He was born in Ipswich, and educated at Downing College, Cambridge, where he began his stage career. In 1968, he was appointed Director of the RSC, a position he held until 1986. With his second wife, Janet Suzman, who appeared in many of his productions, he became a leading figure in theatrical circles, and was responsible for many ground-breaking productions, such as the RSC's version of Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby. He has also directed opera at Glyndebourne, and began directing for television with Antony and Cleopatra (starring Suzman) in 1974. He has rarely ventured into film directing, Lady Jane (1986) being one of the exceptions. He is currently married to actress Imogen Stubbs, who starred in his 1996 film version of Twelfth Night. He was knighted by the Queen in 2002.