Tom Morris, Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic

"John Retallack combines an acid sharp dramaturgical brain, a distinguished track record in dramatic storytelling in his own writing, and the natural patience and attentiveness of a born teacher. He challenges and stimulates the vision of his pupils, interrogates and critically assesses their practice, while always respecting the vulnerabilities that accompany any creative journey. If I were an aspiring playwright with an appetite to learn about the playwright’s craft, I couldn’t imagine a more skilled and supportive tutor."

Tim Crouch, writer, director 

"John has been a presence alongside my work from the beginning.  He read my first play when it was just a file on my desktop and he gave me the critical confidence to believe in it.  He helped me understand my context - artistically, politically, socially.  I seek his opinion and trust it inherently.  He reads and watches theatre with an unparalleled wisdom and acuity borne from deep experience.  He combines an intellectual rigour with a heartfelt instinct for what is true on the page and the stage.  He is fearless and wide-ranging in his knowledge and his taste - from Shakespeare to progressive  contemporary theatre practice.  There are few people I would trust as a dramaturg to my work. John is at the top of that list.

And then there are his plays.  His plays are generous to their subject, their audience and their actors. He writes words that fly from the page - lyrical, political, human.  He understands the four dimensions of the stage and writes work that celebrates theatre’s possibilities.  John is a rare combination of an outstandingly creative theatre artist and a truly transformative teacher." 

Bryony Lavery, writer, co-director with John on the playwriting course at Performing Arts Labs

"Usually, with a writing tutor, you  get someone who knows how to write and how to teach writing.  With John Retallack, you get those two gifts, plus a cracking experienced and imaginative director!  He knows the geography of both page and stage and how to make those two landscapes one. He also has super-abundant energy and enthusiasm, two invaluable gifts he will hand you on the long journey you will be making from first idea to who knows how many drafts and rewrites later." 

Owen Sheers, writer 

"The Bristol Old Vic production and tour of Pink Mist simply wouldn’t have happened or been the success it was without the vision, commitment and directorial brilliance of John Retallack. As a verse drama the play didn’t meet with immediate enthusiasm from the theatre’s producers but John was not only able to envisage how the text might translate to the stage in a dramatically exciting manner, but also had the eloquence to persuade others of his vision  and the practical know-how to stage a reading to convince them.

Once the play was in production I found John to be a particularly sensitive and acute reader, never settling until a certain scene or character note found perfect expression within his plans for the piece on stage, or within his own understanding. Negotiations over cuts and amendments were handled with a light, but necessarily firm, touch. When it came to working with the text in the rehearsal room I was very impressed with John’s ability to draw out the best from young actors - particularly his innate instinct of when to let an actor discover the next level of interpretation themselves or to guide them in that direction himself.

John has a writer’s understanding of structure, texture, character and tone blended with a director’s eye and ear for a quality of performance that will make an audience not just think but also, crucially, feel. It was a privilege to work with him and I very much hope I’m lucky enough to do so again."

Jonathan Lloyd, director

"John Retallack is a hugely talented and experienced playwright and director. He combines practical know-how with incisive analysis and an infectious love of theatre. For anyone wanting to write professionally for the stage,  I couldn't think of anyone better to support, challenge and inspire you."

Maura Dooley, poet, writer and creative writing tutor at Goldsmiths College, London

"John Retallack is a prize-winning writer and director but he is also a talented, generous and imaginative teacher. His international outlook, his experience working across Europe, his curiosity and boundless interest in all that is new brings an open mind and unexpected riches to any work he takes on. To write and study alongside him will give an aspiring playwright an experienced, creative and encouraging mentor of the highest order. Great fun too!"

Adam Peck, writer

"I have known John since 2010, and in that time have found him to be a passionate supporter of new writing and writers, as well as being a highly successful theatre-maker in his own right. His vast experience as a playwright, director and artistic director has made him a fount of knowledge about what makes a play successful, both in terms of its writing and its realisation in production. In other words he knows what works, and that, combined with his extensive knowledge of classical and modern theatre, puts him in an ideal position to teach others how to write and make theatre."

Ben Harrison, Co-Artistic Director, Grid Iron Theatre, Edinburgh

"John Retallack is an outstanding nurturer of new plays and playwrights, as well as being an accomplished playwright himself. I first worked with John on the Making the Future project with Oxford Stage Company in 1998 where he presented, UK-wide, dynamic script in hand readings of new plays for young people. At the time this was a very under-served area of work in the UK. I went on to assist him on the Performing Arts Labs residencies for emerging playwrights, where many many new plays were launched, and Theatre Cafe for Company of Angels, which brought ground-breaking continental European dramaturgy to the UK scene. John's wisdom, dramaturgical skill and kind but firm guidance with writers at all stages in their careers, are in my experience second to none. In my early years as a theatre maker it was to John I would turn for dramaturgical advice on character, structure, theme and story. The writers on John's course are in for a treat; a combination of ever-youthful enthusiasm for the new and the accumulated knowledge of nearly four decades of professional theatre experience."

Toby Hulse, writer, director, creative practitioner

"I have had the great fortune and pleasure to work with John in three different contexts: whilst I was a student on an Arvon residential playwriting course; as a co-writer on The Last Days of Mankind; and as a teaching colleague delivering a course on dramatic monologues at Ruskin College, Oxford.

John has that great and rare ability to be able to communicate all that he has learned from his own work as a playwright and theatre maker to his students in a way that is accessible, challenging and supportive in equal measure.  He has substantial knowledge of an extraordinary variety of different theatrical styles, drawn from practical, professional experience, and the critical, analytical and teaching skills to pass that knowledge on to learners.  As a tutor I found him inspiring and provocative; as a co-writer he was generous, truly collaborative, and always open to new ideas; and as a teaching colleague he was supportive and great fun to work with.  I leave any conversation with John with my head buzzing with new ideas and challenges, eager to return to my laptop and get writing.  If anyone can inspire, guide and develop writers at any stage of their career, then John can."

Jan Ryan, Director, UK Arts International

"Not only does John Retallack have a tale to tell, but he tells it in a way that makes it accessible to a very wide audience – including those who are not familiar with theatre. His writing is relevant and immediate – qualities which have made his plays resonate in particular with young people and in different cultural contexts.  But although John’s work is beguilingly sharp and clear, it is by no means simplistic. He is a playwright who presents his audience with stories that challenge their assumptions and remind them that issues are often more complex than they at first appear."

Alan Wright, producer and former associate of New River Dramatists, one of North America’s leading writing programmes

"John Retallack is a consummate storyteller, whether in the role of writer or director. His talent is born out of a genuine curiosity about the human condition, recognising that each of us has a unique story to tell. As a mentor, John is like the benign psychologist, gently helping to unravel the outer layers of a story to reveal its hidden depths, as well as bringing order, structure and rhythm to the work. I have always found his judgment to be impeccable."


Karl James, director of The Dialogue Project and co-director of Tim Crouch's plays

"John’s mind is like no other when it comes to understanding texts. He manages to hear and see what’s happening in a play in a way that very few people can. It’s almost like he’s a play detective, picking up on the subtle shifts and nuances of when a writer is really flowing and when they’re not. He can see where a scene you thought was totally essential can be cut completely. And where you might need a little more, not a little less. Every time we make a new piece, we get John into the room as early as we can, just to get his experienced eyes and ears on it."

Jeremy James, Artistic Director Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre

"The opportunity to be taught and mentored as a developing writer and playwright by John Retallack is an opportunity no aspirational writer should miss. John has been working in the industry for over 30 years and throughout that period has been at the heart of innovation and the creation of new work and some of the UK’s most dynamic theatre. As a director, producer and writer, John has been associated with some of the strongest theatre companies in the country – ATC, Oxford Stage Company, Company of Angels and Bristol Old Vic.

I have worked with and known John for the best part of two decades. He has delivered plays that connect to a particular moment in time and found a relevance to a generation of young people and adults alike.

With his work with Company of Angels and their remarkable Theatre Cafe programme that brought new translations of some of the best European plays to the UK for the first time, yet again John embedded himself at the heart of new work. As a mentor and supporter of fellow and other emerging  artists John is the perfect writer and teacher to deliver such a programme."

Photography by Stuart Allsopp and Geraint Lewis. Website by Alexandra Coke.

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon