Elric James Hooper (born 30 January 1936) attended Christchurch Boys’ High School
Elric Hooper was educated at Wharenui Primary School, Christchurch Boys’ High School
and what was then Canterbury University College, where he majored in English, graduating
BA and then, in 1958, with an Honours MA. In the Drama Society he acted in Shakespeare
productions directed by Ngaio Marsh.
These four years as a student at Canterbury were followed by two in London. Elric Hooper
was awarded a scholarship to study acting and directing at the London Academy of Music
and Dramatic Art and with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop.
Hooper began his professional career with three seasons with the famous Old Vic Company.
There he first worked with Franco Zeffirelli, with whom he moved to Glyndbourne to work
on opera productions, before becoming his assistant in the award-winning film version of
Romeo and Juliet.
He toured the United States and the capitals of Europe with 'Romeo and Juliet' and Shaw's
'St Joan' where he played Dunois's page and a monk in the trial scene. In 1964 Elric played in
a television production, Shakespeare, Man of the Year. At the Oxford Playhouse he worked
with Frank Hauser and the great Greek director Minos Volonakis. With Volonakis he
worked as an assistant director. He returned to England and in 1972 came to play at the
Mercury Theatre for six months.
Work as performer, director and teacher in America, Scandinavia, Germany, France and
Britain followed before, in 1975, Elric Hooper returned to New Zealand to work at
Downstage in Wellington. Then, in 1979, he was appointed artistic director of the Court
Theatre, here in Christchurch, a position he held from 1979 until his retirement in 2000, an
unprecedented tenure in New Zealand professional theatre.
At the Court he has been responsible for a number of fine musicals, and for Canterbury
Opera he headed some remarkable productions of (amongst others) Mozart, Rossini, Verdi
He has also given many talks on musical theatre and opera on the Concert Programme and
written programme notes for the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand
In 1990 Elric Hooper’s services to the arts in New Zealand were recognised both by the
award of an MBE and of a New Zealand Sesquicentennial Commemorative Medal.
Canterbury University awarded him an honorary LittD in 2001.