12 May 1959 |
Warner was born in Oxfordshire, England, to antiquarians Roger Harold Metford Warner and Ruth Ernestine Hurcombe. After attending Sidcot School and St Clare's, Oxford, she studied Stage Management at Central School of Speech and Drama. In 1980 she founded the KICK theatre company when she was 21.
Over four decades, Deborah Warner has constantly extended theatrical boundaries and redefined the vocabulary of performance through an oeuvre of rare consistency and integrity marked by its raw energy, sharp wit and moral complexity.
Most notably, she has since the 1980s worked in close creative partnership with the actor Fiona Shaw, developing a wide range of projects that have been seen and praised throughout Europe and the USA. The Sunday Times critic John Peter wrote of their vision of Richard II that ‘Warner and Shaw are not being either fashionable or reactionary … They are making theatre that is an adventure, a journey of the mind, a discovery of other ages, other countries, other people, other minds'. Warner has also enjoyed long-term collaborations with the designers Jean Kalman, Hildegard Bechtler, Chloe Obolensky, Tom Pye, and Mel Mercier, and the choreographer Kim Brandstrup.
Although the majority of her work has focused on major classics of spoken drama and opera, she has also experimented with the performance of poetry (The Waste Land, Readings) and the staging of oratorio (St John Passion, Messiah), as well as installations (The St Pancras and Angel projects, Peace Camp). She has made relatively few excursions into new work (The Powerbook, Between Worlds and Testament of Mary being exceptions) or comedy (The School for Scandal), and although she has made much creative use of video on stage, she has directed little for film and television.
Her first creations for Kick – a company that she invented and managed herself – were deeply influenced by the example of Peter Brook and his belief that the performer must always be at the centre of the event. ‘I’m not sure I would have been in any way conscious of the potency of theatre if I hadn’t seen his work,’ she said in an interview with Vogue July 1994). Other figures important in her formative years include Peter Stein, who commissioned her production of Coriolanus at the Salzburg Festival, and Nicholas Payne and Anthony Whitworth-Jones who commissioned her first essays in opera, at Opera North and Glyndebourne respectively.
Although she has refused to subscribe to a programmatic feminism or a political ideology, her work has often explored issues of gender, notably in her ground-breaking casting of Fiona Shaw as Shakespeare’s Richard II. She was also the first woman director to be given sole charge of a production in the main house of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Warner’s process requires long, rigorous, and intensely exploratory rehearsal periods and she commits to a continual development of interpretation throughout a production’s lifespan of runs and revivals – principles that have often made her projects difficult to fund, especially in the UK.
Her approach transcends national barriers and cultures – to a remarkable degree, her productions have travelled globally, their resonances subtly transformed by exposure to different environments and atmospheres. Sceptical of the conventional division between stage and auditorium, she has a keen interest in exploring ‘found’ spaces, both large and small. Although she avoids gratuitous spectacle and historical literalism, her work can accommodate grandeur of scale and ‘period’ sensitivity when the material requires it.
Informed by her Quaker background, her wide reading and constant travel, she is an artist of exceptional honesty and seriousness who does not cut corners to compromise with commercial imperatives. Deborah’s incredibly open,’ said the actor Brian Cox, who played Titus Andronicus and King Lear for her. ‘She works like a gardener: prepares the bed, plants the seed, waters it and watches it grow.’
In 1987 Warner joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she directed Titus Andronicus and where she also began her long-time collaboration with Fiona Shaw. Warner and Shaw have collaborated on plays including Electra (RSC); The Good Person of Sezuan (1989, National Theatre); Hedda Gabler (1991, The Abbey Theatre and BBC2); the controversial Richard II, with Shaw in the title role, also at the National Theatre (1995) and televised by BBC2; Footfalls, whose radical staging so enraged the Beckett estate that the production was pulled during its run; The PowerBook, at the National Theatre, a dramatisation of Jeanette Winterson's novel; Medea (2000–2001, Queen's Theatre and Broadway); and Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which Shaw played the small part of Portia. The production starred Ralph Fiennes and Simon Russell Beale; first staged at the Barbican Centre, it later toured Europe. Shaw and Warner toured the world with T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, which began in Wilton's Music Hall in London's East End. Her work began to focus on the link of drama to places, a theme which was expanded upon in her Angel Project. In 2007, following negotiations with the Beckett estate, Warner directed Shaw in Happy Days at the National Theatre, followed in 2009 by Mother Courage and Her Children (with Shaw in the title role) at the same venue. She returned to the Barbican Centre in 2011 to direct The School for Scandal.
Opera and classical music
Warner has also worked extensively in field of opera and classical music, including a production of The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Janáček starring Ian Bostridge; a staging of the St John Passion at English National Opera; a controversial staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne; Wozzeck for Opera North; Death in Venice and Tansy Davies' Between Worlds at English National Opera; and Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas with Les Arts Florissants in Vienna, Paris and Amsterdam. Other notable productions include opening the 2015/15 season at La Scala, Milan, with Fidelio conducted by Daniel Barenboim and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in the 2013/2014 season.
Awards and nominations
- 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director – Titus Andronicus
- 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director of a Play – Hedda Gabler
- 1992 Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
- 1997 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – The Waste Land
- 2003 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Medea
- 2003 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Medea
- 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Happy Days
|1980||The Good Person of Szechwan||Kick Theatre Company: Oxford|
|1981||Woyzeck||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe|
|1982||Woyzeck||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe|
|1983||The Tempest||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe|
|1984||Measure for Measure||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe|
|1984||The Tempest||Contact Theatre, Manchester|
|1985||Measure for Measure||Kick Theatre Company: Glasgow Mayfest; Hemel Hempstead; British Council tour, Israel Festival; Bridge Lane Theatre, London; Wells-next-the Sea|
|1985||King Lear||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe; Almeida Theatre, London; British Council tour, Yugoslavia and Egypt|
|1986||Coriolanus||Kick Theatre Company: Edinburgh Fringe; Almeida Theatre, London|
|1987||Titus Andronicus||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Swan, Stratford|
|1987||The Tempest||British Council tour, Bangladesh|
|1988||King John||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Other Place, Stratford|
|1988||Electra||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Pit, Barbican Centre, London|
|1988||Titus Andronicus||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Pit, Barbican Centre, London|
|1989||Titus Andronicus||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Pit, Barbican Centre, London; Madrid; Bouffes du Nord, Paris; Copenhagen; Aarhus|
|1989||King John||Royal Shakespeare Company: The Pit, Barbican Centre, London|
|1989||The Good Person of Szechwan||National Theatre, London|
|1990||King Lear||National Theatre, London: Tokyo; Nottingham; Cardiff; Leeds; Belfast; Schauspielhaus, Hamburg; Teatro Lirico, Milan; Odéon, Paris; Opera House, Cork; Opera House, Cairo|
|1991||King Lear||National Theatre, London; National Theatre, Prague; National Theatre, Bucharest; Schauspielhaus, Leipzig; Edinburgh|
|1991||Hedda Gabler||Abbey Theatre, Dublin and Playhouse Theatre, London|
|1991||Electra||Royal Shakespeare Company / Thelma Holt: MC 93 Bobigny, Paris; Derry; Tramway, Glasgow; Bradford|
|1993||Wozzeck||Opera North; Leeds; Manchester; Nottingham; Hull; Sheffield|
|1993||Coriolanus||Salzburg Festival: Felsenreitchule|
|1994||Footfalls||Garrick Theatre, London|
|1994||Coriolanus||Salzburg Festival: Felsenreitchule|
|1995||Richard II||National Theatre, London|
|1995||The Waste Land||Kunsten Festival, Brussels; Dublin Theatre Festival|
|1995||The St Pancras Project||St Pancras Chambers, London|
|1996||Richard II||MC93 Bobigny and Pernel Insel, Salzburg Festival|
|1996||The Waste Land||Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Gooderham and Worts Factory, Toronto; Rialto Cinema, Montreal; Liberty Theatre, New York|
|1996||Wozzeck||Opera North: Leeds, Manchester; Nottingham; Hull; and Sheffield|
|1997||The Waste Land||Liberty Theatre, New York; Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork; Wilton's Music Hall, London|
|1997||Jeanne d'Arc au Bucher||BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall, London|
|1997||The Turn of the Screw||Royal Opera: Barbican Centre, London|
|1997||Une Maison de Poupee||Odéon, Paris|
|1998||The Waste Land||Wilton’s Music Hall, London; MC93 Bobigny, Paris; Royalty Theatre, Adelaide; Brighton Festival|
|1998||The Turn of the Screw||Royal Opera: MC 93 Bobigny, Paris|
|1999||The Last September||Film|
|1999||The Diary of One who Vanished||English National Opera: Coliseum, London; Dublin Theatre Festival; MC 93 Bobigny, Paris|
|1999||The Angel Project||London International Festival of Theatre|
|1999||The Diary of One who Vanished||English National Opera: National Theatre, London|
|2000||The Angel Project||Perth International Arts Festival|
|2000||The Waste Land||His Majesty's Theatre, Perth|
|2000||Medea||Abbey Theatre, Dublin|
|2000||St John Passion||English National Opera; London Coliseum|
|2000||The diary of one who vanished||English National Opera: Stadsschouwburg, Holland Festival; Musiktheater, Munich|
|2001||The Waste Land||Bergen International Festival|
|2001||Medea||Queen’s Theatre, London|
|2001||The diary of one who vanished||English National Opera: Lincoln Center, New York|
|2001||Fidelio||Glyndebourne: BBC Proms, Woking; Norwich; Milton Keynes; Plymouth; Oxford; Stoke-on Trent|
|2002||The Power Book||National Theatre, London|
|2002||Fidelio||Théâtre du Chatelet, Paris|
|2002||The Turn of the Screw||Royal Opera House, London|
|2002||Medea||Abbey Theatre and Extremetaste: Brooklyn Academy of Music; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Wilbur Theatre, Boston; Kennedy Center, Washington DC; Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley|
|2003||Medea||Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York; Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris|
|2003||The Angel Project||Lincoln Center Festival, New York|
|2003||The Power Book||National Theatre: Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris; RomaEuropa, Rome|
|2004||Small Wonder||Charleston Festival|
|2004||The Rape of Lucretia||Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich|
|2005||Julius Caesar||Barbican Theatre, London; Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris; Teatro Espanol, Madrid; Luxembourg|
|2005||Readings||Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris|
|2006||Dido and Aeneas||Wiener Festwochen, Vienna|
|2006||La Voix Humane||Opera North: Leeds; Salford; Nottingham; Sadler’s Wells, London; Newcastle|
|2006||Readings||Sala Umberto, RomaEuropa Festival|
|2007||Happy Days||National Theatre, London: Holland Festival, Amsterdam; Théâtre de Chaillot, Paris; Epidavros; Abbey Theatre, Dublin; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York|
|2007||Death in Venice||English National Opera: London Coliseum|
|2007||Readings||Holland Festival, Amsterdam|
|2008||Dido and Aeneas||Opéra Comique, Paris|
|2009||Mother Courage and Her Children||National Theatre, London|
|2009||The Waste Land||Wilton’s Music Hall, London|
|2009||Death in Venice||La Monnaie, Brussels|
|2009||Dido and Aeneas||Wiener Festwochen, Vienna and Netherlands Opera, Amsterdam|
|2009||Messiah||English National Opera: London Coliseum|
|2010||The Waste Land||Madrid Festival|
|2011||Death in Venice||Teatro alla Scala, Milan|
|2011||Eugene Onegin||English National Opera: London Coliseum|
|2011||The School for Scandal||Barbican Theatre|
|2012||Dido and Aeneas||Opéra Comique, Paris|
|2012||La Traviata||Wiener Festwochen, Vienna|
|2012||Messiah||Opéra de Lyon|
|2012||Peace Camp||London 2012 Cultural Olympics, UK: Cuckmere Haven, Sussex; Godrevy, Cornwall; Camaes, Anglesey; White Park Bay, Co Antrim; Mussenden Temple, Co Londonderry; Valtos, Isle of Lewis; Fort Diddes, Aberdeenshire; Dusntanburgh, Northumberland|
|2013||Testament of Mary||Walter Kerr Theater, New York|
|2013||Eugene Onegin||Metropolitan Opera, New York|
|2014||Testament of Mary||Barbican Theatre, London|
|2014||Fidelio||Teatro alla Scala, Milan|
|2015||Between Worlds||English National Opera: Barbican Theatre, London|
|2016||The Tempest (Der Sturm)||Salzburg Festival: Perner Insel|
|2016||King Lear||The Old Vic, London|
|2017||Billy Budd||Teatro Real, Madrid|
|2017||Testament of Mary||Comédie-Francaise: Odéon, Paris|
|2017||Eugene Onegin||Metropolitan Opera, New York|
|2018||Billy Budd||Teatro Costanzi, Rome|
|2018||Fidelio||Teatro alla Scala, Milan|
|2018||La Traviata||Le Theatre Champs Elysees, Paris|
- "Deborah Warner Biography". filmreference. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
- "Profile: Disturbing the picnic: Deborah Warner: The director who shocked Glyndebourne is bold, emotional but no iconoclast, says Geraldine Bedell" by Geraldine Bedell, The Independent, 17 July 1994
- "Deborah Warner". Hollywood.com. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Peter, John. "Richard II Review". The Sunday Times.
- "A catalogue of unspeakable acts: In Deborah Warner's staging, Don Giovanni's sexual conquests only just stop short of sacrilege. No wonder it upset a few of the Glyndebourne faithful. Edward Seckerson heard the catcalls" by Edward Seckerson, The Independent, 12 July 1994
- "Deborah Warner (1959-), Theatre and film director". National Portrait Gallery, London. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
- Bach Track: Billy Budd in Madrid, retrieved on November 1, 2016
- "No. 58014". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2006. p. 8.