James Kerr - Biography

James Kerr was born in Liverpool. He has a daughter, Angelica.

The award winning British director James Kerr works as a director, a writer and an actor, he also specialises as an acting teacher within the industry and is acting tutor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.


The Bluecoat School, Liverpool
The University of London 1st Class BA Hons in Classics
The University of Illinois, USA Scholarship to read Hellenistic Poetry
The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art – Three year Acting Course
Moscow Arts Theatre School

A member of the European Union of Directors, he was invited to the National Theatre of Romania Timisoara where he developed Sophocles’ Ajax.

Associate director of The Liverpool Theatres (Everyman and Playhouse) in 2001/2 where he re-opened the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool.

The award winning British director James Kerr works as a director, a writer and an actor. He also specialises as an acting teacher within the industry and is acting tutor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic art.

James Kerr’s directing credits have seen productions of his in the UK, across Europe and in New York. Productions at the National Theatre, The Royal court, The Donmar Warehouse, the Gate theatre (and his association with the National Theatre Studio) have been universally critically acclaimed. His installations and experimental work has won awards and his teaching has won him testimonials at the highest level. His translations have been performed in the UK and across the United States.

James was educated at University College London and trained at LAMDA. James has worked as an actor in film, television and theatre. His acting credits include work at the Royal Court theatre, the National Theatre, Hampstead theatre, the Gate, The Lyric Hammersmith, Cambridge Theatre Company. He has worked in companies directed by Mike Alfreds, Declan Donellan, Richard Eyre, Penny Ciniewicz, Hettie Macdonald, Vladimir Bogomolov and Michael Rudman, amongst others. Television and film work includes appearances in Prime Suspect, Peak Practice, Drop the Dead Donkey, Orphans, Pie in the Sky, Just William, Oktober, Hostile Waters and Crime Time.

James became the first recipient of the Quercus Trust bursary at the National Theatre and took an attachment at the National Theatre Studio where he started directing and worked as assistant director to Sir Richard Eyre.

At the National Theatre his work there includes The Darker Face of the Earth written by the Pulitzer prize winning US poet Laureate Rita Dove.

The production (nominated for best design by Tim Hatley at the Evening Standard Awards) was recognised as a major debut: ‘James Kerr’s beautifully orchestrated direction creates an awesome dreamscape. The awesome horrors of the story are so skilfully and sensitively organised that you can hardly believe that this is Kerr’s debut production on one of the National’s main stages’; ‘A total experience. Kerr’s dynamic production suggests he will be one of the dominant forces in British Theatre over the coming decade’ (Guardian.) James subsequently directed Owen McCafferty’s play, Closing Time at the Royal National Theatre (lyttleton season) and at the Dublin Festival: ‘director James Kerr takes his time with great assurance, letting desultory silences seep in and nurturing terrific naturalistic performances’(Independent on Sunday.)

In his first years out of the Studio, he translated, adapted and directed Aeschylus’ Suppliants at the Gate Theatre: ‘Kerr creates a production of simple ethereal beauty’ (Guardian).

He then directed Katherine Burger’s Morphic Resonance at the Donmar Warehouse: ‘edgy and tender and resonant, and a production that confirms British director James Kerr as a talent worth following’ (Variety); ‘A superb production by James Kerr’ (Guardian.)

He returned to the Studio on a number of occasions working on a co-produced staging of Philip Gotanda’s love story ‘The Ballad of Yachiyo,’ and with the Belfast writer Owen McCafferty with whom he would collaborate for the next three years.

He then moved to Northern Ireland to work alongside McCafferty on Convictions an installation at the Crumlin Road Courthouse; a piece that won best play at the Irish Times Awards: ‘An unforgettable experience’ (Guardian.)

James returned to Liverpool to re-open the Playhouse Theatre with a production of Twelfth Night: ‘Kerr’s great strength is his ability to tell a story, and in the process create stage pictures that are beautifully simple and often simply beautiful. It reminded me of the early work of Declan Donellan in both its clarity and aesthetic’ (Guardian.) He stayed on attachment to re-open the Everyman Theatre, whilst also directing David Harrower’s play, Presence at the Royal Court Theatre in London: ‘tendency towards polemic is dispelled by James Kerr’s affectionate and inquiring production’ (Variety)

James Kerr has worked as a director in America and in Europe. His production of Prometheus Bound which opened in the West End was translated and directed by James for his close friend David Oyelowo with whom he has collaborated four times. He translated and directed the play which starred David Oyelowo. This production subsequently transferred to Classic Stage Company in New York. ‘Director James Kerr and his colleagues understand the power of imagination: They manage to conjure a spectacle of infinite suffering and pain with little more than a set of chains and a cloth imbued with red fluid.’ (Metro); ‘how disturbingly human and pertinent to our own times this classic meditation on suffering and endurance seems in the riveting atmospherics of James Kerr’s production.’(Evening Standard);.

He has also translated Aiax which he developed at the National Theatre of Rumania in Timisoara.

As an acting teacher, his work is recognised within the conservatoire of training. He developed his ‘puppet exercises’ following a collaborative year with John Barton. James has taught students across the United States including the Julliard and is acting tutor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. A Great many of his students including Benedict Cummberbatch, Ruth Wilson, Sam Claflin and David Oyelowo have gone onto successful careers.

At present James is directing and translating a new Marivaux play, and is working towards the opening of a new international film and theatre festival at the Opera house in Wexford.

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