Philip Hedley


A selection of photographs from productions during Philip Hedley’s time as Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East.

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Philip Hedley

What They Say

In Philip Hedley’s Time at the Theatre Royal Stratford East

The Audience:

“The audience at Stratford East is quite something. Never before in a British theatre have I heard a largely black audience reacting with quite such vociferous abandon as at Trevor Rhone’s juicy Jamaican comedy ‘Two Can Play’.”

The Guardian, Michael Billington, 1984

“Stratford east has one of the liveliest and most culturally mixed audiences in Britain.”

The Financial Times

“The audience is the most reviewed in British Theatre.”

Gay Times

“Above all the Theatre Royal still encourages an audience that is Elizabethan in its relaxed freedom to hoot and holler. They frequently feature in critics’ reviews.”

The Daily Telegraph, Stephen Pile, 1993

“The audience is noisy and enthusiastic, and the atmosphere is infectious.”

The Daily Telegraph

The Variety of the Shows Produced:

“There is plenty to shock in Lorca’s ‘The Public’. Lorca himself said it was a play to be hissed at. It is also unusually expensive, with its outlandish settings and cast of 16. It is an extraordinarily brave venture by a theatre which can scarcely afford such courage.”

Time Out, Jane Edwards, 1988

“There’s lots of glitter, big casts, more magnets for black and Asian communities which surround the theatre and maybe another West End transfer. It has all the Hedley bonus and clear-sighted policy.”

Arts Management Weekly, Simon Tait on the announcement of 6 months of programming, 1995

Jonathan Stigwood in THE PUBLIC  by Garcia Lorca, translated by Henry Livings, directed by ULTZ, 1988
BAIJU BAWRA by Niraj Chag, directed by ULTZ, 2002

“Niraj Chag’s ‘Baiju Bawra’ has a blend of classical Bollywood ballads and Indian melodies with garage, hip hop and drum and bass which is often infectious and hypnotic.”

The Times, 2002

“It is one of the most radical, popular community-based theatres which produces first-class drama.”

The Sunday Times

“Stratford East has come up with a delightful family show that achieves visual miracles on a modest budget.”

The Guardian on ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, 2002

Hedley as Director of Plays

L-R: Billy Braham and Ben Thomas in THE TICKET-OF-LEAVE MAN by Tom Taylor, directed by Philip Hedley, 1987

“Philip Hedley’s revival of this popular Victorian melodrama joyously thrusts the audience into the world of outsize emotions where dialogue is elevated to grandiose exclamations, impassioned declarations and hissed asides.”

Time Out, Helen Rose on ‘The Ticket-of-Leave-Man’ by Tom Taylor, 1987

“Philip Hedley directs this zestful, touching production.”

The Evening Standard, Kate Kellaway on ‘King of England’ by Barrie Keeffe, 1988

“One of Philip Hedley’s best productions, in which each character is brilliantly identified by movement and body language.”

The Times, Martin Hoyle on ‘Goin’ Local’ by Tunde Ikoli, 1992

“Philip Hedley’s assured direction produces some fine ensemble work in an evening, which despite its sombre subject and rough edges, is curiously invigorating.”

The Evening Standard, Annalena McAfee on ‘Just Frank’ by Vince Foxall, 1989

“Part of the enjoyment of a Theatre Royal panto is not only in the entertaining and idiosyncratic style of a Philip Hedley production, but the atmosphere it generates in the loudest local audience. Hedley’s flair for mixing outrageousness and subtlety is given full rein.”

The Guardian, Helen Rose, 1989

Kate Williams and Nigel Pivaro in JUST FRANK by Vince Foxall, directed by Philip Hedley, 1989

An Open Door for Young People

“I thought it was a brilliant new experience and found it great fun developing new skills. I thought the games, although difficult, were excellent to participate in.”

Darren Hart, of the Theatre Royal’s Junior Blaggers

“I thought the whole show was a good experience. As a musical it was original. More young people need to feel they can participate in the performing arts world. For me, as an actor, it has taken me off the streets and shown me another world.”

Darren Carr, who graduated from the ‘Da Boyz’ Youth Theatre Project into the acting profession

“Very enjoyable experience… The pupils could relate to the production and the performers. More of the same please.”

Headteacher at Belmont Park Special Needs School

“The actors were superb… the students loved them.”

The Waltham Forest School for children with disabilities

“During November while ‘Pericles’ is playing, actors will be available, as part of our Actorshop scheme, to visit schools and colleges to work on any Shakespeare texts as requested!”

A Typical Announcement from the Theatre Royal’s Education Department

Hedley the Campaigner

“If there is one place in Britain still guaranteed to stir up a good old fashioned artistic controversary on a regular basis it is the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Much of the credit for such spirited financial and creative defiance must go to artistic director Philip Hedley, who celebrates ten years in the hot seat this autumn.”

The Stage, Jeremy Myerson, 1989

“The Theatre Royal at Stratford East has had an uncompromising year led by the indefatigable, out-spoken Philip Hedley who determinedly continues to kick up a fuss over the abolition of the arm’s length at the Arts Council and the government’s notorious Clause 28. One can’t help being thankful to the Theatre Royal for its determination to carry on doing what it believes is right in the face of total indifference from sponsors who are being so dutifully pursued by everybody else.”

Plays International, Jane Edwards, 1988

“If you can have a live patron saint, regional theatre’s must be Philip Hedley. Nobody has battled more formidably or more cogently on behalf of the arts or earned more respect from every quarter than he has over the last fifteen years, while finding time to put his skills as a director and artistic administrator where his mouth is. Nowhere is there a more doughty champion of multi-racial casts, new work and audience access, and whenever there has had to be a campaign for theatres across the country, Hedley’s is the first name on the letter to the Secretary of State/Arts Council Chairman/Editor of The Independent etc.”

Arts Management Weekly, Simon Tait, 1995

“One of the most colourful campaigners in the business… he feels no compunction about biting the hand that feeds when he sees fit.”

Time Out, James Christopher, 1993

“Philip Hedley is one of the great figures in British Theatre.”

The Independent, David Lister

Philip Hedley as Drama School Teacher

“While at the London Academy of Dramatic Art I was hugely influenced by Philip Hedley who was also teaching there. He showed me a lot of liberating techniques from E.15 Acting School and Theatre Royal Stratford East, run, of course by Joan Littlewood.”

Mike Alfreds, Director, in his own book ‘Different Every Night: Freeing the Actor”, 2009

“He tells me about his teachers: Mike Alfreds who founded Shared Experience and Philip Hedley, once artistic director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, ‘They had digested Stanislavski, you had a real awakening of how you could layer and layer and develop things.'”

Mark Rylance, Actor/Director, in an interview with Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian, 2022

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