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John has written over twenty plays and adaptations for theatre and for radio. Amongst other nominations and awards, he has won an Olivier, two coveted TMA/SWET awards, two Herald Angels and one Fringe First.


John Retallack has been a theatre director for over thirty years.

He was the founding Artistic Director of Actors Touring Company/ATC London (1977 - 85) and Artistic Director of Oldham Coliseum (1985 - 88). He was Artistic Director of Oxford Stage Company at The Oxford Playhouse (1989 - 99) and founding Artistic Director of the new writing company, Company of Angels (2000 - 2010). From 2010 to 2013 he was Associate Director at Bristol Old Vic where he remains an Associate Artist.


He has been a guest director of productions in America, Japan, India, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Holland and Ireland. All of his companies have toured internationally and John’s work has been seen all over the world.

John recently adapted Sandro Veronesi's Strega Prize-winning novel The Hummingbird (2021) for BBC Radio Three; it was broadcast in June 2022 and on New Year’s Day 2023. It was long listed for the BBC Best ADAPTATION Award for 2022.

John has recently completed writing his career memoir, THEATREMAKING.

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His twelve original theatre plays include Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland (2019) (Marlowe Canterbury and tour), Wild Girl (2014) (Bristol Old Vic), Truant (2013) (National Theatre of Scotland), Arlo (2010) (Southwark Playhouse), Risk (2007) (Tron Theatre, Glasgow), Virgins (2006) (Edinburgh Festival and National Tour), Sweetpeter (2004) (Polka Theatre and National Tour), Ballroom (2004) (Riverside Studios & National Tour) and Hannah and Hanna (2001) (National and British Council tours). He also adapted and directed Apples by Richard Milward (2006), The Plague by Camus (2000), and Junk by Melvyn Burgess (1998).

His plays are published by Bloomsbury:


His adaptation of J.B. Priestley’s classic novel The Good Companions for Radio 4 was broadcast in March, 2018. He directed Unicorns, Almost, Owen Sheers' play about the poet Keith Douglas, for the Hay Festival in May 2018/November 2019, in Bayeux, Normandy, June 2019, and for the Edinburgh Fringe, August 2019; the production received outstanding local and national reviews. In 2022, he directs Owen Sheers’ play about the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa for BBC Radio 3.

“John Retallack’s canny two-hander couldn’t be more topical. This little scorcher gets right to the heart of the tensions that arise in depressed communities when refugees arrive. It’s funny and sad, and every time it comes within a whisker of sentimentality it veers off with head butting toughness."

Lyn Gardner on Hannah and Hanna, The Guardian

His adaptations for BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4 and The World Service include Camus’ The Outsider, Mankell’s A Bridge to the Stars and Selincourt’s The Cricket Match, as well as his own plays, Arlo and Hannah and Hanna.

He has been a regular guest of the Odyssey Artist-in-Residence Programme in Lille and Calais. He has worked extensively in Holland and France.


“At no point is Sweetpeter anything other than engaging. The script elucidates complex issues with subtlety and tact, by turns heart-warming, harrowing and periodically hilarious. Best of all is the way the characters linger, utterly believably. It is the kind of play that can change a person’s perspective indefinitely.” Time Out

His production of Pink Mist by Owen Sheers toured the UK in Spring 2017, after sustained runs at Bristol Old Vic and The Bush Theatre in London.


"John Retallack’s fluid, dream-like production physically matches the script’s verve – his tightly drilled company of six deploying synchronised moves and graceful slow-motion to bring home the way the shock-waves of war can travel deep beneath the skin." Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph



He led the Writing for Performance course at Ruskin College, Oxford from 2013 to 2017 and currently teaches on the Oxford University Creative Writing Mst and CONTED programmes. At Ruskin he initiated Ruskin Theatre Platforms, and, in collaboration with Oxford Playhouse, staged over thirty readings of contemporary plays to popular acclaim.

John has led five new writing programmes for Performing Arts Labs and three courses for the Arvon Foundation. With With his wife, Renata Allen, he is now the co-director of Oxford Playmaker which specialises in introducing people of all ages to the craft and art of writing plays.


Junk adapted from Melvyn Burgess’ novel Methuen 1999

Hannah and Hanna English and Media 2002

Hannah and Hanna French’s acting edition 2004

Hannah et Hanna Editions Fontaine 2004

Sweetpeter New Plays for Young People Methuen 2006

Four Plays for Company of Angels by John Retallack  Oberon 2008

(Hannah and Hanna, Risk, Club Asylum, Virgins)

Risque Editions Bleu 2009

Apples Oberon 2012

Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland Oberon 2019


Plays written and directed for Company of Angels 


Hannah and Hanna

Company of Angels tour in UK and Edinburgh 2001 - 2003

Edinburgh Festival

Winner of Herald Angel Award

TMA Award/Best New Show for Young People nominee

2004 - 2005 British Council tours to India, Malaysia and the Philippines

2002  World Service radio broadcast 

Produced and translated into French, Swedish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, Hebrew and Japanese

Over 200 performances in Sweden and 100 in Belgium


“Hannah and Hanna is an important play which faces head on the most controversial issue of the moment, the plight of asylum seekers in Britain. But it is also a moving, gripping and very well-acted piece of theatre. Intended by its prize-winning writer and director, John Retallack, for teenage audiences, it is playing successfully to all ages at Edinburgh-a tribute to the quality of both writing and presentation.” Heather Neill, The Times Educational Supplement


Wild Girl

2002 Company of Angels/ Quicksilver tour

2004 Wederzijds tour of Holland & Belgium

2004 Runner-up, Hans Snoek Award, Amsterdam

2013 Bristol Old Vic tour in co-production with Theatre Royal, Bath, Dukes

Playhouse, Lancaster and Theatre Iolo, Cardiff

Translated and produced in French and Dutch



Club Asylum

Company of Angels tour of Scotland

Tron Theatre Glasgow

Published by Oberon

Translated in French

"Club Asylum is one of the most important theatrical shows created in Scotland in the past year...its strength lies in Retallack’s thoughtful, well-muscled script." Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman


Sweetpeter  (with Usifu Jalloh)

Company of Angels National Tour

Polka Theatre London

Translated & performed in French

Published by Methuen




Company of Angels National Tour

Edinburgh Festival

Translated and performed in French, Swedish, German

Published by Oberon

Over 150 performances in Sweden




Company of Angels Scottish and English tour

Tron Theatre Glasgow

Translated and performed in French and German

Published by Oberon and Les Solitaires Intempestifs

2008 Theater an der Parkaue Berlin

2012 Compagnie L’Interlude Tour of France

2013 Avignon Festival

2014 - 15 Further French touring including Paris

"Although it is performed by five young professional actor-dancers, the raw voices of those involved in the workshop process can be heard in every detail of Retallack's text...Risk is an energetic, thoughtful and likeable show, with one or two shuddering moments of truth."

The Scotsman



Apples (Adapted from Richard Milward’s novel)

Company of Angels & Northern Stage Newcastle

National Tour

Edinburgh Festival

Winner of Herald Angel Award




Public Reading for Company of Angels Theatre Café

Southwark Playhouse

Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4




National Theatre of Scotland & Company of Angels

Glasgow tour


Plays written and directed for Bristol Old Vic



Pictures at an Exhibition

Bristol Old Vic Young Company



Wild Girl

Bristol Old Vic and regional tour

A co-production between Bristol Old Vic and Theatr Iolo



The Last Days of Mankind

(with Toby Hulse, adapted from original text by Karl Kraus)

Bristol Old Vic/Bristol Old Vic Theatre School


Freelance Writing



The Plague (adapted from Albert Camus' novel)

Dundee Rep



The Foundling

Brighton Theatre Company tour of South-East



Common Ground

Cardboard Citizens tour for homeless people in London




National Tour

Riverside Studios London

Translated into French

"A play with dancing by John Retallack, Ballroom takes you in its firm-but-gentle embrace and spins you off into the strange sunset world of the seaside tea dance...It's funny. It's sad. It's an elating symbol of how differences of age and temperament can be fleetingly dissolved in dance." Jeremy Kingston The Times



A Bridge to the Stars (adapted from Henning Mankell’s novel)

Cottesloe Theatre

National Theatre Connections Festival

Afternoon Play BBC Radio 4



The Outsider (adapted from Albert Camus’ novel)

BBC Radio 3

90 minute broadcast on centenary of Camus’ birth 3.11.13




Afternoon Play on BBC Radio 4


Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland

UK Arts International/HOUSE

Turner Gallery, Margate 2016

Edinburgh Fringe 2017


Adapted JB Priestley's The Good Companions for BBC Radio 4. To be broadcast 2018.


Adaptation of J.B. Priestley's The Good Companions broadcast 3 February 2018

Directed Owen Sheers' Unicorns, Almost for the Hay Festival

Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland opens at Marlow Theatre in Canterbury

Oberon Books publish Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland


Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland plays at The Turner Prize festival Making Waves in Margate.

Unicorns, Almost plays at Hay-on-Wye Winter Festival, Edinburgh Fringe (for one month) and Bayeux in France to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

John reads the opening act of his new play, The Splash, at Worcester College, Oxford to mark his appointment there as RLF Visiting Fellow for 2019-21

2020 - 2021

John wrote THEATREMAKING, a memoir of his career over the last 40 years.



John recently adapted Sandro Veronesi's Strega Prize-winning novel The Hummingbird (2021) for BBC Radio Three; it was broadcast in June 2022 and on New Year’s Day 2023. It was long listed for the BBC Best ADAPTATION Award for 2022.


2022 – 2023

In collaboration with The Old Fire Station, Oxford, he founded OXFORD PLATFORMS, staged readings of the best new plays to emerge from the OXFORD PLAYWRITING COURSE.


The cast of CLUB ASYLUM, Glasgow, 2002

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