Biography

For the past nine years James has been Artistic Director at Royal and Derngate Theatres, nominated for “Theatre of the Year” in The 2022 and 2016 Stage Awards and recipient of three UK Theatre Awards for Touring. In 2019/20, before the pandemic hit, 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 The Worst Witch. In 2021, James creatively produced Four Quartets with Ralph Fiennes which reopened 7 regional theatres and transferred to the West End, directed Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange with Giles Terera and Michael Balogun and produced Gin Craze! , named as one of the productions of the year by The Guardian and The Stage.

James’ productions at Royal & Derngate include world premieres of The Pope by Anthony McCarten with Anton Lesser, subsequently adapted into the 2020 Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated film The Two Popes; Arthur Miller’s The Hook (UK Theatre Award for Touring); Roy Williams’ Soul with Adjoa Andoh, 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 with David Harewood and Lorraine Burroughs, which won the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play.

James is a Trustee of The Theatres Trust and Talawa Theatre Company, 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. Prior to Royal & Derngate, he 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 WarriorsKing 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 Martha Wainwright, Yaya Bey, Elena Langer, Orlando Gough, Anne Dudley, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Valgeir Sigurosson, White Lies, These New Puritans, Chilly Gonzales, Guy Chambers and Rachel Portman. This month he created a compilation album called INCIDENTAL: Music for the Stage of original music from his stage productions, accompanied by performances from Judi Dench, Simon Russell Beale, Amanda Seyfried, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Felicity Jones, Stephen Fry, Patricia Routledge, Lesley Sharp, Maxine Peake and many others.