Benji Sperring is “the naughty boy of musical theatre” (ToDoList), and is fast becoming the go-to director for cult comedies and off-the-wall musicals. Having developed the world premiere of Shock Treatment, the sequel to The Rocky Horror Show, from 1980s film flop to sell-out five-star stage show and Whatsonstage Best Off West End Production nominee, he also brought (with Katy Lipson) The Toxic Avenger: The Musical over the Atlantic for its European premiere, starting at the Southwark Playhouse and moving to the Arts Theatre in the West End, where it was filmed and released worldwide by BroadwayHD. Benji’s recent directing credits include Night Of the Living Dead Live! (Pleasance Theatre and worldwide), How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (Wilton’s Music Hall), The Liver Birds: Flying Home (Liverpool Royal Court), Richard O’Brien’s The Stripper (St James Theatre), the premiere of Ivor Novello’s final musical Valley Of Song and Rutland Boughton’s The Immortal Hour (Finborough Theatre) and The Bald Prima Donna and The Blind & The Intruder (Old Red Lion Theatre). Benji has been associate director at the King’s Head Theatre, where his work included new musicals Holy Crap by The Heather Brothers (authors of A Slice Of Saturday Night) and Hamilton (Lewis).
Benji grew up in Lichfield, Staffordshire, and went to school at Queen Mary's Grammar School, Walsall. Brought up in a single-parent family with a retired father, his love of theatre grew from a young age when his aunts Gwyneth and Sian (and uncles Geoffrey and Roger) took part in the local Walsall Amateur Operatic Society productions, resident at the time in Lichfield Civic Hall. It was from seeing these shows that his lifelong love of the theatre, as well as a huge fondness for grass-roots am-dram, all started. Equally, thanks to the family on his mothers' side - including his aunts - his roots in Wales were planted at this time as well, frequently visiting and staying with family in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas.
Benji left Walsall and studied Drama with English at The University of Manchester, and his first directorial outing was at the Palace Theatre, when a show he was producing and directing grew slightly larger than he'd originally intended. Luckily, Benji had recently been the youngest winner of the BBC2 quiz show The Weakest Link, and used the prize money to fund the show. Sondheim's musical Assassins played for three nights, with a cast of sixty and band of thirty, to over 3000 kind Mancunians who were supporting student drama. It was here Benji got the directing bug, and directed throughout his time at Manchester, often to the detriment of his studies. He was lucky enough to be chosen as the student director for The University of Manchester's international celebrations for Harold Pinter's Nobel laureateship. It was also during this time that Benji gained his experience working with young people as a group leader at PGL Holidays, which cultivated and developed his love of youth theatre.
After Manchester, Benji went to study Directing at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, focusing on devised and collaborative theatre. Here, Benji worked with the likes of Shunt, Punchdrunk, and Paines Plough, picking up skills in dramaturgy and development that have been put to good use throughout his professional career.
Beyond Central, Benji worked at some of the most prestigious educational establishments as Director in Residence, including Eton College. Directorships such as these allow younger directors to hone their skills with fully budgeted productions in a relatively safe and nurturing environment, and it was during this time he was able to explore revivals of classic texts such as Pirandello, PG Wodehouse and Dylan Thomas.
Whilst Benji continued working within education, as part-time Director of Drama at Dulwich Prep London, he started Tarquin Productions, a theatre company dedicated to reviving and revising lost or forgotten works. As both producer and director, Benji adapted pieces such as Matthew Lewis' The Monk for the stage and established the company financially, and then moved to co-productions with a core team of collaborators. Benji made the move to leave education and direct full time in August 2019.