Michael Elliott (director)

Michael Elliott, OBE (1931–1984) was an English theatre and television director.

Michael Elliott
Born(1931-06-26)26 June 1931
St George Hanover Square, London, England, UK
Died30 May 1984(1984-05-30) (aged 52)
Manchester, England, UK
OccupationTheatre and television director
Years active1954–1984
Rosalind Knight
(m. 1959; his death 1984)

Early life

He was born in London, the son of a clergyman, Canon Elliott, and was educated at Radley College and Keble College, Oxford. Whilst still at Oxford he met Caspar Wrede, the theatre director, with whom he was to work closely for the next three decades.


After leaving Oxford he assisted on a production of Edward II at the 1954 Edinburgh Festival Fringe directed by Wrede. Also in 1954 Elliott joined the BBC to direct plays for the drama department.

In 1959 Wrede founded the 59 Theatre Company, based at the Lyric Theatre (Hammersmith) with Elliott appointed assistant artistic director and, although short-lived, the company achieved considerable success with productions of Ibsen's Brand (Elliott's professional debut as a director) and Little Eyolf, plus Georg Büchner's Danton's Death. The two men supervised a season of plays at the Old Vic in 1961, this time with Elliott as artistic director and Wrede as his assistant. He directed As You Like It in Stratford for the RSC with Vanessa Redgrave, Peer Gynt for the Old Vic with Leo McKern and Miss Julie for the National Theatre with Albert Finney and Maggie Smith.[1]

He continued to work in television, often directing plays he'd already produced in the theatre. These included Brand, As You Like It and Little Eyolf. He also worked for television in Norway and Sweden. He completed more than 50 productions in the UK, the last being King Lear (1983) with Laurence Olivier.

In 1967 Elliott and Wrede agreed to direct productions for Braham Murray's Century Theatre at Manchester University and in 1968 the three of them set up the 69 Theatre Company also at the University where they produced plays until 1972. Elliott's productions included J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World with Tom Courtenay, an adaptation of Daniel Deronda by James Maxwell with Vanessa Redgrave and Ibsen's When We Dead Awaken with Wendy Hiller and Brian Cox. Based upon the success of this collaboration the group started to look for a permanent theatre in Manchester and eventually a new theatre was built inside the disused Royal Exchange with Elliott as one of the founding artistic directors. He remained at the Royal Exchange until shortly before his death.[1][2]

His long term collaborator, the translator and playwright Michael Meyer said of Elliott: "Michael combined technical mastery with a brilliant visual sense, the ability to penetrate to the heart of the most resistant text, and the gift of extracting the best from everyone he worked with".[1]

Personal life

He married the actress Rosalind Knight in July 1959. They had two daughters; the theatre director Marianne Elliott[3] and the actor and director Susannah Elliott-Knight. Elliott was awarded the OBE in 1979.

Theatre Productions

His productions include:[1]

Royal Exchange

Other Theatre


The TV films and plays which he has directed include:-


  • The Royal Exchange Theatre Company Words & Pictures 1976–1998. The Royal Exchange Theatre Company Limited. 1998. ISBN 0-9512017-1-9.
  • Murray, Braham (2007). The Worst It Can Be Is a Disaster. London: Methuen Drama. ISBN 978-0-7136-8490-2.


  1. The Royal Exchange Theatre Company Words & Pictures 1976–1998
  2. Braham Murray Autobiography
  3. Kate Kellaway "'When it goes well it is like falling in love. It gives you an incredible high'", The Observer, 29 October 2006
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