Duncan Macmillan (playwright)

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Duncan Macmillan
OccupationPlaywright and director
Notable worksLungs
People, Places and Things
Every Brilliant Thing

Duncan Macmillan is an English playwright and director. He is most noted for his plays Lungs, People, Places and Things, Every Brilliant Thing and the stage adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which he co-adapted and co-directed with Robert Icke.


Macmillan first rose to prominence through the Bruntwood Playwriting Competition at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, winning two awards in its inaugural year for his play Monster, which was also nominated for a TMA Best New Play Award and a Manchester Evening News Best New Play Award.[citation needed]

Major plays[edit]

Many of Macmillan's major plays take as their central theme a contemporary socio-political issue: Lungs explores parenthood, People, Places and Things addiction and recovery, and Every Brilliant Thing considers the issue of suicidality.


His play Lungs was first produced at the Studio Theatre in Washington DC and has subsequently been performed around the world, receiving its German-language premiere as 'Atmen' at the Schaubühne where it entered the repertory, directed by Katie Mitchell. Lungs has also premiered in South Africa as "Longe" in 2016 at the Vrystaat Kunstefees, winning the award for Best Upcoming Talent. The British production of the play, starring Kate O'Flynn under the direction of Richard Wilson won a Best New Play award at 2013's Off West End Awards.[1]

People, Places and Things[edit]

Macmillan's play People, Places and Things opened at the National Theatre in a co-production with Headlong Theatre Company in 2015, and was nominated for Best New Play at the Olivier Awards. It transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in 2016 and will transfer to St Ann's Warehouse in New York in 2017. It was directed by Jeremy Herrin and starred Denise Gough, who won the Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in 2016.[2]

The play is a harrowing look at drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. Its writing was prompted by Macmillan's desire to write a leading part for an actress: he has said he "wrote this play believing very strongly that there were a lot of brilliant actresses who just weren't getting parts that would push them and that they could excel in."[3] Gough's performance met with widespread critical acclaim.[4]

Every Brilliant Thing[edit]

Every Brilliant Thing was produced by Paines Plough and Pentabus, enjoyed sold-out runs at three consecutive Edinburgh Festivals and continues to tour worldwide. During its run at the Barrow Street Theatre in New York, it was filmed for broadcast on HBO. It is an interactive monologue, performed with audience participation. Its original performer was the comedian Jonny Donahoe.

Macmillan has described his reasons for writing the play as to communicate to people "You’re not alone, you’re not weird, you will get through it, and you’ve just got to hold on. That’s a very uncool, unfashionable thing for someone to say, but I really mean it. I didn’t see anyone discussing suicidal depression in a useful or interesting or accurate way."[5]


Macmillan co-adapted and co-directed with Robert Icke a theatrical version of George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, a production that has toured the U.K. and Internationally, had three runs in the West End and played on Broadway in the summer of 2017. As co-director with Robert Icke, Macmillan was awarded a UK Theatre Best Director award.

Collaboration with Katie Mitchell[edit]

British director Katie Mitchell has directed several of Macmillan's plays. Their collaborations include a play at the Royal Court Theatre entitled 2071, which Macmillan later co-authored as a book on climate science with Professor Chris Rapley.[6] Macmillan's play The Forbidden Zone premiered at the Salzburg Festival before entering the repertoire of the Schaubuehne Berlin and transferring to London's Barbican Theatre.[7]

Their collaborations have been invited to Theatertreffen, Festival D'Avignon and awarded the Nestroy Theatre Prize. They also collaborated on the film Unseen, produced by Warp and Film 4.[8]

His collaboration with Mitchell led to his meeting Leo Warner, the video designer who directed Macmillan's adaptation of City of Glass in 2017.


  1. ^ Love, Catherine (2014-09-23). "Duncan Macmillan: theatre at its best is an intervention". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  2. ^ "Best Actress: Denise Gough". www.olivierawards.com. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  3. ^ "In Conversation with playwright Duncan Macmillan". London Theatre Guide. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  4. ^ "People, Places and Things – review round-up | Opinion | The Stage". The Stage. 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  5. ^ Love, Catherine (2014-09-23). "Duncan Macmillan: theatre at its best is an intervention". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  6. ^ "Katie Mitchell and Duncan Macmillan on 2071 | Matt Trueman". matttrueman.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  7. ^ "Reise durch die Nacht – Schauspiel Köln". postcardsgods.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-07-16.
  8. ^ Thomson, Chloe. "Unseen". chloethomson.com.

External links[edit]