Mark Dornford-May

Mark Dornford-May (born 29 September 1955) is an English theatre and film director, now based in South Africa.

Mark Dornford-May
Mark Dornford-May

(1955-09-29) 29 September 1955
Occupationtheatre director and film director
Spouse(s)Pauline Malefane

Personal life

Mark Dornford-May was born near Eastoft in Yorkshire. His mother was a school teacher, and his father the Drama Adviser for Cheshire County Council, receiving an MBE for services to theatre in the 1980s.

In 2002 he married South African actress and singer Pauline Malefane, and together they have three children (Dornford-May also has a daughter from an earlier marriage). In 2004 he became a permanent resident of South Africa and in 2007 he was officially inducted into the Sotho clan of his wife’s family.


After reading Drama at the Bristol University Dornford-May took an Assistant Directorship with the Royal Shakespeare Company, working with Terry Hands on Coriolanus and The Duchess of Malfi as well as directing The Invisible Man and coordinating The Plays Banned by Television Season at the then RSC Workhouse Theatre. After leaving the RSC he founded the Playwrights Company at Bristol Old Vic, specialising in the creation of new work and supported and funded by Tom Stoppard. In 1981 he was appointed Artistic Director of Solent Peoples Theatre, after which he moved to Stoke-on-Trent to work at the Victoria Theatre with Peter Cheesman. He worked for a number of years teaching at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and The Central School of Speech and Drama.

In the mid-1990s Dornford-May formed Broomhill Opera, restoring and reviving Wilton’s Music Hall in the East End of London. In 2000, Dornford-May together with UK conductor Charles Hazlewood travelled to South Africa where they held auditions across the country, auditioning over 2000 individuals to form a lyric theatre company for the Spier Festival, which would go on to become the Isango Ensemble. Dornford-May continues to run the company in South Africa.


In November 2010 Dornford-May wrote an opinion piece for a South African newspaper[1] in which he deplored the 'White Face' of South African theatre and the lack of critics who could speak any African language. After publication he received much criticism in the press from the art establishment, and later that month Dornford-May and his all-black South African acting company were thrown out of the Fugard Theatre after less than a year, amid claims of poor box office takings.[2]



  1. "Working on the white face of theatre". Cape Times. 18 November 2010. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  2. "All-black SA acting company evicted from theatre - Arts - Mail & Guardian Online". Mail & Guardian Online. Retrieved 12 April 2012.

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