Philip Hedley CBE

theatre director and lecturer




Philip Hedley was artistic director of the Theatre Royal Stratford East for 25 years from September 1979 to September 2004. Upon his departure, , the Theatre Royal named him Director Emeritus.

He was a founding student of E.15 Acting School in 1961 and later in his career taught and staged productions there and at LAMDA, RADA, Rose Bruford and Drama Centre in the UK, the Vancouver Playhouse Drama School and the National Institute for Drama in Sydney.

He ran Lincoln Theatre Royal for  three highly fulfilling years from 1968 to 1971, during which he directed and/or produced over 50 productions. He went on to be director of the Midlands Arts Theatre Company, followed by two years as assistant director to Joan Littlewood and assistant administrator to her partner, Gerry Raffles, at Theatre Royal Stratford East.

He has directed at a dozen British regional theatres and has continued to be a champion for the cause of regional producing theatre and the benefits that accrue from permanent company work. He has also directed professional theatre and education work in Sydney, Vancouver and the Sudan.

In regional theatres in the UK and overseas he has directed classic plays by Shakespeare, John Ford, Congreve, Sheridan, John Gay, Farquhar, Henry Fielding, Wilde, Shaw, Boucicault, Tom Taylor, Gogol, Gorki, Chekhov, Moliere and Goldoni and 20th century plays by Wesker, Osborne, Nichols, Orton, Arden and Behan.

In the West End he directed the musicals, Happy as a Sandbag and Leave Him to Heaven, both by Ken Lee, and the Broadway hit, Pump Boys and Dinettes.

 Several of the shows he produced at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, including Five Guys Named Moe and Ken Hill's The Phantom Of The Opera, were transferred to the West End by commercial managements. He personally produced the transfer of The Invisible Man, and in 2005 he was associate producer on the West End production of The Big Life which was the final show produced at the Theatre Royal in his time there. The Big Life was the first ever black British musical in the West End.

At Stratford East he directed many new works, by the likes of Alan Plater, Henry Livings, Tunde Ikoli, Michael Abbensetts, Barrie Keeffe, Patrick Prior, Vince Foxall, Daniel Mornin, Tom Kempinski and David Cregan, and he acted as producer on over 100 other shows.

He was responsible for Stratford East staging more Black and Asian shows than any other theatre in Britain and for inaugurating the Black and Asian Directors’ Workshop and the Musical Theatre Development Project, which continues to be a seed-bed for new musicals.

His range of interests, for which he is a constant campaigner, can be seen in the names of the Arts Council committees he has served on, including the Drama Panel, the Young People’s Theatre Panel (chair) the Training Committee, the Theatre Directors' Training Committee (Chair), the Communication Committee, the Ethnic Minority Committee and the Diversity Committee.

In his time there the Theatre Royal won the 1990 Prudential Award for Drama, principally for the development of new work and for having achieved ‘audiences mixed in age and race and class’. He was awarded the Time Out Theatre Award in 1993 and the Theatre Management Association’s Arts Council Eclipse Award in 2004, the latter as recognition of his services in making advances in combating institutional racism in UK theatre.

In 2006 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Rose Bruford College, London.

.He was awarded a CBE for services to drama in the 2005 New Year Honours List.









Positions held:

  • Board member (Vice-chair) of East End dance company, Boy Blue Entertainment,
  • Board member (Chair) of Aarawak Moon  a pioneering black theatre company.
  • Board member (Vice-chair) of  ALRA (Academy of Live and Recorded Arts)
  • Advisor to the Directors' Course and to the Creative Producers Course at Birkbeck University of London.
  • Director Emeritus of the Theatre Royal Stratford East
  • Patron of the International Performers’ Aid Trust.

Current interests:

  • From 2009 he would be interested in directing one-off theatre productions in professional theatre or drama schools, and in giving lectures or doing workshops on any of the following aspects of theatre:
    • Developing new work
    • Creating contemporary musicals
    • The use of improvisation in rehearsing a written text
    • The process of the actor
    • His own rehearsal methods as a director
    • His work at Theatre Royal Stratford East
    • Working with Joan Littlewood
    • Cultural diversity in theatre
    • Marketing to new audiences
    • Training for theatre
    • Drama in education
    • Auditioning workshop
    • Serving on audition panels for student directors and actors.

 Recent engagements. (2006-2008)


Directing third year productions of Moliere's 'The Miser' and Gogol's 'The Government Inspector'

Lecture on Joan Littlewood

Auditioning acting and directing students.



Lecture on working in British theatre from weekly rep to the West End (1961-2006)

Workshops on uses of improvisation in rehearsal of written texts.

Member of Audition Panel



Workshops on audition technique



Workshops on audition technique



Speech at graduation of technical students.

Seminar on ethnic minority integration in drama school.



Workshop for director students on Joan Littlewood.



Chairing discussion on the Value of permanent company work.

Contribution to ethnic minority debate.




Lecture on UK Theatre 1968 to present day.

Oral history interview given to the British Library/University of Sheffield, Theatre Archive Project on 'British Theatre between 1945 and 1968'.




Panel contributer on Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop.




Workshops for actor/director students on Acting Shakespeare.




Research project on the uses of Laban's analysis of movement in theatre, in collaboration with Jean Newlove, a former assistant to Rudolf Laban and movement teacher to Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop.



Contact : E-mail


69 Paramount Court, 41 University Street

London WC1E 6JP