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Nicholas Hytner

Sir Nicholas Hytner
Born Nicholas Robert Hytner
(1956-05-07) 7 May 1956 [1][2]
Didsbury, Manchester, England[2][3]
Occupation Theatre director and producer

Sir Nicholas Robert Hytner (born 7 May 1956) is a theatre and film director. He was previously the Artistic Director of London's National Theatre. His major successes while director include Miss Saigon, The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Early career 2.1
    • Miss Saigon and the 1990s 2.2
    • Director of the National Theatre 2.3
    • Opera and film 2.4
  • Appointments and honours 3
  • Personal life 4
  • Work 5
    • Theatre productions 5.1
    • Opera productions 5.2
  • Films 6
    • As director 6.1
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Hytner was born in the prosperous suburbs of south Manchester in 1956,[4] to barrister Benet Hytner and his wife, Joyce.[5] He is the eldest child of four,[4] and has described his upbringing as being in "a typical Jewish, cultured family".[4]

He attended Manchester Grammar School[2][5][6] and went to University at Trinity Hall, Cambridge,[2] where he studied English.[6] He did some acting whilst at University, including co-scripting and performing in a televised production of the 1977 Cambridge Footlights Revue.[5] However, Hytner did not consider acting his strong point. "I think I was savvy enough when I went to Cambridge to discover I was a poor actor," he said later.[5] He also did some directing, including a production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.[3]


Early career

After leaving Cambridge, Hytner's first "proper paid job" was as assistant to Colin Graham at English National Opera.[7] Some of his earliest professional directing work was in opera, including at Kent Opera, Wexford Festival Opera and a production of Rienzi at English National Opera. His first theatre productions were at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter.[6][8] He then directed a series of productions at the Leeds Playhouse, including The Ruling Class by Peter Barnes, an adaptation of Tom Jones and a musical version of Alice in Wonderland.[6][9] In 1985 he became an Associate Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester,[6] a position he retained until 1989.[2]

Miss Saigon and the 1990s

Hytner was hired by producer Cameron Mackintosh to direct Miss Saigon, the next work from Les Misérables creators Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. "I had seen several of Nick's opera productions – Handel's 'Xerxes' and Mozart's 'Magic Flute' – as well as some of his classical plays, and he has a marvellously visual point of view," Mackintosh said.[10] For Hytner, "It just felt like a huge lark... It was gigantic, and I was into gigantic at the time, so I threw everything I knew at it. It was big, honest, moving, brash, kind of crazy. I had no idea that it would take off."[4]

Hytner's London production of Miss Saigon opened on 20 September 1989, and closed on 30 October 1999 after just over ten years, on its 4,274th performance, having grossed more than £150 million in ticket sales during its London run.[11] Hytner also directed the New York production, where the show recouped its $10.9m investment in 39 weeks.[7] The show, at New York's Broadway Theatre, opened on 11 April 1991 and closed on 28 January 2001 after 4,092 performances.[12]

Hytner was on a percentage for both London and New York productions, allowing him (then aged 34) to never need worry about money again.[7] "It was a huge– a massive stroke of fortune," he said in 2010. "It meant that thereafter I only needed to do what I wanted to do."[4]

What Hytner did was to continue directing theatre and opera, including several productions at London's

External links

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Sir Nicholas Hytner Authorised Biography", Debrett's People of Today. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Fiachra Gibbons, "The Guardian profile: Nicholas Hytner", The Guardian, 26 September 2003. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Hytner, Nicholas (1956–) Biography", BFI. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Andrew Dickson, "A life in theatre: Nicholas Hytner", The Guardian, 16 October 2010. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Paul Harris, "A Knight At The Theater – But Just Call Him Nick", Jewish Telegraph . Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Nicholas Hytner", United Agents. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
  7. ^ a b c David Benedict, "What I would do as head of the National", The Guardian, 7 May 2001. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Graham Hoadly Presents". Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  9. ^ Robin Thornber, "Alice – Press Reviews", The Guardian, 24 March 1984. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  10. ^ a b Hilary de Vries, "Theater; From The Paris Sewers To Vietnam's Streets", The New York Times , 17 September 1989. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Last Chance to See Miss Saigon & Rent",, 28 October 1999. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  12. ^ a b "Miss Saigon", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  13. ^ David Gritten, "Late-Blooming Nigel Hawthorne Enjoys 'Madness' of King-Size Role in Hytner's Film", Los Angeles Times, 8 January 1995. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  14. ^ a b c "National Theatre Update", National Theatre, May 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  15. ^ Vanessa Thorpe, "Profile: Nicholas Hytner", The Observer, 30 March 2003. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  16. ^ "BBC News | Arts | Hytner appointment welcomed", BBC News, 25 September 2001. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  17. ^ "History FAQs", National Theatre. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  18. ^ a b c "Director of the National Theatre", National Theatre. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  19. ^ a b c d e "NT Future", National Theatre, October 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  20. ^ "Nicholas Hytner Announces His Date of Departure from National Theatre". National Theatre. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  21. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (10 April 2013). "Sir Nicholas Hytner to step down as National Theatre artistic director". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2014. 
  22. ^ "The Magic Flute at ENO", BSECS, 13 October 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Opera Europa :: Address by Nicholas Hytner", Opera Europa. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  24. ^ "Board of Trustees < About", Royal Opera House. Retrieved 2012-11-04.
  25. ^ "Patrons", HighTide Festival Theatre. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Sir Nicholas Hytner", Shakespeare Schools Festival. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Our Patrons", Dance UK. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Patrons", Action for Children's Arts. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  29. ^ "Trustees and Patrons", Pan Arts. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  30. ^ "Prisoners' Penfriends", Prisoners' Penfriends. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  31. ^ "Hall Man Receives Knighthood in New Years Honours List 2010", Trinity Hall, 4 January 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  32. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59282. p. 1. 31 December 2009. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  33. ^ "Joyce Hytner", National Campaign for the Arts. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  34. ^ "ABOUT THE OLD VIC". Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  35. ^ a b c d e f "Royal Exchange Theatre Play Finder", Royal Exchange Theatre. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  36. ^ "1985 | Chichester Festival Theatre", Chichester Festival Theatre. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  37. ^ "Tempest, The, Hytner/Fielding, Royal Shakespeare Company, July 1988", Arts and Humanities Data Service. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  38. ^ "Measure for Measure, Hytner/Thompson, Royal Shakespeare Company, October 1988", Arts and Humanities Data Service. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre", National Theatre. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  40. ^ "King Lear, Hytner/Fielding, Royal Shakespeare Company, May 1991", Arts and Humanities Data Service. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  41. ^ "Carousel", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  42. ^ "", Lincoln Center Theater. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  43. ^ "Twelfth Night", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  44. ^ "Sweet Smell of Success", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  45. ^ "The History Boys", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  46. ^ "One Man, Two Guvnors", IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  47. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Nicholas Hytner Oxford Reference", Oxford Reference. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Nicholas Hytner | Artists", Askonas Holt. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  49. ^ "About Rosamund", Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  50. ^ "Don Giovanni (1994) ", Bavarian State Opera. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  51. ^ "Così fan tutte", Glyndebourne. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  52. ^ a b William Berger, "New Production: Don Carlo", The Metropolitan Opera. Retrieved 3 November 2012.


Year Title Notes
1994 The Madness of King George BAFTA Award for Best British FilmAlexander Korda, Award for Best British Film
Evening Standard British Film Awards – Best Film
Nominated – Cannes Film FestivalPalme d'Or
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Film
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Direction
1996 The Crucible Nominated – Berlin International Film FestivalGolden Bear
1998 The Object of My Affection Nominated – GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Wide Release
2000 Center Stage
2006 The History Boys Nominated – GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release
2015 The Lady in the Van

As director


Opera produced by Nicholas Hytner
House Opera Composer First production Notes
Kent Opera The Turn of the Screw Benjamin Britten 1979 [47]
Kent Opera The Marriage of Figaro Mozart 1981 [47][48]
Wexford Festival Opera Sakùntala Franco Alfano 1982 [49]
Kent Opera King Priam Michael Tippett 1983 [1][47][48]
English National Opera Rienzi Wagner 1983 [1][6][47][48]
English National Opera Xerxes Handel 1985 [1][47][48]
Paris Opéra Giulio Cesare Handel 1987 [1][6][48]
Royal Opera Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan (The King Goes Forth To France) Aulis Sallinen 1987 [6][47][48]
Royal Opera The Knot Garden Michael Tippett 1988 [6][47][48]
English National Opera The Magic Flute Mozart 1988 [1][6][47]
Grand Théâtre de Genève Le Nozze di Figaro Mozart 1989 [1][48]
Glyndebourne La clemenza di Tito Mozart 1991 [1][47][48]
English National Opera The Force of Destiny Verdi 1992 [1][6][47][48]
Bavarian State Opera, Munich Don Giovanni Mozart 1994 [48][50]
Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris The Cunning Little Vixen Janáček 1995 [48]
English National Opera Xerxes Handel 2002 [1]
Glyndebourne Così fan tutte Mozart 2006 [47][51]
Royal Opera Don Carlo Verdi 2008 [52]
Metropolitan Opera Don Carlo Verdi 2010 [52]

Opera productions

Plays directed by Nicholas Hytner
Play Author Theatre Opening date Closing date Notes
Absurd Person Singular Alan Ayckbourn Northcott Theatre, Exeter September 24, 1982 [8]
Jumpers Tom Stoppard Royal Exchange, Manchester March 1, 1984 April 7, 1984 [35]
The Scarlet Pimpernel Baroness Orczy, revised by Beverley Cross Chichester Festival Theatre 1985 [36]
As You Like It William Shakespeare Royal Exchange, Manchester January 9, 1986 February 15, 1986 [35]
Mumbo Jumbo Robin Glendinning Royal Exchange, Manchester May 8, 1986 May 31, 1986 World premiere.[35]
Edward II Christopher Marlowe Royal Exchange, Manchester October 23, 1986 November 22, 1986 [35]
The Country Wife William Wycherley Royal Exchange, Manchester December 18, 1986 January 24, 1987 [35]
Don Carlos Friedrich Schiller, translated by James Maxwell Royal Exchange, Manchester September 10, 1987 October 10, 1987 [35]
The Tempest William Shakespeare Royal Shakespeare Theatre July 27, 1988 A Royal Shakespeare Company production.[37]
Measure for Measure William Shakespeare Barbican Theatre October 10, 1988 A Royal Shakespeare Company production.[38]
Ghetto Joshua Sobol National Theatre April 27, 1989 November 9, 1989 Winner of the 1989 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Director (for both Ghetto and Miss Saigon).[39]
Volpone Ben Jonson Almeida Theatre 1990
The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Alan Bennett National Theatre December 12, 1990 June 1, 1991 [39]
Miss Saigon Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. Drury Lane September 20, 1989 October 30, 1999 Also at The Broadway Theatre in New York from March 1991 to January 2001.Winner of the 1989 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Director (for both Miss Saigon and Ghetto).[10][12]
King Lear William Shakespeare Barbican Theatre May 1, 1991 A Royal Shakespeare Company production.[40]
The Madness of George III Alan Bennett National Theatre November 28, 1991 October 24, 1992 [39]
The Recruiting Officer George Farquhar National Theatre March 12, 1992 [39]
Carousel Rodgers and Hammerstein National Theatre December 10, 1992 Also at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, New York from February 1994 to January 1995. Won 1993 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director of a Musical, 1994 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical and 1994 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical.[39][41]
The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde Aldwych Theatre 1993
The Cripple of Inishmaan Martin McDonagh National Theatre January 7, 1997 [39]
Twelfth Night William Shakespeare Vivian Beaumont Theater, Lincoln Center, New York July 16, 1998 August 30, 1998 A performance of this production was broadcast live on PBS's "Live from Lincoln Center".[42][43]
The Lady in the Van Alan Bennett Queen's Theatre 1999
Orpheus Descending Tennessee Williams Donmar Warehouse 2000
Cressida Nicholas Wright Albery Theatre 2000
The Winter's Tale William Shakespeare National Theatre May 23, 2001 August 16, 2001 [39]
Mother Clap's Molly House Mark Ravenhill National Theatre September 4, 2001 [39]
Sweet Smell of Success Music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Craig Carnelia, book by John Guare, based on the film Martin Beck Theatre, Broadway March 14, 2002 June 15, 2002 [44]
Henry V William Shakespeare National Theatre May 13, 2003 August 20, 2003 [39]
His Dark Materials Adapted by Nicholas Wright, based on the novels by Philip Pullman National Theatre December 20, 2003 The books were adapted in two parts that were performed alternately.[39]
The History Boys Alan Bennett National Theatre: Lyttelton Theatre May 18, 2004 April 26, 2005 Also at the National's Olivier Theatre from 5 December 2005, and at the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway from April to October 2006. Won 2005 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director, 2006 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play and 2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play.[39][45]
Stuff Happens David Hare National Theatre September 10, 2004 November 6, 2004 [39]
Henry IV, Part 1 William Shakespeare National Theatre May 4, 2005 August 31, 2005 [39]
Henry IV, Part 2 William Shakespeare National Theatre May 4, 2005 [39]
Southwark Fair Samuel Adamson National Theatre February 16, 2006 [39]
The Alchemist Ben Jonson National Theatre September 14, 2006 November 21, 2006 [39]
The Man of Mode George Etherege National Theatre February 6, 2007 April 19, 2007 [39]
Rafta, Rafta... Ayub Khan-Din, based on All in Good Time by Bill Naughton National Theatre April 26, 2007 November 10, 2007 [39]
Much Ado About Nothing William Shakespeare National Theatre December 10, 2007 March 29, 2008 [39]
Major Barbara George Bernard Shaw National Theatre February 26, 2008 July 3, 2008 [39]
England People Very Nice Richard Bean National Theatre February 11, 2009 August 9, 2009
Phèdre Jean Racine National Theatre June 12, 2009 August 27, 2009
The Habit of Art Alan Bennett National Theatre November 17, 2009 May 19, 2010
London Assurance Dion Boucicault National Theatre March 10, 2010 June 29, 2010
Hamlet William Shakespeare National Theatre September 30, 2010 January 26, 2011
One Man, Two Guvnors Richard Bean National Theatre May 24, 2011 September 19, 2011 Also at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway from April to September 2012.[46]
Collaborators John Hodge National Theatre: Cottesloe Theatre November 1, 2011 March 31, 2012 Also at the National's Olivier Theatre from 2 May to 23 June 2012.
Travelling Light Nicholas Wright National Theatre January 2012
Timon of Athens William Shakespeare National Theatre July 17, 2012 November 1, 2012
Othello William Shakespeare National Theatre April 23, 2013 October 5, 2013
Great Britain Richard Bean National Theatre June 30, 2014 August 23, 2014 Transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Theatre productions


Hytner's mother, The Old Vic, the Criterion Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and Historic Royal Palaces.[4][33][34]

Hytner is gay.[4] Although brought up in a Jewish household, Hytner said in 2010, "I'm not a believer, but I do think it is a significant part of my adventure and it fascinates me. I couldn't say I'm a member of the Jewish community or gay community in that I don't seek out either of those communities to hang out with, but it is an important part of who I believe myself to [be]."[5]

Personal life

In Spring 2014, the Royal Northern College of Music announced it was to confer Honorary Membership of the College upon Hytner.

Hytner was knighted in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to drama.[32]

He was elected an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, in 2005,[31] and was Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University in 2000–01.[2]

Hytner is on the Board of Trustees of the Royal Opera House.[24] He is a patron of many organisations including HighTide Festival Theatre,[25] the Shakespeare Schools Festival,[26] Dance UK,[27] Action for Children's Arts,[28] Pan Intercultural Arts[29] and Prisoners' Penfriends.[30]

Appointments and honours

Similarly, most of Hytner's films have achieved critical and commercial success, with The Madness of King George winning BAFTA and Evening Standard awards for best British film, but he still sees himself as primarily a theatre practitioner. "I think I'm a theatre director who does other stuff," he has said. "I can't see myself as a film-maker. I love doing opera when ever I've done it, but I always see myself as visiting from the theatre, which is where I belong. The real film-maker thinks with a camera, which is something I just can't do."[5]

Hytner has worked extensively in opera, with many of his productions achieving critical acclaim and commercial success – his English National Opera staging of The Magic Flute was in repertory for 25 years.[22] But Hytner has described himself (to an opera-related audience) as "someone who is unimpressed by his own work on the operatic stage".[23]

Opera and film

Hytner stated as early as 2010 that he did not wish to stay as head of the National indefinitely, saying, "I've been here seven years. My predecessors have averaged 12. It's important that someone else comes in and shakes it up again so I won't be here in 10 years, that's for sure."[5] In April 2013, he announced that he would step down as Director of the National Theatre at the end of March 2015.[20][21] In his role as Director of National Theatre, he appeared on the Cultural Exchange as part of the Radio Four programme Front Row, where he chose The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart as his work of art.

Hytner's latest innovation is NT Future, a £70 million scheme (of which £59 million had been raised at October 2012)[19] to open up the National's building and to contribute to the regeneration of the South Bank, to transform facilities for education and participation, and to keep ahead of new technologies and the changing needs of theatre artists and audiences.[19]

Hytner has said that this diversity is a consequence of the theatre's direction rather than the motivation for it. "I think our repertoire is more diverse than it's ever been," he said, "and I think that reflects a more diverse society and a more diverse audience. The aim, though, was not to go out and find a diverse audience but for the repertoire to reflect a greater diversity in our culture."[18] He has also said: "The rep[ertoire] should reflect the world we're part of, and it should put the society in which we live in the context of the past and, as far as we can, of the wider world."[18]

Under Hytner's directorship, the National has innovated with Sunday openings,[19] live cinema broadcasts of NT plays around the world, National Theatre Live,[19] and perhaps most notably, with its reduced price ticket seasons. These seasons, sponsored by Travelex, have offered large numbers of reduced price seats (for £10 when the scheme was introduced in 2003,[2] with prices rising to £12 from 2011).[19] The reduced price seasons were credited with achieving high usage for the Olivier auditorium – between 90% and 100% full during the summer months compared to a historic average of 65%, with no loss in overall income,[2] and with encouraging a younger and more diverse audience.[2] In 2003 it was reported that one third of the audience for the multiracial production of Henry V in modern dress (directed by Hytner) had never been to the theatre before,[2] and that a large section of the audience for the drama Elmina's Kitchen were black east Londoners new to the National.[2]

Hytner's role as Director of the National involves decisions about what plays are staged. "Essentially what I do is produce 20 shows a year here," he stated in one interview.[5] "To produce as opposed to direct, as I generate the ideas, generate the repertoire. What I do is put together the team that are going to stage the repertoire together then stand back and come in at a later stage to see how it's all going."[5] (Hytner does also direct plays himself at the National, and all his theatre work since 2003 has originated there.) But his role is also about the overall direction of the National Theatre as an organisation. "It would be wrong to say that I confine myself only to the repertoire – I don't. I think how we allocate our resources, exactly what we spend money on, is always an artistic decision. I think the amount of attention we give to what goes on in the foyers, what goes on outside, how the building looks at night, the amount of attention we give to our education work and our website are all artistic matters. They all stem from a sense of the artistic direction of the organization."[18]

When Trevor Nunn announced that he would be leaving the National Theatre, Hytner "really felt that this time I had a strong sense of what the NT should be doing under a new Director. I had a long conversation with Christopher Hogg, then Chairman of the NT Board, and Tom Stoppard about my ideas for the NT's future. These included a redefinition of how it might be possible to use the theatre spaces and opening up the NT to new audiences by lowering prices for some performances."[14] Hytner was successful in his application for the post, and his appointment as Director was announced in September 2001.[16] He took over from Nunn in April 2003.[17]

Director of the National Theatre

Hytner directed more films: 1996's The Crucible with Daniel Day-Lewis, and then 1998's The Object of My Affection and 2000's Center Stage (which, unlike his previous films, were not adapted from stage plays). He also spent 15 months developing a film of the musical Chicago, to star Madonna, but the project foundered and was later made with a different director and cast.[15]

In 1994, Eyre announced he would be leaving the National Theatre in three years' time.[14] "[It] made me begin to think about the vision that is needed in such a position and the fact that this needs refreshing under every directorate. I very much felt that you had to have a big idea in order to put yourself forward for such a role and as I didn't have this kind of idea at that time, I decided not to apply," Hytner said later.[14] He continued as an Associate Director at the National until 1997, when the new Director, Trevor Nunn, took up his post.


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