Stephen Unwin was educated at the University of Cambridge.
He spent much of the 1980s at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh where he directed a mixture of Scottish and European plays with a range of remarkable young actors, including Tilda Swinton, Simon Russell Beale, Alan Cumming and Ken Stott. Many of his productions were seen in London theatres, including the Royal Court, the Donmar and the Almeida. He was Resident Director at the NT Studio and directed The Magic Carpet, the first play for the under fives at the National Theatre. He has directed six plays for the Theatre Royal Bath and in thea tres across Britain and Europe.
In 1993 he founded English Touring Theatre, for whom he directed more than 30 productions of classical and new plays, including award-winning productions of Hamlet with Alan Cumming, Hedda Gabler, Henry IV Parts One and Two with Timothy and Samuel West, King Lear with Timothy West, The Seagull with Cheryl Campbell and Ghosts with Diana Quick and Daniel Evans. These transferred to the Donmar and the Old Vic. He produced two plays by Jonathan Harvey and Peter Gill's The York Realist as well as Sir Peter Hall's production of Uncle Vanya.
In 2008 Stephen became Artistic Director of the new Rose Theatre in Kingston, which he ran until January 2014. His productions there included Hay Fever with Celia Imrie, The Importance of Being Earnest with Jane Asher, The Lady from the Sea with Joely Richardson, The Vortex with Kerry Fox and Day in the Death of Joe Egg with Ralf Little. He hosted the very successful Time to Talk series with 50 leading actors and personalities.
Stephen has directed five plays by Noel Coward: Hay Fever, The Vortex, (Rose Theatre) This Happy Breed, Present Laughter and Song at Twilight (Theatre Royal, Bath).
He's directed 20 operas, at the Almeida, Opera 80, Garsington Festival, Buxton Festival, ENO, the Royal College of Music, British Youth Opera and the Royal Opera House.
He has written 10 books on theatre, drama and related subjects for Faber and Faber, Bloomsbury, Nick Hern Books and Oberon, as well as numerous articles for newspapers and journals. He has also written four original plays (All Our Children was premiered in April 2017, New York in April 2019) and numerous translations. He has taught in universities and drama schools across the UK and the United States.
Stephen is active in campaigning for the rights of the disabled. He is Chair of KIDS, a national charity which provides a wide range of services for disabled young people and their families.