Regarded as one of the most versatile actors in the UK, Adrian Lester CBE receives critical acclaim for his roles on TV, the big screen and theatre.
In 1987 Adrian took the lead role in the political blockbuster Primary Colors, directed by Mike Nicholls and co-starring John Travolta, Kathy Bates, Billy Bob Thornton and Emma Thompson. Since that time he has starred in movies including Day After Tomorrow, As You Like It, Dust, Final Curtain, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Starting Out In The Evening, Doomsday, All Is By My Side, Best, Loves Labour’s Lost, Grey Lady and Case 39.
More recent movies include the Oscar nominated Mary Queen of Scots and Euphoria with Alicia Vikander, Eva Green and Charles Dance.
Adrian started his career with a string of successful West End productions including Rosalind in As You Like It for Declan Donnellan & Cheek By Jowl, Six Degrees Of Separation, Sweeny Todd and Company, for which he received an Olivier Award for Best Actor and in Oct 2021 made his debut on Broadway in The Lehman Trilogy.
He has played the title roles in Henry V and Othello at the National Theatre, for which he won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor, Ira Aldridge in Red Velvet in London and New York, for which he won the Critics Circle Best Actor award, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, opposite James Earl Jones and Hamlet in Peter Brook’s The Tragedy Of Hamlet in London, Paris, Japan and New York.
In 2018 he appeared as Sky Masterson in Guys & Dolls at the Royal Albert Hall and starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning Cost of Living at the Hampstead Theatre.
Adrian appeared, alongside Danny Sapani, in Lolita Chakrabarti's play Hymn, live streamed from The Almeida live over six performances in February 2021 to rave reviews, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The play was also broadcast on Sky Arts and returned to The Almeida in July 2021 with in-person audiences. In April 2021 Adrian appeared as Prince, in the critically acclaimed NT recording of Romeo & Juliet (Sky Arts).
After being asked to join the original cast of The Lehman Trilogy, when it first opened at the National Theatre, but was unavailable at the time, in October 2021 Adrian finally joined the cast for it's Broadway opening in New York and was subsequently nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor.
Adrian is probably best known for his portrayal of Mickey Bricks in the long running BBC series Hustle, but has starred in a string of successful TV series/films in the UK & US including Undercover, Trauma, Riviera, Girlfriends (US), Red Band Society (US), London Spy, Being Human, Merlin, Sleep With Me, Bonekickers, Ballet Shoes, Being Human, Afterlife, Beyond, Ghost Squad, Jason & The Argonauts, Storm Damage, Silent Witness, Teaching Matthew, Curfew, US TV series The Rook, Trigger Point, the BBC drama Life and The Undeclared War.
In 2010, alongside wife, actress and playwright Lolita Charkrabarti, Adrian appeared in When Romeo met Juliet for BBC2. He was also featured in Empire’s Children for Channel 4, retracing his grandfather’s steps when he risked everything to travel 5,000 miles to Britain as a member of the windrush generation.
Adrian also featured in the 2019 Portrait Artist of the Year Award on Sky Arts.
Forthcoming projects include The Ballard of Renegade Nell (Disney+).
Adrian will be directed Calmer, a new play from award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, at The Birmingham Rep in 2022.
In 2018 Adrian directed The Greatest Wealth, a series of monologues at The Old Vic Theatre in London, to celebrate 70 years of the National Health Service.
The eight specially-commissioned monologues by Moira Buffini, Lolita Chakrabarti, Seiriol Davies, Matilda Ibini,Courttia Newland, Meera Syal, Jack Thorneand Paul Unwin were performed by Jade Anouka, Louise English, Dervla Kirwan, Ruth Madeley, Art Malik, Meera Syal, Sophie Stone and David Threlfall in response to each decade since Aneurin Bevan launched the NHS at Park Hospital, Manchester on 5 July 1948.
In 2021 and in light of the Corona virus, the series was updated a monologue written by Bernardine Evaristo and performed by Sharon D Clarke, directed by Adrian.
Adrian directed two episodes (Ep 7 & 8) of the hugely successful Sky Atlantic drama Riviera (Season 1), which he also starred in.
In 2012 Adrian directed and starred in episode 2 of Hustle (series 8), which guest starred Martin Kemp & Shelia Hancock.
Adrian began directing in 2010 with short film Of Mary, produced by Lolita Chakrabarti and Rosa Maggiora and starring Kehinde Fadipe, Tom Brooke and Robert Glenister.
Of Mary won Best Short Film at the PAFF, Los Angeles in 2012 and was nominated for Best Producers at the Underwire Festival in 2011.
Jason Lawrence returns home to his estranged wife and son. Bitter resentment means there is more distance between them than he thought. Mary, his wife, cannot imagine them being together again even though Freddie, their 6 year old son, wants to be with his dad. It's a hard journey for them all.
Adrian hopes to direct Lottery Boy, his first feature, which he’s adapted, in 2020/21 and further directing projects are currently in development.
Singing has featured in many of Adrian's roles in theatre and on screen. He was only too happy to appear in BBCOne's special anniversary programme in 2020, making 75 years since VE Day.
Adrian has been lending his voice to documentaries, adverts and audio books for over two decades.
Audio books include:
Click here to listen to a sample from Astonishing The Gods.
Searching for Mun : India and Searching for Mum: Sri Lanka (BBC2)
The Hunt of Britain's Slave Gangs (BBC1 Panorama)
Chimps of the Lost Gorge (BBC2)
Faster Higher Stronger (BBC2)
Dinosaurs the Hunt for Life
Ad’s include Volvo, Centre Parcs, Virgin Holidays and Dolphin.
Adrian supports a variety of charities and good causes including:
Children in Need 2019
As part of the 2019 Children in Need appeal, ten well known faces came together to record a very special album. Adrian recorded an A cappella version of the Steve Wonder hit 'I Wish', which he sang with the help of the Beatbox Collection on Children in Need.
Got it Covered, a BBC documentary following the recording of the album, was shown on BBC1 on 31 October 2019 and can be seen on BBCiPlayer here. The Album was released in 1st November.
Our vision is to strive to achieve a climate in which individuals and families with Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia blood disorder receive excellent information, quality care and support.
Our aim is to work in partnership to help improve the quality of health, social and economic well-being for children, young people, families and adults living with Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia in Birmingham and Solihull.
The Primary Shakespeare Company (PSC) works with children in primary schools, raising attainment and achievement by exploring some of our greatest stories. Since being founded in 2009, the PSC have helped over 10,000 children, many from disadvantaged backgrounds, use drama to overcome adversity and boost confidence, building essential life skills, such as creative thinking and team building.
At a key stage in a child’s development and when funding for drama and arts has been greatly reduced, the role of charities such as the PSC have never been so important.
ACLT is a charity helping to provide hope to patients living with blood cancer and other illnesses where a matched donor (stem cell, blood or organ) is required to save a life. Our work is driven by a belief that no one should die waiting for a donor to become available. ACLT also provide support and advice to patients and their families, from diagnosis, throughout treatment, recovery and sadly (in some cases), while supporting the patient and family during ‘end of life,' - where treatments have not been successful.
The Old Vic aims to be surprising, unpredictable, ground-breaking, rule-breaking, independent, accessible and uplifting.
The Old Vic is a not-for-profit theatre operating a breakeven budget in a historic, Grade II* listed building with the help of £3.9 million of philanthropic support every year from our generous supporters. We produce and present five to seven diverse productions every Season, enhanced by a vibrant programme of One Voice monologues, Voices Off talks, Lates and day-time events for Families. Off stage we engage with over 10,000 people a year from across the UK through our award-winning education, employability and community work.
Over the next few years we will be working hard to open up our building to more people than ever before, through an ambitious £20 million multi-phased capital building project that will transform the audience experience, educate and inspire the next generation.
Sparkle Sheffield is a multi-award winning Charity founded by Liesje Dusauzay, located in Sheffield, supporting children, young people and young adults with Autism and their families.
Along with its sister arm Autism Union it provides direct family and early intervention support, advocacy services, leisure recreation and play opportunities, consultancy, awareness raising, training and a myriad of other provisions.
Everything to Everybody’, a National Lottery Heritage Fund project, will revive Birmingham’s forgotten Shakespeare Memorial Library. Housed in the iconic new Library of Birmingham, this is the first great Shakespeare Library in the world, with 100,000 holdings, including material in 93 languages, the only First Folio in the world bought for comprehensive (including working-class) education, tens of thousands of historic play-bills, and artwork by Picasso, Dalí and Kokoschka. Best of all: it belongs to all the people of the city. ‘Everything to Everybody’ will make this world-significant Shakespeare collection fully accessible to all Birmingham’s citizens, offering them a wealth of opportunities to really make it their own, including family days, community co-curated exhibitions, off-site neighbourhood productions, a First Folio tour in exciting venues around the city, and an ‘Everything to Everybody’ Festival to coincide with the Commonwealth Games.
Asthma UK is the only dedicated asthma charity in the UK, providing advice and guidance for people with the condition through its nurse-staffed helpline and website. The charity works to stop asthma attacks and, ultimately, cure asthma by funding world-leading research, campaigning for change and supporting people with asthma to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation(CSF) has a vision to create a new future for 100 disadvantaged Black British students through education.
To achieve this vision, the CSF wants to fund 100 disadvantaged Black British students through UK universities in the next decade. The CSF will partner with universities, who will cover tuition fees and, with businesses and donors to cover living costs and maintenance to support these students through UK universities and transform their lives. The CSF wants to equip the next generation of young Black individuals with the education to make a difference in their lives, our lives and the world.
Adrian is Patron of the The Cowrie Scholarship Foundation
Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. And we campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help. We’re here so no one has to fight bad housing or homelessness on their own.
The Horniman Museum and Gardens opened in 1901 as a gift to the people in perpetuity from tea trader and philanthropist Frederick John Horniman, to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’. Today the Horniman has a collection of 350,000 objects, specimens and artefacts from around the world. Its galleries include natural history, music and an acclaimed aquarium. A new World Gallery of anthropology opened in June 2018 and a new arts space, The Studio, opened in October 2018. Indoor exhibits link to the award-winning display gardens – from medicinal and dye gardens to an interactive sound garden, Butterfly House and an animal walk – set among 16 acres of beautiful, green space offering spectacular views across London.
Eastside inspires over 15,000 children and young people each year through delivering outstanding creative and cultural participation opportunities across a range of art forms including singing, acting, dancing, filmmaking, visual arts, spoken word, carnival arts and many more.
We do this because we believe in the transformational power of the arts. We know that this work builds the confidence and skills of every participating young person, no matter what their circumstances or starting point in life
We work with incredible partner organisations including: BAFTA; The British Film Institute; Arts Council England; Disney; The Criterion Theatre; Adobe as well as the hundreds of schools in which our programmes run week in week out.
The National Youth Arts Trust (NYAT) is a small arts charity that exists to widen access to the performing arts for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. We award bursaries for music, dance and drama lessons, develop and run youth theatre projects in areas of low arts provision, and enable children to attend professional theatre performances, often for the first time.
Children & the Arts works to transform the lives of children across the UK by offering access to the arts.
Nominee: Chicago Film Critic Award for Most Promising Actor
LOVE’S LABOURS LOST
Nominee: BIFA for Best Performance by an Actor
THE LEHMAN TRILOGY
Nominee: Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, Tony Awards 2022
Nominee: Best Actor, Outer Critics Circle Awards 2022
COST OF LIVING
Nominee: Best Actor, BroadwayWorld Awards 2019
WINNER: Best Actor, Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2013
WINNER: Best Actor, Critics Circle Theatre Awards 2012
Nominee: Best Actor, Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2012
Nominee: Best Actor, Olivier Awards 2013
Nominee: Best Actor, Whatsonstage Awards 2013
WINNER: Best Actor in a Musical, Olivier Awards 1996
Nominee: Best Supporting Performance, Olivier Awards 1994
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION
Nominee: Most Promising Newcomer, London Critics Circle Awards 1993
WINNER: Best Actor, Time Out Awards 1993
AS YOU LIKE IT
Nominee: Best Actor, Olivier Awards 1995
WINNER: Best Actor, Time Out Award 1993
Nominee: Best Actor, TMA Awards 1992
Nominee: Ian Charleston Award for Best Actor
WINNER: Variety Award, Best Drama 2004
In 2013 Adrian was awarded an OBE for services to drama.
In the same year he was also presented with an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Warwick and Doctorate from the University of Birmingham.
In 2019 Adrian was presented with Honorary Doctorate from De Montfort University.
In 2021 Adrian was awarded a CBE for services to drama.
In April 2022 Adrian was awarded the Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Award.
Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti: A Working Diary
Released by Bloomsbury/Methuem Drama August 2020
In this insightful joint working diary, the creative powerhouse of a couple, Lolita Chakrabarti and Adrian Lester, chronicle 16 months of their fascinating working lives, including their experiences working on the stage adaptation of Life of Pi, an original series of monologues about the NHS, the film adaptation of Red Velvet and the TV series The Rook, among many other projects. As readers, we experience, first-hand, their experiences as two of the most proactive and versatile theatre makers today, working across a range of media and exciting collaborations.