Dear graduated with a degree in Comparative European Literature from the University of Essex in 1977.
Dear’s plays include Power and The Villains’ Opera at the National Theatre; The Art of Success, Zenobia and Pure Science for the RSC; In the Ruins at Bristol Old Vic and Royal Court, London (1990); and Food of Love at the Almeida. Adaptations include Gorky’s Summerfolk and Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme at the National; Tirso de Molina’s The Last Days of Don Juan at the Royal Shakespeare Company; Arbuzov’s The Promise at the Tricycle; Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw at Bristol Old Vic; and Ostrovsky’s A Family Affair for Cheek by Jowl. Dear's screenplays include Persuasion, The Gambler, The Turn of the Screw, Cinderella, Byron, Eroica and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. Opera libretti include The Palace in the Sky at Hackney Empire and Siren Song at the Almeida.
In 2005, Lunch in Venice appeared at the Shell Connections festival at the National Theatre. His plays Power (2003), and Summerfolk (1999) both premiered at the same venue. Power deals with the intrigue and tension of the court of the young Louis XIV of France. It has been produced at theatres in Portugal, Poland and Hungary, as well as the Finnish National Theatre (Kansallisteatteri).
His play The Art of Success premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1986 in a production starring Penny Downie and Michael Kitchen, and was nominated for an Olivier Award. The plot revolves around William Hogarth and the political manipulation of art, the corruption of politics and treatment of women. It was subsequently produced at Manhattan Theatre Club in 1989, with Tim Curry playing Hogarth.
- Rich, Frank (December 21, 1989) "Review/Theater; 'Art of Success' Makes Hogarth The Warhol of the 18th Century" The New York Times
- Details of Danny Boyle's production of Nick Dear's Frankenstein "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-02-23. Retrieved 2012-02-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)