McBurney, Simon

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PERSONAL: Born in England. Education: Attended Cambridge University.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Chris Andrews, International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

CAREER: Actor, director, choreographer, writer; director of the Complicite (formerly Theatre de Complicite) theater company. Actor in stage productions, including (as Jean) The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, Theatre de Complicite, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, then Lincoln Center Festival, New York, NY, both 1996; (as Judge Azdak) The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal National Theatre, London, England, 1997; and (as Virgil and the iceman) Mnemonic (one-act), Complicite, John Jay College Theatre, New York, NY, 2001. Director of stage productions, including The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, Theatre de Complicite, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, then Lincoln Center Festival, New York, NY, both 1996; (and choreographer) The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal National Theatre, London, England, 1997; (and choreographer) The Chairs, Royal Court Theatre Downstairs, Duke of York's Theatre, London, England, 1997, then John Golden Theatre, New York, NY, 1998; The Street of Crocodiles/A Dance in the Mind, Lincoln Center Festival, 1998; The Vertical Line, Theatre de Complicite, 1999; Mnemonic (one-act), John Jay College Theatre, New York, NY, 2001; The Noise of Time, Freud Playhouse, University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, 2002; The Elephant Vanishes, Setagaya Public Theatre, Tokyo, then Barbican Theatre, London, England, both 2003; also directed Out of the House Walked a Man, Theatre de Complicite, London; directed The Visit and The Winter's Tale; also worked on other productions. Actor in films, including (as assistant Oscar) Kafka, Miramax, 1991; (as Dr. Reginald Miller) Tom & Viv, Miramax, 1994; (as Franz) Mesmer, Nomadic Pictures, 1994; (as Hermes) Being Human, Warner Bros., 1994; (as salesman) A Business Affair, Castle Hill, 1994; (as Brigadier) Der Unhold (also known as The Ogre), Kino International, 1996; (as Vauvinet) Cousin Bette, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1998; (as Triquet) Onegin, Samuel Goldwyn, 1999; (as Sergei Eisenstein) Eisenstein (also known as The Furnace), Amerique Film, 2000; (as Stephen) The Reckoning (also known as Morality Play), Paramount, 2001; and (as Thomas) Skagerrak (also known as Sweet Dreams), 2003; (as Noyle) The Manchurian Candidate, in production; (as Bernard) The Human Torch, in production. Appeared as himself in the television miniseries Changing Stages, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), 2000. Appeared on episodes of television series, including (as the man) "Trust," The Two of Us, London Weekend Television, 1989; (as Mick) "The Crying Game," The Comic Strip Presents, British Broadcasting Company (BBC), 1992; (as Madman) "Gregory: Diary of a Nutcase," The Comic Strip Presents, BBC, 1993; (as Cecil) "Animals," and "Songs of Praise" The Vicar of Dibley, BBC, 1994; (as the choirmaster) "Love and Marriage," The Vicar of Dibley, BBC, 1998; and (as Henry Carstairs) "Death of a Stranger," Midsomer Murders, Arts and Entertainment, 1999.

AWARDS, HONORS: (With Theatre de Complicite) Edinburgh Award and Perrier Award for comedy, for More Bigger Snacks Now.


(With Mark Wheatly) The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, based on a story by John Berger, Methuen Drama (London, England), 1995.

Mnemonic (one-act play), produced at Theatre de Complicite, John Jay College Theatre, New York, NY, 2001.

Also author of foreword, The Moving Body: Teaching Creative Theatre, by Jacques Lecoq, Jean-Gabriel Carasso, and Jean-Claude Lallias, translated by David Bradby, Routledge (New York, NY), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Actor and director Simon McBurney is best known as one of the founders and the artistic director of the London-based experimental theater company Theatre de Complicite. The company's trademark is its minimalism: they work on nearly bare stages, without elaborate backdrops and special effects. When props are necessary, the actors often use their bodies to provide them, laying down on the stage and fanning their hands in the air to become a patch of briers, for example, as they did in The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol.

McBurney has long been known for revamping established texts and performing them in novel new ways, but only starting in 1995 did he begin formally to write for the stage. In that year the Theatre de Complicite presented The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, a drama about a much-harassed but still defiantly strong farm woman, based on a story by John Berger. The original story is "a masterpiece" which "movingly evokes the trials and rough dignity of peasant life, and rises to an almost mystical appreciation of the role the dead play in sustaining the living," John Bemrose wrote in Maclean's. Although Bemrose thought that the play failed to do full justice to the promise of the story, David A. Rosenberg was more positive in a review he wrote for Back Stage. "With a childlike insouciance and an elastic physicality, [The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol's] seven cast members not only disguised themselves as multiple characters; they used ordinary objects to tell an extraordinarily powerful adult tale," he wrote.

Six years later, McBurney's first completely original show, Mnemonic, was staged, to generally positive reviews. As patrons entered the door, they were given a bag with an eyemask and a leaf in it, and as the lights went down they were invited to blindfold themselves with the mask, to feel the leaf, and to reflect on the nature of memory in a monologue delivered by McBurney. "This prelude ushers in a wonderfully arresting piece of theatre that could perhaps best be described as a sizzle of connections across the collective synapses," Paul Taylor wrote in the London Independent. The heart of the show is comprised of two intertwined tales, about a young woman traveling across Europe in search of her father and the Ice Man, a Neolithic corpse uncovered in the Alps in 1991. Caught between both tales is McBurney, playing a character named Virgil who is the abandoned boyfriend of the young woman but whose pose on stage—nude, laying on a slab with his head on a stone—also represents the body of the Ice Man as he lies in a museum. The play's climax, in which a folding chair used as a puppet is manipulated through the Ice Man's final climb, collapse, and death, "is sheer low-tech magic," Michael Phillips wrote in the Los Angeles Times, and the way in which this scene intersects with the young woman's search for her father "is unforgettably, chillingly powerful," said Entertainment Weekly reviewer Justine Elias.



Back Stage, August 30, 1996, David A. Rosenberg, review of The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, p. 26; April 10, 1998, Chip Deffaa, review of The Chairs, p. 35.

Back Stage West, March 28, 2002, Scott Proudfit, review of The Noise of Time, pp. 15-16.

Daily Variety, July 10, 2003, Matt Wolf, review of TheElephant Vanishes, p. 8.

Entertainment Weekly, April 13, 2001, Justine Elias, review of Mnemonic, p. 67.

Evening Standard (London, England), July 6, 2001, Michael White, profile of Theatre de Complicite, p. 49.

Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), August 1, 1998, Michael Posner, interview with McBurney.

Guardian (London, England), November 26, 1999, Michael Billington, review of Mnemonic, p. 27; January 1, 2003, Simon McBurney, essay about performing Mnemonic, p. 8.

Independent (London, England), July 25, 1998, David Usborne, "A Week in the Life of: Simon McBurney," p. 16; December 1, 1999, Paul Taylor, review of Mnemonic, p. 11; December 7, 1999, review of Mnemonic, p. 14; December 31, 1999, Paul Taylor, review of The Vertical Line, p. 15; October 4, 2000, Marianne Brace, interview with McBurney, p. 11; November 2, 2000, Paul Taylor, review of Light, p. 9.

Independent Sunday (London, England), January 24, 1999, Robert Butler, review of The Street of Crocodiles, p. 6; January 31, 1999, Charlotte Mullins, review of The Vertical Line, p. 15; December 5, 1999, review of Mnemonic, p. 8; October 1, 2000, Mark Espiner, interview with McBurney, p. 6; July 6, 2003, Kate Bassett, review of The Elephant Vanishes, p. 12.

Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2001, Michael Phillips, review of Mnemonic, p. F-5.

Maclean's, September 23, 1996, John Bemrose, review of The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, pp. 64-65.

New Leader, April 6, 1998, Stefan Kanfer, review of The Chairs, p. 23.

New Statesman & Society, February 3, 1995, Betty Caplan, review of The Three Lives of Lucie Cabrol, p. 34.

Observer (London, England), March 3, 1996, Sarah Hemming, profile of Theatre de Complicite, p. 12.

Times (London, England), November 26, 1999, Jeremy Kingston, review of Mnemonic, p. 52.

Variety, December 8, 1997, Matt Wolf, review of TheChairs, pp. 119-120; April 6, 1998, Matt Wolf, review of The Chairs, p. 52; October 9, 2000, Dennis Harvey, review of Eisenstein, p. 29; April 2, 2001, Charles Isherwood, review of Mnemonic, p. 28.


Internet Movie Database, (July 8, 2003), "Simon McBurney."

Theatre de Complicite Web site, (July 22, 2003).*