James Roose-Evans

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James Roose-Evans (born 11 November 1927) is a British theatre director, scriptwriter, priest and writer on experimental theatre, gesture, ritual and meditation. In 1959 he founded the Hampstead Theatre Club, in London; and in 1974 the Bleddfa Centre for creativity and spirituality, in Powys. He is best known for directing the West End play, 84 Charing Cross Road.[1]

The Bleddfa Centre in May 2007


James Roose-Evans was born in London. His brother, Monty, was four years older. He was educated at The Crypt School in Gloucester; where he staged an open-air performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Before beginning his eighteen months' National Service in the British Army in November 1946, he made several visits to London theatres, for which he paid by busking in the street. In the Army he worked at the Garrison Theatre, Oswestry (1946), and from 1947 in the Royal Army Education Corps in various parts of Britain and finally in Trieste; where he joined the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1949, he began his studies at Oxford University (from which he graduated in 1957).

In 1954, he joined a repertory company at Bridgewater, Somerset, where his fellow-actor Kenneth Williams encouraged him to try directing. When the company's director fell ill and Roose-Evans took over the direction of St John Ervine's The First Mrs Fraser, he realised how his feeling for dance, literature, painting and theatre all came together in the director's art. Shortly afterwards he secured a job as director at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. The theatre was modelled on an Elizabethan play-house. Here in the 1954-1955 season Roose-Evans directed Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth (in which he also played the lead), John Whiting's A Penny For A Song, Shaw's Pygmalion, Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, Gheon's The Marriage of St Francis, Wilde's An Ideal Husband and Garcia Lorca's Dona Rosita (for which he visited Granada and received advice from Lorca's friend, Don Jose Navarro).

In 1959, he founded the Hampstead Theatre Club in London, where he served as artistic director until 1971.[2] He was also director of productions at Pitlochry Festival Theatre for the 1960 season.

In 1974, he founded the Bleddfa Centre, in Powys, for those exploring the relationship between creativity and spirituality. He is the first British theatre director to be ordained a non-stipendiary priest, and has preached in Westminster Abbey, Winchester, Chichester, Gloucester, and Norwich cathedrals. He leads occasional workshops on the theme of Re-Discovering the Sacred in Worship.

Roose-Evans has directed, among other projects, The Dumb Waiter (1960), Under Milk Wood, Private Lives (1963), An Ideal Husband, The Seven Year Itch (1984), 84 Charing Cross Road (1981; film version 1984), and Cider with Rosie (1961), the latter two of which he also adapted. Additional playwrighting credits include The Best of Friends (1988), Re: Joyce! (1991), a celebration of the life and career of Joyce Grenfell on which he collaborated with Maureen Lipman. He also edited Darling Ma The letters of Joyce Grenfell to her mother (1997)[3] and The Time of My Life The Wartime Journals of Joyce Grenfell.

Roose-Evans won the London Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director for 84 Charing Cross Road. He is a member of the Royal Society of Arts, the Welsh Arts Council, the Southeast Wales Art Association, and the Welsh Dance Theatre.


Roose-Evans is the author of

  • Directing a Play (1968)
  • Experimental Theatre from Stanislavsky to Peter Brook (1970)
  • London Theatre: From the Globe to the National (1977) ISBN 978-0-7148-1766-8
  • Inner Journey: Outer Journey (1987) ISBN 978-0-7126-1431-3
  • The Cook-a-Story Book
  • Passages of the Soul: Ritual Today (1995)
  • The Inner Stage: Finding a Centre in Prayer and Ritual (1995) ISBN 978-1-56101-001-1
  • One Foot on the Stage: The Biography of Richard Wilson (1996)
  • Cook-a-Story: The Bleddfa Cook Book (2005)
  • Opening Doors and Windows A Memoir In Four Acts (2009)
  • Finding Silence 52 meditations for Daily Living (2009)

and a number of children's books, including

  • The Adventures of Odd and Elsewhere (1971)
  • The Secret Of The Seven Bright Shiners (1972)
  • Elsewhere and the Gathering of the Clowns (1974)
  • Odd and the Great Bear (1974)
  • The Return Of The Great Bear (1975 May) ISBN 978-0-233-96647-2
  • Odd to the Rescue! (1975)
  • The Secret Of Tippity Witchit (1975 October) [4]
  • The Lost Treasure Of Wales (1977)
  • The Christ Mouse

The Odd and Elsewhere series was illustrated by Brian Robb.


  1. ^ Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 378. ISBN 1-84854-195-3. 
  2. ^ James Roose-Evans at the University of Texas library archives
  3. ^ Darling Ma at Hodder.co.uk
  4. ^ James Roose-Evans at Amazon.co.uk

External links[edit]

Official website of James Roose-Evans