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Deborah Warner CBE (born 12 May 1959) is a British director of theatre and opera known for her interpretations of the works of Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Georg Büchner, and Henrik Ibsen, and for her long-term working relationship with the actress Fiona Shaw.


Early years

Warner was born in Oxfordshire, Englandmarker to antiquarians, Roger Harold Metford Warner and Ruth Ernestine Hurcombe. She studied theatre and stage management at drama school, and later founded the KICK theatre company in 1980 when she was twenty-one for young talented amateur actors.


Warner was invited to the join the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987 where she would later direct Titus Andronicus, and it was while working there that she began her long-time collaboration with the Irish actress Fiona Shaw. The two women have collaborated on plays including Electra (RSC), The Good Person of Sezuan (1989 - National Theatremarker), Hedda Gabler (1991 - The Abbey Theatremarker and BBC2), the controversial Richard II (with Shaw in the title role, also at the National Theatre (1995) and televised by BBC2), Footfalls (the radical staging of which so enraged the Beckett estate that the production was pulled during its run), The PowerBook (at the National Theatre: a dramatisation of Jeanette Winterson's novel, Medea (2000-2001 - Queen's Theatre and Broadwaymarker), and, most recently in Warner's return to Shakespeare with her production of Julius Caesar in which Shaw played the supporting role of Portia. The production, also starred Ralph Fiennes and Simon Russell Beale; it later toured Europe. Shaw and Warner had a world-tour of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, which began in Wilton's Music Hallmarker in Londonmarker's East End, and marked a new chapter in Warner's work that focused on the experience of drama and its link to places, which was expanded upon in her Angel Project. In 2007, following negotiations with the Beckett estate, Warner directed Shaw in Happy Days at the National Theatre.

She directed the 1999 film, The Last September, with Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith.

She has worked in opera and classical music, including Diary of One Who Vanished by Janáček starring Ian Bostridge, a staging of the St.John Passion, a controversial staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni at Glyndebournemarker, Wozzeck for Opera North, and recently Death in Venice at English National Opera.

Personal life

Warner was made a commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) on 17 Jun 2006. She is openly gay, and ranked in the top 100 on the IoS Pink List of most influential gays of 2008. She was for several years the partner of English novelist Jeanette Winterson.

Awards and nominations

  • 1988 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director – Titus Andronicus
  • 1992 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director of a Play – Hedda Gabler
  • 1997 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Direction of a Play – The Waste Land
  • 2003 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Direction of a Play – Medea
  • 2003 Tony Award Best Direction of a Play – Medea
  • 2008 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director of a Play – Happy Days


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