Thelma Holt CBE

Thelma Holt
Thelma Holt graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1953. After a successful career as an actress, she founded, in partnership with Charles Marowitz, the Open Space Theatre in Tottenham Court Road, which became the fore¬runner of the London fringe.
In 1977, she joined the Round House in Chalk Farm as Artistic and Executive Director.  There she instigated a policy of bringing the best of regional theatre to Lon¬don, introducing, amongst others, the work of the Glasgow Citizens, the Royal Exchange Company and Alan Ayckbourn's company from Scarborough.  She gave London the opportun¬ity to see some of the successful productions initiated at the Edinburgh Festival.  Other visiting companies included Josef Szanja (Poland), The Pickle Family Circus (USA), Circus Oz (Australia), Antoine Vitez (France) and the Rustaveli Theatre Company (Georgia, CIS).  In 1983 the Round House closed and Miss Holt joined the Theatre of Comedy as Executive Producer where she produced LOOT, directed by Jonathan Lynn and starring Leonard Rossiter.
In 1985 she joined the National Theatre as Head of Tour¬ing and Commercial Exploitation.  During her time there she was responsible for the West End transfers of A CHORUS OF DISAPPROVAL, THE PETITION, BRIGHTON BEACH MEM¬OIRS, THREE MEN ON A HORSE and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and major foreign tours to Paris, Vienna, Zurich, North America, Moscow and Tbilisi in Georgia, Tokyo and Epidaurus.
She produced INTERNATIONAL 87, a series of four visits to the National by international theatre companies: the Schaubuhne from Berlin (Eugene O'Neill's THE HAIRY APE directed by Peter Stein), the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Stockholm (Strindberg's MISS JULIE and HAMLET both directed by Ingmar Bergman), the Ninagawa Company from Tokyo (MACBETH and MEDEA) and the Mayakovsky Theatre Company from Moscow (TOMORROW WAS WAR).  For this she received the Laurence Olivier/Observer Award for Out-standing Achievement in the Theatre, and a special award from Drama Magazine.
She co-produced THE FAIRY QUEEN directed by Adrian Noble in Aix-en-Provence and produced the National's INTERNA¬TIONAL 89 with visits from Teatro del Sur (Buenos Aires) in TANGO VARSOVIANO, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chica¬go)in THE GRAPES OF WRATH, the Moscow Art Theatre in UNCLE VANYA and the return of the Ninagawa Company from Tokyo with their production of SUICIDE FOR LOVE.
For the Peter Hall Company Miss Holt was Executive Pro¬ducer for the London production of Tennessee Williams' ORPHEUS DESCENDING with Vanessa Redgrave, THE MERCHANT OF VENICE with Dustin Hoffman (also on Broadway) and her last production for the Peter Hall Company was THE WILD DUCK at the Phoenix Theatre in the summer of 1990.  Miss Holt was also Executive Producer for Triumph Proscenium's production of Pirandello's HENRY IV with Richard Harris at the Wyndham's Theatre.
At the National Theatre in 1990 she produced from Bucha¬rest the Bulandra Theatre Company's production of HAMLET and from Taiwan the Contemporary Legend Theatre's produc¬tion of THE KINGDOM OF DESIRE (MACBETH).  Having formed Thelma Holt Ltd., she pro¬duced Robert Sturua's THREE SISTERS with Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave and Jemma Redgrave at the Queen's Theatre and Yukio Ninagawa's TANGO AT THE END OF WINTER starring Alan Rickman, which played at the Piccadilly Theatre.

At the end of 1991 Miss Holt presented the RSC's produc¬tion of ELECTRA directed by Deborah Warner with Fiona Shaw in the title role, followed by a tour to Bobigny (France), Bradford (Transport Museum), Derry (Sports Centre) and Glasgow (Tramway).

In 1992 Miss Holt produced HAMLET directed by Robert Sturua with Alan Rickman in the title role as well as three productions for the European Arts Festival: LE THEATRE DU SOLEIL in Ariane Mnouchkine's LES ATRIDES at Robin Mills, Bradford as well as the Piccolo Theatre of Milan in Giorgio Strehler's production of LE BARUFFE CHIOZZOTTE and Franco Zeffirelli's production of SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR, both at the Royal National Theatre.  1992 ended with Yukio Ninagawa's TEM¬PEST direct from Tokyo with four performances at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Principal projects in 1993 were a co-presentation of Yukio Ninagawa's MEDEA in Zurich and a production of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING with Mark Rylance and Janet McTeer, at the Queen's Theatre, for which she received The Sir Tyrone Guthrie Award For Best Production at the Shakespeare Globe Classic Awards.   At the end of 1993 she was appointed Chairman of the Arts Council's Drama Advisory Panel, and a member of Council.

1994 began with a major tour of PEER GYNT directed by Yukio Ninagawa which premiered at the Winter Olympic Games in Norway, after which Miss Holt's plans for the rest of the year included a revival of THE CLANDESTINE MARRIAGE with Nigel Hawthorne.  Miss Holt was awarded the C.B.E. in the Queen's Birthday Honours List and received a doctorate from the University of Middlesex. 

Early in 1995 she produced THE SEAGULL by Anton Chekhov and the Ninagawa Company in A MIDSUM¬MER NIGHT'S DREAM followed by Vanessa Redgrave's production of ANTONY & CLEOPATRA on tour.  She then trans¬ferred the Donmar Ware¬house award-winning production of THE GLASS MEN¬AG¬ERIE, directed by Sam Mendes, to the Comedy Theatre. 

Productions in 1996 included OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCH¬ING TOWARDS THE SOMME by Frank McGuinness from the Abbey Theatre Dublin, presented at the Barbican and on tour, and the return of the Ninagawa Company in A MIDSUM¬MER NIGHT'S DREAM for a short season at the Mermaid The¬atre.  A DOLL'S HOUSE directed by Anthony Page and star¬ring Janet McTeer played a fourteen-week season at the Playhouse Theatre in London following a regional tour.  It then transferred to New York's Belasco Theatre, win¬ning four Tony Awards:  Janet McTeer (Best Actress), Owen Teale (Best Supporting Actor), Anthony Page (Best Direc¬tor), Thelma Holt/Bill Kenwright (Best Revival).

Following a regional tour of the Donmar Warehouse's pro¬duction of Jean Genet's THE MAIDS, in the autumn of 1997 on behalf of the Royal National Theatre, she produced the Comedie Francaise's produc¬tion of LES FAUSSES CONFI¬DENCES by Marivaux, and Peter Brook's pro¬duction of OH LES BEAUX JOURS by Samuel Beckett, as well as a further visit to the Barbican of the Ninagawa Company in SHINTOKU-MARU. 

1998 began with a co-production of THE RELAPSE with the Glasgow Citizens Theatre, directed and designed by Philip Prowse, and her appointment as the Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Con¬tempor¬ary The¬atre of Oxford University and Fellow of St. Catherine's College Oxford during the same year.

At the beginning of 1999 she produced MACBETH starring Rufus Sewell, which played a limited season at the Queen's Theatre, London.  In the autumn Miss Holt co-produced KING LEAR with the Royal Shakespeare Company directed by Yukio Ninagawa with Nigel Hawthorne in the title role.  This was followed in 2000 with a production of MISS JULIE by August Strindberg in a new version by Frank McGuinness, starring Christopher Eccleston.

In 2001 she produced the London premiere of Noel Coward's SEMI-MONDE directed and designed by Philip Prowse, and two one-act plays by Yukio Mishima directed by Yukio Ninagawa. She was also made Patron of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, became a Director of the Almeida Theatre and the National Youth Music Theatre, and was appointed Chairman of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford a post she held until 2005, when she became the theatre’s Associate Director.

As a co-production in 2002 she revived David Hare's award-winning VIA DOLOROSA, directed by Stephen Daldry.  This year also saw the launch of a 3-year plan with the Theatre Royal Plymouth of annual Shakespeare productions, the inaugural production being THE TEMPEST directed by Patrick Mason, starring Richard Briers.  She was also made a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts.  The year ended with the West End presentation (in association with Bill Kenwright) of 5 plays from the RSC (THE MALCONTENT, THE ISLAND PRINCESS, THE ROMAN ACTOR, EDWARD III, EASTWARD HO!).

Yukio Ninagawa’s production of PERICLES came to the National Theatre in the spring of 2003, followed by Ingmar Bergman’s GHOSTS which was presented at the Barbican Theatre as part of BITE:03.  This was followed by Jonathan Kent's all-male Japanese production of HAMLET at Sadler's Wells Theatre and the second of the regional tours with Theatre Royal Plymouth, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (with Nichola McAuliffe and Ross Kemp).  During the year two university awards were made: Hon. Doctor of Letters from the University of East Anglia and Emeritus Fellow of St. Catherine's College Oxford.  She was also appointed Associate Producer at the RSC and subsequently a Member of the Council of Management of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Trust.

In 2004 the Japanese government honoured Thelma Holt with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.  The year began with West End presentations in association with Bill Kenwright of the RSC's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, THE TAMER TAMED and ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL, as well as a tour to Japan with OTHELLO and a co-production with Bill Kenwright of WE HAPPY FEW directed by Trevor Nunn with Juliet Stevenson in the leading role.  The year ended with Yukio Ninagawa's new production of HAMLET with Michael Maloney in the title role. 

At the beginning of 2005 in association with Bill Kenwright and Nica Burns she presented the first London revival of Terence Rattigan’s MAN AND BOY starring David Suchet.  The fourth regional Shakespeare tour in the autumn featured Matthew Kelly in TWELFTH NIGHT. 

In 2006 Thelma Holt was made a Distinguished Friend of Oxford University and received the TMA Special Award for Individual Achievement.  Productions in this year included the West End transfers of the RSC’s productions of THE CRUCIBLE and BREAKFAST WITH MUGABE which marked Antony Sher’s debut as a director, Judi Dench in HAY FEVER directed by Peter Hall and the visit by the Ninagawa Company in his Japanese production of TITUS ANDRONICUS to both the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth.  Ninagawa returned to the Barbican in 2007 with his production of CORIOLANUS.  In the West End she produced KEAN by Jean Paul Sartre directed by Adrian Noble and with Antony Sher in the title role.  The year ended with the Hampstead Theatre production (by arrangement with the RSC) of Antony Sher’s play THE GIANT directed by Gregory Doran.

In 2008 Thelma Holt was made a Trustee of the Rose Theatre Kingston.  2009 began with a UK tour of MEASURE FOR MEASURE produced in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth.  The production was directed by Jamie Glover and the cast was lead by Alistair McGowan and Jason Merrells.  Yukio Ninagawa returned to London with his Kabuki production of TWELFTH NIGHT, produced by Shochiku Co. Ltd. and presented at the Barbican.  In the autumn of 2009 Greg Doran directed a co-production between Thelma Holt Ltd. and HoriPro Inc. of THE ENGLISH SAMURAI in Tokyo with a cast of UK and Japanese actors.  She produced two West End shows in 2010: GHOSTS in a new version by Frank McGuinness, directed and by Iain Glen (who also played Pastor Manders) and Alan Ayckbourn’s BEDROOM FARCE directed by Peter Hall.  She was also made an Hon. Doc. of Arts by the University of Plymouth.

In 2012 Ninagawa visited the Barbican with his production of CYMBELINE, which was part of the cultural programme attached to the Olympic Games.  This was followed by the RSC production of WRITTEN ON THE HEART by David Edgar at the Duchess Theatre and VOLCANO by Noel Coward at the Vaudeville Theatre in association with Bill Kenwright.  The year ended with a transfer to the Arts Theatre of Samuel Beckett's ALL THAT FALL, the Jermyn Street Theatre production presented in association with Richard Darbourne.  2013 began with ANJIN - THE SHOGUN & THE ENGLISH SAMURAI by Mike Poulton and Sho Kawai at Sadlers Wells Theatre directed by Gregory Doran and presented in association with HoriPro Inc.