James is a director and creative producer. For ten years until May 2023 he was Artistic Director at Royal & Derngate Theatres, where he produced more than 120 shows of which 60 toured both nationally and internationally and 42 transferred to London and were recognised with Olivier, Evening Standard, WhatsOnStage and The Stage awards. During this time the venue saw a marked development of its artistic activities, its audiences across the UK and standing within the region and sector, welcoming over two and a half million audience members in Northampton and being twice shortlisted for Regional Theatre of the Year by The Stage (2022 and 2016) and chosen as 2020 Outstanding Theatre of the Year by Michael Billington. Meanwhile, the venue engaged over 165,000 children and young people through its extensive Creative Learning Programmes and touring productions were seen by a further 1 million audience members nationwide and made over 500 venue visits across the UK and abroad, winning three UK Theatre Awards.
Recently James creatively produced Four Quartets with Ralph Fiennes which reopened 8 regional theatres after the pandemic, transferred to the West End and was adapted into a feature film (which James Executive Produced) that was broadcast by the BBC and in cinemas worldwide. Recent productions include a UK Tour of Michael Rosen’s Unexpected Twist adapted by Roy Williams with music by Yaya Bey and Conrad Murray, the 20th anniversary production of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange with Giles Terera and Michael Balogun and new musical Gin Craze! , named as one of the productions of the year by The Guardian and The Stage. Other directing at Royal & Derngate includes world premieres of The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten with Anton Lesser, subsequently adapted into the 2020 Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA nominated film; 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 following its West End run.
James is a Trustee of both The Theatres Trust and Talawa, the UK’s outstanding Black British Theatre Company. He is 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 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, Jessica Walker, 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. Last year 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.