Colin Chambers

Colin Chambers is a theatre writer who has been a journalist, a radio and print theatre critic, and Literary Manager of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1981-97). During his time at the RSC, he worked with more than eighty playwrights, including Richard Nelson, who has had ten plays performed by the company. With Nelson, he co-wrote and co-directed Kenneth’s First Play and co-wrote Tynan, both of which were staged by the RSC. He was also associate director on Nelson’s Madame Melville at the Vaudeville Theatre. He adapted with Steven Pimlott Molière’s The Learned Ladies (The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon), he selected and edited for performance Three Farces by John Maddison Morton (Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond), and he adapted David Pinski’s Treasure (Finborough Theatre, London). He unearthed Agnes Colander,  an unpublished and unperformed play by Harley Granville Barker written in 1900, which received its world premiere in 2018 at the Theatre Royal Bath's Ustinov Studio, directed by Trevor Nunn.

He edited Making Plays: The Writer-Director Relationship in the Theatre Today by Richard Nelson and David Jones, co-edited with Richard Nelson Granville Barker on Theatre, and edited and contributed to the Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre, which he is updating. He has written extensively on the theatre, including the books Other Spaces: New Writing and the RSC; Playwrights’ Progress (with Michael Prior); The Story of Unity Theatre; Peggy: the Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent (winner of the inaugural Theatre Book Prize); Peggy to Her Playwrights: The Letters of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent;  Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company; Here We Stand: Politics, Performers and Performance – Paul Robeson, Isadora Duncan and Charlie Chaplin; and Black and Asian Theatre in Britain: A History. He was the first Professor of Drama at Kingston University and is now an Emeritus Professor there.

South East


Theatre London (editor, historical contributor; British International Theatre Institute/London Transport, London, 1980)

Other Spaces: New Theatre and the RSC (author; Eyre Methuen & TQ Publications, London, 1980)

Dreams and Deconstructions: Alternative Theatre in Britain (contributor; Amber Lane Press, Oxford, 1980)

Playwrights’ Progress: Patterns of Postwar British Drama (co-author with Mike Prior, Amber Lane Press, Oxford, 1987)

The Story of Unity Theatre (author; Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1989)

Making Plays: The Writer-Director Relationship in the Theatre Today by Richard Nelson and David Jones (editor, Faber and Faber, London, 1995)

Heart of a Heartless World: Essays in Cultural Resistance (contributor; Pluto Press, London, 1995)

The Learned Ladies by Molière (co-adaptor with Steven Pimlott from translation by A.R. Waller, performed RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle, London 1996/7; Nick Hern Books, London 1996)

Peggy: the Life of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent (author; Nick Hern Books, London, 1997; St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1998; Methuen Paperback, London, 1998; winner of the inaugural annual Theatre Book Prize, 1998, Society of Theatre Research; new paperback edition 2020, Salamander Street Ltd)

Kenneth’s First Play (co-author and co-director with Richard Nelson, performed Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle, Plymouth, London, 1997/8; co-author of Introduction, Commentary and notes, Methuen, London, 1998)

Introduction to Goodnight Children Everywhere by Richard Nelson (Faber and Faber, London, 1997)

Introduction to Bad Weather by Robert Holman (Nick Hern Books, London, 1998)

Theatre in a Cool Climate (co-editor with Vera Gottlieb and contributor; Amber Lane Press, Oxford, 1999)

Introduction to Contemporary Dramatists (6th edition; St James’s Press, Michigan, 1999)

Talking Shakespeare (contributor: Palgrave/Macmillan, London, 2001)

The Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre (editor and contributor; Continuum, London and New York, major reference work, 250 contributors from 20 countries, 2,500 entries; 2002 and subsequent editions)

Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution (author; Routledge, London and New York, 2004)

Extraordinary Actors (co-contributor with Maggie Steed; University of Exeter Press, Exeter, 2004)

Entries on Robert Bolt, David Mercer, Peggy Ramsay, and Mustapha Matura for the New Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, Oxford)

Tynan, an adaptation of Kenneth Tynan’s Diaries, (co-adapter with Richard Nelson; first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2004, Faber and Faber, London, 2004)

‘Developments in the Profession of Theatre, 1946-2000’, chapter for the Cambridge History of the British Theatre, vol 3, Since 1895 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2004)

Interviewed in Jean Genet: Performance and Politics (Palgrave, London, 2006)

Here We Stand: Politics, Performers and Performance – Paul Robeson, Isadora Duncan and Charlie Chaplin (uthor; Nick Hern Books, London, 2006)

Get Real: Documentary Theatre Past and Present (contributor; Palgrave Macmillan, New York and London, 2009)

‘ “Ours Will Be a Dynamic Contribution”: the Struggle by Diasporic Artists for a Voice in British Theatre in the 1930s and 1940s’ (essay in Key Words. A Journal of Cultural Materialism, no. 7, 2009)

Black and Asian Theatre in Britain: A History (author; Routledge, 2011)

The Greatest Shows on Earth: World Theatre from Peter Brook to the Sydney Olympics (contributor; Libri Publishing, Faringdon, Oxfordshire, 2011)

‘Fringe Theatre Before the Fringe’ (talk for the Society of Theatre Research published in Studies in Theatre and Performance, vol. 31, no. 3, 2011)

Critical Essays on British South Asian Theatre (contributor; University of Exeter Press, 2012)

India in Britain: South Asian Networks, 1858-1950 (contributor; Palgrave Macmillan, 2013

Interviewed for Howard Barker’s Theatre: Wrestling with Catastrophe, eds. James Reynolds and Andy W. Smith, London, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015 (267 pp. Pbk 978-1-4081-8439-4)

New adaptation of Treasure by David Pinski, London, Oberon Books, 2015 (106 pp.

Pbk: 978-1-78319-999-0; produced Finborough Theatre, west London Oct-Nov 2015)

‘A Brief history of Waste’, article for National Theatre programme, autumn 2015

‘The New Radicals: Ibsen and the Birth of Political Theatre’, article for Chichester Festival Theatre programme (An Enemy of the People), April 2016

Granville Barker on Theatre: Selected Essays, co-ed., Introduction (pp, x-xi), and Postscript (pp. 227-251) with Richard Nelson, London, Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017 (266 pp., pbk 978-1-4742-9484-3)

‘A Secret Life’, Times Literary Supplement, 1 Sept. 2017, article, co-author (pp. 15-16; 3,175 words; ISSN 03076612)

'The Works and Life of H Granville Barker', an article co-authored with Richard Nelson for the programme of the world premiere production of Agnes Colander, March 2018.

'Agnes Colander: Introduction', an introduction co-authored with Richard Nelson to the published text of Agnes Colander (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2018)

Peggy to her Playwrights: The Letters of Margaret Ramsay, Play Agent (Oberon Books, 2018), selected and edited.

‘Harley Granville Barker: Director Extraordinary’, chapter in The Great European Stage Directors, set 1, vol. 4, ed. Prof. Michael Patterson, Methuen Drama, 2018

‘Staging Early Black and Asian Drama in Britain’, chapter for the Cambridge History of Black and Asian British Writing, ed. Susheila Nasta and Mark U. Stein, CUP 2020
I Saw Democracy Murdered: The Memoir of Sam Russell, Journalist (editor), Routledge, 2022

María Martínez Sierra: A Great Playwright Hidden in Plain Sight, edited with Richard Nelson, and wrote essay with him on the Granville-Barkers translating together, London, Bloomsbury, 2022

The Secret Life by Harley Granville Barker, co-wrote Preface with Richard Nelson, New York, Broadway Play Publishing Inc, 2022

‘Unexpected Georgian Theatre: the Case of Arundel, West Sussex’, Theatre Notebook, vol. 77, no 3, pp 153 -176, Dec 2023


The Story of Unity Theatre (Unity Theatre Trust, 2003)


‘British Theatre Pre-1807’,

‘‘More than Music Hall – How the Alternative is not so New’, http://

entries for Digital Theatre on: Harley Granville Barker, Peter Gill, Michel Saint-Denis, Political Theatre, Theatre of the Absurd, Theatre of Cruelty


Other stage work in addition to that listed in published plays above

Translated and adapted the three Figaro plays by Beaumarchais

Adapted Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists

Selected and edited The Mad World of John Maddison Morton (Orange Tree, Richmond)

Translated and adapted Eugene Brieux’s Three Daughters (Les trois filles de M. Dupont)


Books, Theatre