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Musical World

Jude Kelly

  • Director, Artistic/Stage


In 1996 Jude Kelly also directed When We Are Married starring Dawn French, for the Chichester Festival Theatre; this highly acclaimed production also played for a season in the West End. Other productions include Othello with Patrick Stewart for the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. followed by The Elixir Of Love, her successful opera-directing debut for the English National Opera, Queen written and performed by Kay Mellor for the Families Festival in Tokyo and later revived at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Blast From The Past by Ben Elton for the Playhouse, and Saturday, Sunday, Monday with David Suchet for the 1998 Chichester Festival Theatre summer season.

For the 1998/99 autumn/winter season at the Playhouse Jude directed the new resident ensemble company led by Ian McKellen, in The Seagull and The Tempest. Other productions for the Playhouse include Deadmeat, a digital opera, Macbeth and Singing' In The Rain and Half A Sixpence. Singing' In The Rain received outstanding critical acclaim and transferred to the Royal National Theatre in June 2000 and again in December 2000. In the 2001 Laurence Olivier Awards, Singing' In The Rain received four nominations and was awarded 'Outstanding Musical Production'. In 2001 she directed a New York charity performance of Nothing Like A Dame, and a London charity performance of The Women, both events starring leading ladies of stage and screen. Her most recent productions for the West Yorkshire Playhouse were Johnson Over Jordan with Patrick Stewart and a revival of Singing' In The Rain, The Wizard of Oz for the West Yorkshire Playhouse and a revival of The Elixir Of Love for the ENO.

Jude began her career as Artistic Director of Solent People's Theatre in 1976 where she directed devised theatre shows. In 1980 she was appointed Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre which she established as a national venue. In 1985 she was assistant director on Channel 4's The Messiah by the National Theatre of Brent (written by Patrick Barlow with Jude Kelly) and the following year co-directed the National Theatre of Brent's four part drama series Mighty Moments Of World History for Channel 4 (co-written with Patrick Barlow). In 1986 Jude joined the RSC where her production of Sarcophagus about the Chernobyl disaster was highly acclaimed and nominated for two Olivier awards. Since then she has worked at the Bristol Old Vic, the Lyric Hammersmith and as Festival Director for the 1988 York Mystery Plays. Other notable productions during this period include The Tempest in New York starring Frank Langella and co-directed with Michael Birch. Jude was appointed Artistic Director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1988 prior to the building opening in 1990 in order to plan the artistic policy. She has established the theatre as an acknowledged centre of excellence on a local, national and international scale, developing a centre for the arts with an ever-expanding policy of access for all, implemented through some of the most comprehensive community and education work in the country as well as an adventurous programme of new writing and modern and classic drama.

Jude Kelly is much in demand as a commentator and spokesperson for the arts, with regular appearances on national radio and television. In 1995 she was named as Yorkshire Television Arts and Entertainment Personality of the Year. In 1997 she was appointed as the Chair of Common Purpose Charitable Trust and she is also a trustee of Artranspennine. She was a member of the Arts Council Drama Panel from 1995-1998 and was a member of both Leeds University Court and Council for several years and has recently been co-opted as a member of the Court for the next five years. Her achievements at the West Yorkshire Playhouse were officially recognised with honorary doctorates from Leeds Metropolitan University in 1995, Bradford University in 1996, Leeds University and York University in 2000, and the Open University in 2001. In 1997 Jude was awarded the OBE for her services to the theatre and in 1998 she was appointed as Vice-Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education.

Jude also represents Britain for UNESCO on cultural matters and in 1998 she was appointed to the RSA Council. In 1999 she was appointed as a member of the Independent Television Commission and in 2001 Jude accepted an invitation to chair the Qualifications & Curriculum Authority Advisory Group on the Arts. Jude left the West Yorkshire Playhouse in July 2002. Jude is the founder and Artistic Director of METAL which is a centre for all practitioners of the arts where artistic experimentation and research can happen.