Simon McBurney

Simon is an actor, writer, director and co-founder of Complicité. He is also Complicité's Artistic Director.
Simon McBurney is one of the most innovative, mercurial and influential theatre-makers working today. He co-founded Complicité in 1983. Since then he has worked with some of the same designers, producers, stage managers, actors, writers (including a long collaboration with writer John Berger who died in 2017), to make work through a deeply researched and highly collaborative process which fuses a profound belief that all aspects of the theatre should challenge the limits of theatrical form.

As well as writing and creating original works, he has also brought great plays to the stage - Beckett, Brecht, Bulgakov, Durrenmatt, Ionesco, Daniil Kharms, Arthur Miller, Bruno Schulz, Shakespeare and Ruzzante - and adapted numerous works of literature. His production of The Master and Margarita (2012) was the centre piece of the 2012 Avignon Festival, where he was the Artiste Associé for that year and most recently he adapted and directed Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity (2015) for the Schaubühne Theatre, Berlin.

In the last 20 years his work has continually returned to political, social and philosophical questions of the way we live, think and act as a society and he is unafraid of melding the most ancient of theatrical forms with the most recent aspects of modern technology.

Mnemonic (1999) a play about the relationship between memory, origin and identity began his fascination with mind and consciousness. It took the story of Oetzi, the corpse found in 1991 in a glacier on the Austrian -Italian border, and shown by scientists to have lived 5000 years ago, and layered it with a contemporary personal story of loss and breakdown. These themes continued to be explored over the last few years, most recently in The Encounter.

He has had a long association with Russian culture, first performing The Street of Crocodiles, based on the writings of Polish writer and artist Bruno Schulz which took the first concerto Grosso, by Alfred Schnittke, as its inspiration at the Taganka Thetare in 1993.

Together with his bother Gerard, he created Out of a House Walked a Man, adapted from the writings of Daniil Kharms (Incidents and The Old Woman) at the RNT London in 1994.

Shostakovich was the subject of The Noise of Time, created in collaboration with the Emerson String Quartet and Lincoln Center New York, which took as its central text his 15th Quartet. The piece integrated theatre and music in an entirely new way, with the quartet playing his extraordinary work by heart.

Simon has had an intimate relationship with the work of Bulgakov. In collaboration with De Nederlaandse Opera in Amsterdam, he directed A Dog’s Heart (2010) a new opera by Sasha Raskatov which has since been seen in London, La Scala Milan and Opera Lyons.

Amongst his other opera productions are The Magic Flute (2012) and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (2017). In 2020 he will direct Alban Berg’s Wozzeck with Simon Rattle conducting.

The work of McBurney and Complicite has been acknowledged not only as causing a seismic shift in British Theatre over the last 30 years, but also influencing the work of many throughout the world. His numerous awards and prizes include the Berlin Konrad Woolf Prize for Europe’s Outstanding Multi-Disciplinary Artists (2008) the prestigious Yomiuri Prize in Japan (2009) for which he was the first foreigner to be win this. He was Artiste Associé at the 2012 Avignon Festival and has honorary doctorates at several universities including Lund in Sweden, London Metropolitan University and Cambridge University.