Sophie Irene Hunter (born 16 March 1978) is an English avant-garde theatre and opera director, playwright, and former performer. She made her directorial debut in 2007 co-directing the experimental play The Terrific Electric at the Barbican Pit after her theatre company Boileroom was granted the Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award. In addition, she has directed an Off-Off-Broadway revival of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts (2010) at Access Theatre, the performance art titled Lucretia (2011) based on Benjamin Britten's opera The Rape of Lucretia at Location One's Abramovic Studio in New York City, and the Phantom Limb Company's 69° South also known as Shackleton Project (2011) which premièred at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theatre and later toured North America.

In August 2015, Hunter directed Phaedra to critical acclaim at the fourth Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival. In October 2015 she staged The Turn of the Screw in Suffolk and London for Aldeburgh Music, which received acclaim from critics.

Early life and education

Hunter was born in Hammersmith, west London to parents Anna Katharine (née Gow) and Charles Rupert. The couple later divorced. She has two younger brothers, Timothy and Patrick as well as two half-siblings from her father's second marriage. She is a niece of pianist Julius Drake. Her maternal grandfather is the General Sir Michael James Gow GCB, who worked with Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in the 1950s and was Aide-de-Camp General to the Queen from 1981 to 1984. Hunter's maternal great-great grandfather was World War I politician J. E. B. Seely, 1st Baron Mottistone.

Hunter attended St Paul's Girls' School in Hammersmith before studying Modern Languages with a concentration in French and Italian at Oxford University. After graduating from Oxford, Hunter resided in Paris to study avant-garde theatre for two years at the L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. She then trained at the Saratoga International Theatre Institute in New York City under theatre and opera director Anne Bogart.



Hunter co-founded the Lacuna Theatre Company, and was an associate director at Royal Court Theatre in the West End and Broadhurst Theatre in Broadway for the play Enron. She is the co-founder and artistic director of theatre company Boileroom, which won the 2007 Samuel Theatre Trust Award for the avant-garde play The Terrific Electric. In addition, she also serves as collaborating director and dramaturge on marionette and puppetry production with the Phantom Limb Company.

Known for her avant-garde plays, Hunter has directed, performed and conceived theatre productions throughout Europe, the Middle East and North America. She directed the experimental play 69° South (2013), the New York performance art titled Lucretia (2011) based on Benjamin Britten's opera The Rape of Lucretia and the 2010 revival of Henrik Ibsen's Ghosts. She was a member of the performance collective Militia Canteen.

In collaboration with music director Andrew Staples, Hunter directed mezzo-soprano Ruby Philogene in Phaedra (2015) at the Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival in Northern Ireland. The production was met with praise with The Guardian saying it is "exquisitely realized," The Stage hailing it as "creative brilliance," and The Times describing it "astonishing". She has also staged Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw in Suffolk and London for Aldeburgh Music.

Creative arts

Hunter worked on the transfer of Punchdrunk's Sleep No More to New York City in 2011 while serving as creative director for the theatre company Emursive. She has also directed the company's theatrical experiences The Forgotten (2012) and Don't Major In Debt Student House (2012). In 2013, she developed Loma Lights (2013), one of the largest public arts programs in New York.


In 2005, Hunter recorded a French-language music album titled The Isis Project in collaboration with songwriter Guy Chambers. In 2011, she released an English-language EP titled Songs for a Boy, again with Chambers. Hunter has also collaborated with Armin van Buuren for the song "Virtual Friend" which was included in Buuren's 2010 album Mirage.

Film and television

Earlier in her career, Hunter has acted in film and television. She has had supporting roles in the television series Midsomer Murders (2004), Keen Eddie (2004), Mumbai Calling (2007) and Torchwood (2009). In 2004, she played Maria Osborne in the costume drama film Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon and played Annabel Blythe-Smith in the 2009 thriller film Burlesque Fairytales.


Personal life

Hunter had a long-term relationship with sculptor Conrad Shawcross whom she met while studying at Oxford. The couple split in early 2010. On 14 February 2015, she married actor Benedict Cumberbatch at St. Peter and St. Paul Church on the Isle of Wight followed by a reception at Mottistone Manor. They have a son, Christopher Carlton, who was born in the summer of 2015. Hunter speaks fluent French and Italian. She is also a skilled pianist.

Selected credits


As director

2007The Terrific ElectricBarbican Pit, LondonAlso playwright
2010GhostsAccess Theatre, New York City
2010EnronRoyal Court Theatre, West End
Broadhurst Theatre, Broadway
Associate director
2011LucretiaAbramovic Studio, New York City
2011Sleep No MoreNew York CityCreative Director for co-producer Emursive
201169° South/Shackleton ProjectBrooklyn Academy of Music
North American Tour
2012The ForgottenNew York City
2012Don't Major in Debt Student HouseNew York City
2013Tesla In New York (Concert Performance)Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth CollegeArtistic Director
2013Loma LightsNew York City
2015PhaedraNecarne Castle, Northern IrelandWith Ulster Orchestra for the 4th Enniskillen International Beckett Festival
2015Path to BlySnape Maltings, Suffolk
LSO St. Luke's, London
Co-curated with Andrew Staples for Aldeburgh Music
2015The Turn of the ScrewSnape Maltings, Suffolk
LSO St. Luke's, London
With Aurora Orchestra for Aldeburgh Music

As actor

2005HamletOpheliaAl Bustaan Festival, Beirut
2007SilverlandEllenBrits Off Broadway, Arcola, New York City
2008MacbethWitchLyceum Theatre

Film and television

2004Midsomer MurdersBella MondayTV series (Episode: "The Maid in Splendour")
2004Keen EddieLoisTV series (Episode: "Citizen Cecil")
2004Vanity FairMaria Osborne
2004My Life in FilmAnnaTV series (Episode: "Rear Window")
2004Traffic WardenThe GirlfriendShort
2005Friends & CrocodilesChristineTV film
2007Mumbai CallingTiffany GlassTV series (Episode: "Pilot")
2008The Curse of SteptoeMaureen CorbettTV film
2009Henry VIII: The Mind of a TyrantAnne BoleynTV series
2009TorchwoodVanessaTV series (Episode: "Children of Earth: Day Four")
2009Burlesque FairytalesAnnabel Blythe-Smith


TitleAlbum details
The Isis Project

(written by Guy Chambers)

  • Released: June 6, 2005 (2005-06-06)
  • Label: Sleeper Sounds LLP
  • Format: EP, Audio CD
  • Language: French
"Virtual Friend"

(in collaboration with Armin van Buuren)

  • Released: 2010
  • Song
  • Language: English
Songs for a Boy

(written by Guy Chambers)

  • Released: June 26, 2011 (2011-06-26)
  • Label: Sleeper Sounds LLP
  • Format: EP
  • Language: English