Kelly Hunter

Kelly Hunter MBE (born 21 July 1963) is a British film, television, radio, stage and musical actress, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company[1] and the National Theatre. She is a Laurence Olivier Award nominee[2] and Radio Academy Award and TMA Awards winner.

Kelly Hunter
Kelly Hunter

(1963-07-21) 21 July 1963 (age 57)
Battersea, London, England
Years active1980–present

The daughter of the actors Maria Charles and Robin Hunter, Kelly Hunter grew up in London and attended the Lady Margaret School in Parsons Green, followed by the Arts Educational Schools in London, which she left when she was 16. Her sister is the stage manager Samantha Hunter. She was married to the theatre director Simon Usher with whom she has two sons, Albert Usher (born 1996) and Charlie Usher (born 1998). She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Flute Theatre, a company which produces the works of William Shakespeare for interactive audiences. She lives in South West London.

Theatre careerEdit

Born in 1963 in Battersea in London, Hunter's professional acting career began with playing The Mistress in the original West End production of Evita (1980).[3] Over the next decade she appeared in leading roles in musicals for Hal Prince, Sir Peter Hall, Jerome Savary and Trevor Nunn; for the latter she appeared as Lola in The Blue Angel (1991–92) with the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and in the West End and for which she was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award in the category 'Best Actress in a Musical' (1993).[4][5] Stage appearances at the National Theatre include roles in Jean Seberg (1983) directed by Sir Peter Hall, She Stoops to Conquer (1984) directed by Giles Block, and A Chorus of Disapproval (1985) directed by Alan Ayckbourn. At the Strand Theatre she played Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1986), directed by Jerome Savary, while at the Royal Exchange she appeared in School for Scandal (1990) directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

She worked with Stephen Unwin at the English Touring Theatre, appearing as Nora Helmer in A Doll's House (1994)[6] and as Rosalind in As You Like It (1995), receiving a Theatre Awards UK for the latter role.[7] She played Dorothy Wordsworth in the one-woman play Exquisite Sister (1996), which she co-wrote with Simon Usher and which was performed at West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and the Assembly Rooms during the Edinburgh Festival.[4][8] In 2000 Hunter appeared in Sir Peter Hall's production of Giuseppe Manfridi's play Cuckoos at the Gate Theatre in London, and appeared in The Lucky Ones at Hampstead Theatre (2002).

For the RSC Hunter appeared as Isobel in Stephen Poliakoff's Talk of the City (1998), Lady Constance in King John (2000), and Eva Maria Garrick in Jubilee (2001).[5] She played Goneril in King Lear and Hermione in The Winter's Tale in David Farr's productions at Stratford, London and New York (2010).

Since 2006 she has made occasional international tours as The Mother in the Icelandic theatre group Vesturport's popular production of Metamorphosis, having originated the role at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.[4]

In September 2013 she played Mrs Alving in Ghosts at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, under the direction of Stephen Unwin.[9]

Flute Theatre performing The Tempest for children with autism (2016)

Hunter is the founder and Artistic Director of Flute Theatre, a touring company which performs the works of Shakespeare for interactive audiences.[10] Her production of Hamlet, who's there?, in which she played Gertrude, had an international tour throughout 2016. Flute's other productions which have also toured the international Shakespeare festivals include The Tempest and Twelfth Night.

In June 2019 Hunter was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to theatre.[11][12]

Radio, TV and film rolesEdit


For television Hunter's roles include:


Her film appearances include:


Radio includes

The Hunter Heartbeat MethodEdit

Hunter first began working with children with autism during her time with the RSC in 2002, when she set up her own company, Touchstone Shakespeare Theatre, to work with children, some with autism, who had little if any access to the Arts. Through this work she created and developed The Hunter Heartbeat Method, a distinctive methodology which uses Shakespeare's rhythmic language and physical gesture to release communicative blocks within children with all levels of autism, including children who are non-verbal. The methodology is being studied as a long-term research project at Ohio State University.[15][16]

A DVD Dreams and Voices (2007), documents the early games of the methodology and is available from the National Autistic Society.

In June 2014 Hunter directed a production of The Tempest for children with autism at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon after which it toured to Ohio State University.[17]

Honours, awards and nominationsEdit

Hunter was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to theatre.[18]

Laurence Olivier AwardsEdit

0 win, 1 nomination

Laurence Olivier Award
Year Nominated work Category Result
1993 The Blue Angel playing "Lola" at the Globe Theatre 1993 Laurence Olivier Awards Best Actress in a Musical[2] Nominated

Radio Academy AwardsEdit

1 win, 1 nomination

Radio Academy Awards
Year Nominated work Category Result
1997 Kelly Hunter for 'Transit of Venus, BBC Radio 3' Sony Gold Award Winner for Best Dramatic Performance Won

Theatre Awards UKEdit

1 win, 1 nomination

Theatre Awards UK
Year Nominated work Category Result
1996 Rosalind for 'As you like it, English Touring Theatre'[19] Best Actress Award Won


  1. ^ Bennett, Rosemary. "Shakespeare calms children with autism". The Times. The Times, 24 October 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b Hunter's nomination as 'Best Actress in a Musical' (1993) – the Olivier Awards website Archived 2 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ 'Evita' cast list (1978) on the Theatricalia website
  4. ^ a b c Hunter's Official Website
  5. ^ a b The Blue Angel on the Theatricalia website
  6. ^ A Doll's House Cast ListEnglish Touring Theatre website
  7. ^ Hunter on the UK Theatre Awards website
  8. ^ 'A semi-detached suburban sister'The Daily Telegraph 24 August 1996
  9. ^ 'Ibsen's Ghosts to Be Staged in U.K. in Production Inspired by Edvard Munch's Berlin Designs' – Playbill website – 24 July 2013 Archived 16 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Hunter on the Flute Theatre website
  11. ^ The Queen’s birthday honours in full - The Times 8 June 2019
  12. ^ Queen’s birthday honours list 2019 in full: here’s everyone being recognised this year - i 8 June 2019
  13. ^ a b Hunter on the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ 'Actress Kelly Hunter on her perfect Surrey weekend' – Surrey Life 1 November 2013
  15. ^ "'The Hunter Heartbeat Method' on Hunter's website". Archived from the original on 16 July 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  16. ^ "'Shakespeare and Autism' – Teaching Shakespeare Vol 3 Spring 2013" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  17. ^ Royal Shakespeare Company Press Release – February 2014
  18. ^ "No. 62666". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 June 2019. p. B18.
  19. ^ Company, Royal Shakespeare (19 August 2004). Players of Shakespeare 6: Essays in the Performance of Shakespeare's History Plays. Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780521840880.

External linksEdit