John Napier Exhibition 2016

John Napier (born 1 March 1944, London) is a set and costume designer for Broadway and London theatrical performances.

Starlight Express (1984)

Having been a member of the original team that put Cats together, when a production about railway trains with all the performers on roller skates was suggested, I realised that we were on a very strange adventure without any of the normal rules that apply to staging a musical. Well, it took only a year and the engineering expertise of some of the best people in Britain.

One of the things said is that Starlight is one of the most expensive musicals in theatre. Well, it is. But also, hopefully when people see it, they will realise not only a lot of money was needed but was well spent on metal work and on finding the right people.

John Napier Mixed Media

The single most wonderful thing in anyone's career is to work with a group of people that have a vision of theatre and entertainment. After having done Cats, I regard it as a privilege that they would allow me the indulgence of turning another theatre upside down.

I hope most people will not be too disappointed that there isn't actually a literal manifestation of a railway train. While attempting to design costumes, I had to bear in mind that people not only had to sing and dance, but had to travel at spectacular speeds around this roller coaster.

Backstage John Napier b18

The intention in appearance is always to try to get the wit and spirit of the audience to make imaginative leaps from people to trains. It's taken a year, a lot of stress and strain but ultimately, it was fun.

It used to be said that technical achievements could only happen in America. You've seen it here first, and it was only through the expertise of an English work force and technicians that it could have been achieved, To them, I say thank you.



Brexit Napier Phillips b18

John Napier studied at Hornsey College of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts, studying under notable set designer Ralph Koltai.


Napier earned a position as an Associate Designer at the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has designed for the National Theatre, notably the production of Peter Shaffer's Equus, Trelawny of the Wells, An Enemy of the People and Candide. John Napier has also designed for the Royal Opera House, for Glyndebourne, for the English National Opera and others. He designed Children of Eden, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Jesus Christ Superstar in London's West End. He reworked his original designs for Equus (2007 London production).

In the United States, in addition to numerous Broadway productions, he designed and co-directed the show for illusionists Siegfried & Roy at The Mirage, Las Vegas. He also designed the Captain EO video starring Michael Jackson for Disney and the Steven Spielberg film Hook.

Honours and awards

Napier's design awards include the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Set Design for King Lear, Lohengrin, and Burning Blue. Napier has won Tony Awards for Nicholas Nickleby, Cats, Starlight Express, Les Misérables and Sunset Boulevard.

He won the 1987 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for Starlight Express and Les Misérables and has twice won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design for Cats in 1983 and Starlight Express in 1987. He has won The Critics' Circle Award for set design twice, first in 1989 for Miss Saigon and again in 1997 for Peter Pan.


Napier is a member of the American Academy of Achievement. He was elected Royal Designer for Industry in 1996 and is an Honorary Fellow of the London Institute.


Royal Shakespeare Company

  • Hedda Gabler
  • King Lear
  • Macbeth
  • Mother Courage and Her Children
  • Nicholas Nickleby
  • Once in a Lifetime
  • Peter Pan
  • The Comedy of Errors

Royal National Theatre

  • The Party
  • Equus
  • Trelawny of the Wells
  • An Enemy of the People
  • Peter Pan
  • Candide
  • South Pacific

Broadway / West End

  • Cats
  • Les Misérables
  • Miss Saigon
  • Starlight Express
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Jane Eyre
  • Gone With The Wind


  • Lohengrin (Covent Garden)
  • Macbeth (Covent Garden)
  • Idomeneo (Glyndebourne Festival Opera)
  • The Devils (English National Opera)
  • Nabucco (Metropolitan Opera)

Starlight Express Designs






External links