times, 21 May 1991, Home news
  43. 1 2 Dickson, Andrew. "Trevor Nunn Life in Theatre" The Guardian, 18 November 2011
  44. 1 2 "Imogen Stubbs and Sir Trevor Nunn separate after 21 years". Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
  45. (no author). "Actress Imogen Goes Back To Her Roots For Marriage Blessing", Press Association, 18 September 1994, Home News
  46. "'Luvvies' for Labour". BBC News. 30 August 1998.
  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. "Trevor Nunn: 'The Bard is more relevant than the Bible'". 16 March 2014.
  50. 1 2 "Trevor Nunn Listing" Internet Broadway Database (, accessed 17 November 2011
  51. "Archive Catalogue, Trevor Nunn", accessed 17 November 2011
  52. "Trevor Nunn Listing, Tony Awards", accessed 17 November 2011
  53. "Drama Desk History", accessed 17 November 2011
  54. "Olivier Awards, Past Nominees and Winners", accessed 17 November 2011
  55. "EXCLUSIVE: Betty Buckley, Sam Waterston, Trevor Nunn, Christopher Durang, Andre Bishop Among Theater Hall of Fame Inductees".

Further reading

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