Martin Duncan

© Pete Jones


Martin Duncan was born in London and trained as a stage manager at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  He is equally at home in Opera and Theatre.  He was Artistic Director of the Nottingham Playhouse and Joint Artistic Director of the Chichester Festival Theatre.  He co-directed and co-wrote the scenario of the world première of The Nutcracker (Matthew Bourne/Opera North, Edinburgh International Festival) and was Associate Director on the Pet Shop Boys’ Performance Tour and has composed music for over 50 theatre productions. In 2012, Martin was an Artistic Adviser for the London Olympic Culture Festival. His many opera productions include the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Scottish Opera; English National Opera; the Glyndebourne Festival; the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and the Berlin Deutsche Staatsoper



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    19 Feb 14 COWARD Private Lives
    Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

    “Love is a fickle thing, especially through the eyes of the late, great Noël Coward. Coward’s classic comedy of manners follows the troublesome relationship of divorced couple Amanda and Elyot who, while honeymooning with their new partners in the south of France, rediscover their love, and hatred, for one and other.

    Director Martin Duncan wonderfully revives this blissfully hilarious milestone in comedy and presents it in a spectacularly vibrant and glamorous light. Despite his substantial CV, having previously rubbed shoulders with the Pet Shop Boys on their 1991 Performance Tour and worked with the likes of people’s choreographer Matthew Bourne, this is the first time that Duncan has directed a Coward play.

    Coward’s verbal rhythm within his work is always a challenge to bring on to the stage, especially when directing characters to make them convincing. If you get it wrong, it can 
easily become irritatingly tedious. However, Duncan successfully keeps that rhythm throughout and grabs Coward’s satirical portrayal of these two aristocratic brutes with dynamic energy…This is a truly entertaining evening, filled with great wit and wonderfully choreographed sequences, the no-holds-barred domestic feud at the end of act two is a highlight in itself.

    Despite being a piece that only really works within its period, Duncan’s direction really shows Coward’s piece as a timeless classic.”

    John Darley, Edinburgh Evening News, 19 February 2014

    “It’s the climactic scene, in which Noël Coward’s mismatched lovers are at loggerheads. On this morning after an embarrassing night before, they’re doing their damnedest to remain civil. Or, at least, as civil as they can be when two of them are not speaking and the other two have been dumped on their honeymoons. In its blend of sexual confusion and social anxiety, it’s the missing link between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Abigail’s Party.

    Director Martin Duncan makes the situation more excruciating still by forcing them, cheek to cheek, on to the same couch. Banging elbows and knocking knees over a cup of coffee, they give their inner awkwardness an outer shape.

    Half-comic, half-horrific, the scene encapsulates the play’s most telling line: “Has it ever struck you that flippancy might cover a very real embarrassment?” This is not simply a comedy about posh people and their witty aphorisms, but one in which nobody is in control of their emotions.”
    Mark Fisher, The Guardian, 19 February 2014

    “Martin Duncan’s production for the Royal Lyceum continually turns on a sixpence between gossamer-light comedy of manners and moments of disarming pathos…all four of the principals appear at ease with Coward’s oeuvre and are well-served by designer Francis O’Connor’s set, which provides a lavish, Art Deco backdrop to all the verbal sparring…”
    Allan Radcliffe, The Times, 19 February 2014

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    21 Nov 13 BRITTEN Noye's Fludde
    Aldeburgh Festival

    “…it was a show whose low-tech magic came with high production values, beautifully designed in candy coloring, and staged by the director Martin Duncan like a modern cartoon strip without abandoning the charm that older members of the audience (and those who sat with moist eyes through the period reference to the piece in “Moonrise Kingdom”) will have come for.”
    Michael White, New York Times, 25 November 2013

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    20 Jul 13 TODD Alice in Wonderland
    Opera Holland Park

    “Martin Duncan’s engaging production spreads the seven scenes of the 75-minute work around four performing areas, including a giant tea table, and requires the audience and pied-piper musicians to promenade between them.”
    John Allison, The Sunday Telegraph, 21 July 2013