|Born||Robert William Icke|
29 November 1986 (age 34)
|Education||University of Cambridge|
|Notable awards||Olivier Award, Evening Standard Award, Critics' Circle, UK Theatre Awards|
Born in Stockton-on-Tees to a non-theatrical family, he was taken to see a production of Richard III starring Kenneth Branagh as a teenager, which inspired him to take up writing and directing. He then founded a theatre company, Arden Theatre, and directed a series of shows at Arc Theatre over a five year period between 2003-2008. He studied at Ian Ramsey Church of England School and then studied English at King's College, Cambridge, where he was taught by Anne Barton.
In 2010, Icke replaced Ben Power as Associate Director at Rupert Goold's company Headlong. His interview for the post involved him giving a critique of Goold's production of Enron. He first worked alongside Goold on the site-specific Decade at St Katharine's Docks. He then directed touring productions of Romeo and Juliet, the first production of Boys by Ella Hickson and 1984, written and directed with Duncan Macmillan, which began as a tour at Nottingham Playhouse in 2013 and after an extended further life, opened on Broadway in 2017.
In 2013, Icke left Headlong to take up a post as Associate Director at the Almeida Theatre. His work there began with the Almeida transfer of his Headlong 1984 in early 2014, which transferred to the Playhouse Theatre in the West End later that year, before transferring to Broadway in 2017. In summer 2014, he directed the European premiere of Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play by Anne Washburn, which provoked a violently divided critical reaction. In early 2015, he directed Tobias Menzies in The Fever in a site-specific production in a hotel room in Mayfair.
The show that marked Icke as a major British talent was his 2015 Oresteia, the opening production of Goold and Icke's 'Almeida Greek' season of Greek tragedy. A free adaptation of Aeschylus' original running at nearly four hours with three intermissions, Icke added a self-penned prologue to the Aeschylus text concerning the sacrifice of Iphigenia: a "70-minute prequel that dramatises both what led up to that sacrifice and the act itself", which critic Dominic Maxwell dubbed "a masterpiece". Oresteia received rave reviews, won Icke several awards, and transferred to the West End.
Icke followed this in 2016 with his own adaptations of Uncle Vanya, starring Paul Rhys, and Mary Stuart, in which Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams tossed a coin to alternate the two central roles of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I. Mary Stuart transferred to the West End in 2018, opening to rave reviews.
After several months of rumours, Andrew Scott played Hamlet in Icke's production at the Almeida in early 2017. The production, which presented a Scandi-noir surveillance state, received rave reviews and transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre, produced by Sonia Friedman. Hamlet was filmed and broadcast on BBC Two on Easter Saturday 2018.
In summer 2019, Icke stepped down from his Almeida role after six years to focus on his freelance career.
In 2018, Icke opened his new adaptation of Sophocles' Oedipus for Ivo van Hove's company Toneelgroep Amsterdam, starring Hans Kesting and Marieke Heebink. This production was selected for the Dutch Theatre Festival 2018 and was performed at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2019.
Icke's text of his adaptations of 1984, Oresteia, Uncle Vanya, Mary Stuart, The Wild Duck and his 'performance text' of Hamlet are published by Oberon Books.
In March 2019, Icke won the Kurt Hübner award for the German adaptation of Oresteia.
Icke has said that, in his work on classics, he searches for a return "to the impulse of the original play, to clear away the accumulated dust of its performance history. So much of great drama was profoundly troubling when it was first done. The word radical actually means to go back to the root. They rioted at Ibsen's A Doll’s House...Audiences shouldn't be allowed to feel nothing."
He has described his philosophy of adaptation as
like using a foreign plug. You are in a country where your hairdryer won't work when you plug it straight in. You have to find the adaptor which will let the electricity of now flow into the old thing and make it function.
Icke has also spoken about the importance of attracting younger audiences to the theatre, describing theatre's elderly audience as "a big problem ...the industry’s going to have to address and sort out because otherwise we’re dead. In 50 or 60 years, there will be no audience." He courted controversy in 2016 by admitting that he thought audiences should leave plays in the interval if they found them boring.
Sarah Crompton has written of Icke's methods for initiating projects, "he finds an actor he wants to collaborate with and then they discuss the play that actor wants to perform", noting "the way he is quietly building relationships with an entire group of actors and bringing them back to work on successive projects." Icke tends to work with the same performers (a group that Natasha Tripney has dubbed "Team Icke") including repeat collaborations with Lia Williams, Tobias Menzies, Juliet Stevenson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Luke Thompson, Lorna Brown, Daniel Rabin, Rudi Dharmalingham, Joshua Higgott, and Angus Wright.
From its opening moments, when a digital clock starts to count the minutes, Icke offers a story in which elements of time and fate are compressed and heightened. In places it's like Sliding Doors, suggesting alternative scenarios... It employs the cross-cutting techniques of movies and TV with startling aplomb, and plays on the drama's presentiments of disaster through dreams and hallucinations... It's terrific, and hails the arrival of some thrilling young actors and an impressive new director.
Though he has failed to satisfy some of the conservative broadsheet critics, such as Dominic Cavendish, Icke has found favour with others, including Susannah Clapp in The Observer, who described him as "one of the most important forces in today’s theatre."
Icke's work, according to Megan Vaughan, "is a sign that the UK’s once stuffy middle-class theatre culture is waking up to more exciting and less prescriptive techniques."
- The Doctor adapted by Robert Icke from Professor Bernhardi by Arthur Schnitzler, Almeida Theatre (2019) and West End (2020)
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Theater Basel (2019)
- The Wild Duck after Henrik Ibsen, Almeida Theatre (2018)
- Oedipus by Sophocles, Toneelgroep Amsterdam (2018), West End (2020)
- Hamlet by Shakespeare, Almeida Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre (2017), Park Avenue Armory (2020)
- Mary Stuart by Schiller (adapted by Robert Icke), Almeida Theatre (2016) and Duke of York's Theatre (2018)
- The Red Barn by Simenon (adapted by David Hare), National Theatre (2016)
- Uncle Vanya by Chekhov (adapted by Robert Icke), Almeida Theatre (2016)
- Oresteia by Aeschylus (adapted by Robert Icke), Almeida Theatre and Trafalgar Studios (2015), Schauspiel Stuttgart (2018), , Park Avenue Armory (2020)
- The Fever by Wallace Shawn, Almeida Theatre (site-specific) (2015)
- Mr Burns by Anne Washburn, Almeida Theatre (2014)
- 1984 by George Orwell, devised with Duncan Macmillan, Nottingham Playhouse (2013), UK and World Tours, Almeida Theatre (2014), Playhouse Theatre (2014, 2015, 2016), Hudson Theatre (2017)
- The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, Liverpool Playhouse (2012)
- Boys by Ella Hickson, Headlong, Soho Theatre (2012)
- Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Headlong, UK Tour (2012)
- Decade, devised with Rupert Goold, Headlong, St Katharine Docks (2011)
Icke became the youngest ever winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director in 2016.
Awards and nominations
|2014||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Play||1984||Nominated|
|2015||Critics’ Circle Theatre Award||Best Director||Oresteia||Won|
|Evening Standard Theatre Award||Best Director||Won|
|2016||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Director||Won|
|2019||Evening Standard Theatre Award||Best Director||The Doctor and The Wild Duck||Won|
|2020||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Play||The Doctor||Nominated|
- "Andrew Scott in Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre – review round-up | Opinion | The Stage". The Stage. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Trueman, Matt (2016-02-17). "London Theater Review: 'Uncle Vanya' at the Almeida Theatre". Variety. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Armstrong, Stephen (2017-06-25). "Theatre tickets: where does the money go?". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
- "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 2017-07-12. Cite uses generic title (help)
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- Kellaway, Kate (June 25, 2017). "Hamlet review – an all-consuming marvel". The Observer. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
- "Andrzej Lukowski: Andrew Scott's Hamlet on BBC proves theatre and TV compatible". The Stage. 2018-04-04. Retrieved 2018-05-17.
- Hemley, Matthew (2019-05-13). "Robert Icke to step down as associate director of the Almeida Theatre". The Stage. Retrieved 2019-06-22.
- "oedipus". tga.nl. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Ltd, Whitespace (Scotland) (2019-06-21). "Oedipus". Edinburgh International Festival. Retrieved 2019-06-22.
- "Robert Icke erhält Kurt-Hübner-Regiepreis 2019". Kulturradio (in German). 2018-12-21. Retrieved 2019-03-17.
- "Robert Icke: Greek hero". Evening Standard. 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- "Theatre's big names push for cheap tickets for young fans". Ticketing Technology News. 2017-06-15. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Maxwell, Dominic. "Robert Icke: 'I walk out of plays in the interval all the time'". Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- "Robert Icke's unofficial repertory company offers thrilling possibilities". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- "Hamlet review at the Almeida Theatre, London". The Stage. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Gardner, Lyn (2012-02-08). "Romeo and Juliet – review". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Clapp, Susannah (2017-03-05). "Hamlet review – Andrew Scott is a truly sweet prince". The Observer. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- "Megan Vaughan: I have a confession – I'm becoming obsessed with Robert Icke | Opinion | The Stage". The Stage. 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2017-07-12.
- Flood, Alison (2018-06-28). "Royal Society of Literature admits 40 new fellows to address historical biases". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
- "Olivier Winners 2014". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
- "2015 Results | Critics' Circle Theatre Awards". 2016-11-28. Retrieved 2020-12-06.
- Norum, Ben (2015-11-23). "Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2015: The full list of winners". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
- "Olivier Winners 2016". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
- Paskett, Zoe (2019-11-25). "The 2019 Evening Standard Theatre Awards winners in full". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-01-18.
- "Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard - Theatre's Biggest Night". Olivier Awards. Retrieved 2021-01-18.