Jim Sharman

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Jim Sharman
James David Sharman

(1945-03-12) 12 March 1945 (age 76)
  • Screenwriter
  • film/stage director
  • producer
  • playwright

James David Sharman (born 12 March 1945) is an Australian director and writer for film and stage with more than 70 productions to his credit.[1] He is renowned in Australia for his work as a theatre director from the 1960s to the present, and is best known internationally as the director of the 1973 theatrical hit The Rocky Horror Show, its film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and the film's follow-up, Shock Treatment (1981).[2]

Life and career[edit]

Sharman was born in Sydney, the son of boxing tent impresario and rugby league player James Michael "Jimmy" Sharman Jr. (1912–2006) and Christina McAndleish Sharman (1914–2003). He was educated in Sydney, though his upbringing included time spent on Australian showgrounds, where his father ran a travelling sideshow of popular legend, founded by his father, Jimmy Sharman Snr, called Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe.[3] This brought him into contact with the world of circus and travelling vaudeville.[4] Developing an interest in theatre, he graduated from the production course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney in 1966.[1]

Sharman created a series of productions of experimental theatre, many for the Old Tote Theatre Company, culminating in a controversial staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni for Opera Australia when he was 21 years old. Over the following decade, he directed three rock musicals: Hair in 1969 (Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Boston)[4] (he also designed the original Sydney production); Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 (Australia and Palace Theatre, London)[4] and created the original production of The Rocky Horror Show with Richard O'Brien in 1973 (Royal Court Theatre, London – subsequently in Sydney, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York City).[4][5] He co-wrote the screenplay and directed the international cult hit film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for Twentieth Century Fox and directed its loosely based sequel, Shock Treatment, in 1981. In 1985, he directed third year students at (NIDA) in a production of A Dream Play.

In the following decades, Sharman directed a series of new works and Australian premieres, including a series of productions of plays by Patrick White in the late 1970s – The Season at Sarsaparilla, Big Toys, Netherwood and A Cheery Soul – which are credited with reviving the Nobel Laureate's career as a dramatist.[4][6] He also directed the film The Night the Prowler, from a screenplay adapted by White from one of his short stories, and notable as White's only produced film screenplay. One of Sharman's most frequent creative collaborators was production designer Brian Thomson, a partnership that began at the Old Tote and continued through their ground-breaking and widely praised stage productions, the rock musicals Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Rocky Horror Show, and the films Shirley Thompson vs. the Aliens, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Shock Treatment.

Sharman was artistic director of the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1982 and, while in South Australia, he created Lighthouse, a theatre company which specialised in radical stagings of classics and premieres of new work by major Australian dramatists, including Louis Nowra, Stephen Sewell and Patrick White. The ensemble included many major Australian artists, including actors Geoffrey Rush, Gillian Jones, John Wood and Kerry Walker and associate director Neil Armfield, who would further develop this adventurous tradition at Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre.

Continuing as a freelance director, Sharman's most recent[clarification needed] work has been Stephen Sewell's Three Furies – scenes from the life of Francis Bacon, for which he won a Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play. It played at the 2005 Sydney and Auckland festivals and the 2006 Perth and Adelaide festivals.[4] In 2006, he revived his landmark staging of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice for Opera Australia.[7] In 2009, he will direct a new production of Mozart's Così fan tutte for Opera Australia, a collaboration with the Berlin-based Australian conductor Simon Hewett.[8]

In August 2008, Sharman's memoirs Blood and Tinsel were published by Melbourne University Publishing in which he talks about his childhood on the road with Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe and also speaks out for the first time about The Rocky Horror Picture Show and his many productions.[5][6]

Sharman is a resident of Egerton Crescent.[9]

Select credits[edit]


  • Still Life (1964) – The Old Tote Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • The Sport of My Mad Mother (1964) The Old Tote Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • Inadmissable Evidence (1964) – The Old Tote Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • Entertaining Mr Sloane (1965) – The Old Tote Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • The Lover (1966) – AMP Theatrette, Circular Quay, NSW
  • The Gents (1966) – AMP Theatrette, Circular Quay, NSW
  • Operatic Concerto (1966) – New South Wales
  • Chips With Everything (1966) – Independent Theatre, North Sydney, NSW
  • A Taste of Honey (1967)
  • And So To Bed, Playhouse Theatre (1967) – Perth, WA
  • Don Giovanni (1967) – national tour
  • The Flower Children, A Little Bourke Street Discotheque (1967) – Melbourne
  • The Birthday Party (1967) – St Martins Theatre, South Yarra, VIC
  • You Never Can Tell (1968) – The Old Tote Theatre
  • Terror Australis (1968) – Jane Street Theatre
  • Norm and Ahmed by Alex Buzo (1968) – Old Tote Theatre
  • Hair (1969) – Metro Theatre, Sydney – later national tour (1971–73) and productions in New Zealand (1972), Tokyo, Boston
  • As You Like It (1971) – Parade Theatre, Kensington
  • King Lear (1971) – Russell St Theatre, Melbourne
  • Lasseter (1971) – Parade Theatre, Kensington 1971
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (1972–73) – national tour of Australia= – also did productions in London (1972)
  • The Unseen Hand by Sam Shepherd – London
  • The Removalists (1973) – Royal Court Theatre, London
  • The Threepenny Opera (1973) – Drama Theatre, Sydney
  • The Rocky Horror Show (1973) – London – also directed productions in Los Angeles and Sydney (1974), Melbourne (1975)
  • The Season at Sarsaparilla by Patrick White (1975) – Drama Theatre, Sydney
  • Big Toys by Patrick White (1977) – Parade Theatre, Kensington
  • Pandora's Cross (1978) – Paris Theatre, Sydney
  • A Cheery Soul by Patrick White (1979)
  • Death in Venice (1980) – Festival Theatre, Adelaide
  • Lulu (1981) – Sydney & Adelaide
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1982) – The Playhouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Silver Lining (1982) – The Lighthouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Royal Show (1982) – The Playhouse, Adelaide, SA,
  • Blood Wedding (1983) – The Lighthouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Netherwood (1983) – The Playhouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Pal Joey (1983) – The Lighthouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Sunrise (1983) – The Playhouse, Adelaide, SA
  • Dreamplay (1985) – Parade Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • Voss (1986–87) – national tour
  • Blood Relations – Drama Theatre, Sydney, NSW
  • A Lie of the Mind (1987) – Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills, NSW
  • Blood Relations (1987) – The Playhouse, Adelaide, SA
  • The Screens (1988) – NIDA Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • The Rake's Progress (1988) – Opera Theatre, Sydney, NSW
  • The Conquest of the South Pole (1989) – Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills, NSW
  • Death in Venice (1989) – Opera Theatre, Sydney, NSW
  • Chess (1990) – Theatre Royal, Sydney, NSW
  • Voss (1990) – Opera Theatre, Sydney
  • Death in Venice (1991) – State Theatre, Melbourne
  • Shadow and Splendour (1992) – national tour
  • The Wedding Song (1994) – Parade Theatre, Kensington, NSW
  • Miss Julie (1995) – The Playhouse, Adelaide
  • The Tempest (1997) – national tour through Australia
  • Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill (2000) -NIDA Studio, Kensington, NSW
  • Language of the Gods (2001) – NIDA Theatre, Sydney
  • What the Butler Saw (2004) – Belvoir St Sydney
  • Death in Venice (2005) – Opera Theatre Sydney
  • Three Furies: Scenes from the Life of Francis Bacon (2006) – Playhouse Theatre Perth



  1. ^ a b Moyle, John (2 August 2008). "Sharman relives his musical journey". ninemsn. Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  2. ^ Robyn Anderson & Sue Adler, "Jim Sharman", Cinema Papers, March–April 1979, pp. 269-271
  3. ^ "Talking Heads – Jim Sharman". www.abc.net.au. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Solitary man". The Australian. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  5. ^ a b Kelly, Fran (29 July 2008). "Jim Sharman's autobiography Blood and Tinsel". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  6. ^ a b Sharman, Jim (26 July 2008). "Dusting off Mr White". The Canberra Times. Archived from the original on 8 July 2009. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  7. ^ "Jim Sharman in Così coup". Opera Australia. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  8. ^ "2009 Season Announcement". Opera Australia. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  9. ^ Jim Sharman (2008). Blood & Tinsel: A Memoir. The Miegunyah Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-522-85377-3. Retrieved 12 December 2015.

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