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Declan Donnellan

“Declan Donnellan – Irish in origin, English in education, European in culture, universal in thought – is one of the most original directors there is”

Le Figaro


Declan Donnellan is joint Artistic Director of Cheek by Jowl, with his partner, the designer Nick Ormerod. They formed Cheek by Jowl in 1981, for which they have created over 40 productions, performing in over 400 cities, across six continents.

Donnellan has staged the English premieres, 300 years after their writing, of major European classics by writers such as Racine, Corneille, Lessing and Ostrovski.

Rehearsal photo
Declan Donnellan. Photograph: Johan Persson.
Read the full biography

Declan Donnellan was born in England of Irish parents in 1953. He grew up in London and read English and Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, before being called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1978.

Cheek by Jowl’s first production, The Country Wife, directed by Donnellan, was presented at the Edinburgh festival in 1981. In 1989, he was made Associate Director of the Royal National Theatre in London where his productions have included Fuenteovejuna by Lope De Vega, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim, The Mandate by Nikolai Erdman and both parts of Angels in America by Tony Kushner.

Donnellan has directed for the Avignon Festival (Le Cid); The Maly Drama Theatre of Saint Petersburg (The Winter’s Tale), The Noel Coward Theatre (Shakespeare in Love), the Piccolo Teatro Milano (The Revenger’s Tragedy) as well as the opera Falstaff for the Salzburg Festival and the ballets Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet for the Bolshoi in Moscow.

He has written a play, Lady Betty, and translated works by De Musset, Erdman, Sophocles and Lermontov. He has received awards in London, Moscow, Paris and New York, including four Olivier Awards, the Order of Charlemagne of Andorra, the Stanislavski International Prize in Moscow and the Golden Lion of Venice.

His first feature film, Bel Ami, co-directed with Nick Ormerod, and starring Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci, and Robert Pattinson, was released in 2012.

His book, The Actor and the Target, was originally published in Russian (1999), and has since appeared in 15 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Romanian and Mandarin. The third French and fourth English edition were published in 2018.

Complete list of works
DateProductionPlaywrightProduced by
1981The Country WifeWycherleyCheek by Jowl
1982OthelloShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1983Vanity FairThackerayCheek by Jowl
1984PericlesShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1985The Man of ModeEtheregeCheek by Jowl
1985BentShermanNorthcott Theatre
1985A Midsummer Night’s DreamShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1985A Masked BallVerdiOpera 80
1985AndromacheRacineCheek by Jowl
1986Twelfth NightShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1986The CidCorneilleCheek by Jowl
1986Romeo and JulietShakespeareNew Shakespeare Company
1987Macbeth ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1988A Family Affair OstrovskyCheek by Jowl *
1988Philoctetes SophoclesCheek by Jowl
1988The Tempest ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1989Lady Betty DonnellanCheek by Jowl *
1989Fuente Ovejunade VegaNational Theatre
1990SaraLessingCheek by Jowl *
1990Peer GyntIbsenNational Theatre
1991Hamlet ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1991Big FishDonnellanA short film
1992Angels in America: Part One KushnerNational Theatre
1992 As You Like It ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1993The Blind Mende GhelderodeCheek by Jowl *
1993Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet StreetSondheim & WheelerNational Theatre
1993Don’t Fool With Love de MussetCheek by Jowl
1993Angels in America: Part Two KushnerNational Theatre
1994The Rise and Fall of the City of MahagonnyWeill & BrechtEnglish National Opera
1994Measure for Measure ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1995As You Like It (revival)ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1996The Duchess of Malfi WebsterCheek by Jowl
1997Out Cry Tennesse WilliamsCheek by Jowl *
1997The Winter’s TaleShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1997Martin GuerreBoublil & SchonbergPrince Edward Theatre
1998Much Ado About NothingShakespeareCheek by Jowl
1998Le Cid CorneilleAvignon Festival
1999AntigoneSophoclesOld Vic Theatre
1999Hay FeverCowardSavoy Theatre
1999The School for ScandalSheridanRoyal Shakespeare Company
2000Boris GodunovPushkinChekhov International Theatre Festival with Cheek by Jowl
2001FalstaffVerdiThe Salzburg Festival
2002Homebody/KabulKushnerCheek by Jowl *
2002King LearShakespeareRoyal Shakespeare Company Academy
2003Twelfth Night ShakespeareChekhov International Theatre Festival with Cheek by Jowl
2004Othello ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2004Romeo and JulietShakespeareThe Bolshoi Ballet
2004The MandateErdmanNational Theatre
2005Three SistersChekhovChekhov International Theatre Festival with Cheek by Jowl
2005Great ExpectationsDickensRoyal Shakespeare Company
2006The ChangelingMiddleton & RowleyCheek by Jowl
2007Cymbeline ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2007Andromaque RacineBouffes du Nord with Cheek by Jowl
2008Troilus and CressidaShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2009Macbeth ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2011The Tempest ShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2011‘Tis Pity She’s A WhoreFordChekhov International Theatre Festival with Cheek by Jowl
2012Bel AmiMaupassantFeature Film
2013Ubu Roi JarryCheek by Jowl
2013Measure for MeasureShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2014Shakespeare in LoveLee HallNoël Coward Theatre
2015HamletShakespeareThe Bolshoi Ballet
2016The Winter’s TaleShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2018Périclès, Prince de TyrShakespeareCheek by Jowl
2018The Revenger’s TragedyMiddletonPiccolo Teatro Milano
2019The Knight of the Burning PestleBeaumontCheek by Jowl

The dates represent the year each production premiered
* British première

“Cheek by Jowl brings fresh life to the classics using intense vivid performances like a laser of light to set the text ablaze.”

The Guardian

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