James has been Artistic Director of Royal and Derngate Theatres for eight celebrated years. Last season the venue reached more than 600,000 audiences nationwide, toured its Made in Northampton productions to over 100 venues across the UK and internationally, engaged 25,000 participants in its education programmes and transferred four plays to the West End, winning the Olivier Award for Best Family Show for its production of The Worst Witch.
He is also a Trustee of Britain’s primary Black-led theatre company, Talawa, a Board Director of the Olympics legacy charity Spirit of 2012 and a Franco-British Young Leader, promoting greater cultural exchange with France. In January he was listed amongst the Stage 100 for his advocacy work and especially his “key role in highlighting the wider plight of regional theatre” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
His productions at Royal & Derngate include the world premiere of The Pope by Anthony McCarten, subsequently adapted into the 2020 Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated film The Two Popes; the world premiere of Arthur Miller’s The Hook (UK Theatre Award for Touring); Roy Williams’ Soul, which transferred to Hackney Empire; and the 2020 Olivier Award nominated Our Lady of Kibeho. The latter was James’s third collaboration with playwright Katori Hall since premiering her first play The Mountaintop, the surprise winner of the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play following its transfer to the West End.
Prior to Royal & Derngate, James held Associate Director roles at The New Vic Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, Theatre503 and The National Youth Theatre after training on the ACE sponsored Change Creation programme, the Channel 4 / ITV Director’s Scheme, Culture Reset and as a Fulbright Scholar and Fellow in Theatre Directing.
His previous work includes four productions at Shakespeare’s Globe – As You Like It (World Tour and UK Theatre Renee Stepham Award), David Eldridge’s Holy Warriors, King John (UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production) and a short film of Othello (Complete Walk) as well as King James Bible at the National Theatre; The Accrington Pals (UK Theatre Best Design Award) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Manchester’s Royal Exchange; Ella Hickson’s Precious Little Talent (Evening Standard Award nomination, London Theatre Festival Best Play Award) at Trafalgar Studios; Amy Herzog’s 4000 Miles (Pulitzer Prize) at Bath Theatre Royal; Dan O’Brien’s The Body of an American (Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play, Evening Standard Best New Play Award Nominee) at The Gate; and new plays by Ron Hutchinson, Dawn King, Mike Poulton, Alistair Beaton, Amanda Whittington, Bekah Brunstetter, Nanna Mwaluwko and Molly Davies, amongst others.
James brings a strong musical sensibility to all his work. He recently directed an acclaimed touring production of Verdi’s Macbeth for English Touring Opera and has previously worked for Glyndebourne Opera. Other musical collaborations include new work with composers Elena Langer, Orlando Gough, Anne Dudley, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Valgeir Sigurosson, White Lies, These New Puritans and Rachel Portman.