David Oakes

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

David Oakes
Oakes in 2011
Rowan David Oakes

(1983-10-14) 14 October 1983 (age 40)
Alma materUniversity of Manchester,
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
Years active2008–present
PartnerNatalie Dormer (2018–present)

Rowan David Oakes[1] (born 14 October 1983) is a British actor. He is best known for his roles in the series The Pillars of the Earth, The Borgias, The White Queen, Victoria, Vikings: Valhalla, and for his discursive Natural History podcast, Trees A Crowd.

Early life and education[edit]

Oakes was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in 1983,[2][non-primary source needed] the son of a Church of England canon.[3]

Oakes grew up in Fordingbridge, Hampshire.[4] He was head boy at Bishop Wordsworth's School, in Salisbury. His first job was backstage at the Salisbury Playhouse.[1] Oakes graduated with a First in English Literature from the University of Manchester.[3] He graduated from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in 2007.[5][3]


Oakes began his career at Shakespeare's Globe, before taking roles at the Almeida Theatre and the Old Vic. Since appearing at Shakespeare's Globe at the outset of his career, Oakes has frequently performed in numerous rehearsed readings as part of their "Read Not Dead" initiative, including their landmark 200th reading of Philip Massinger's A New Way To Pay Old Debts; Oakes played Wellborn alongside a cast including Benjamin Whitrow, Alan Cox, and Nicholas Rowe.[6]

In 2006, Oakes performed a 90-minute abridged version of Much Ado About Nothing as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works" festival along with his final year graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He alternated between playing Claudio and Verges alongside fellow graduate Matt Barber.[7]

Oakes was present to accept the Jury Prize at the 2011 Romy Awards in Vienna alongside Donald Sutherland and Natalia Wörner.

Oakes came to prominence when he played the villainous William Hamleigh in the television miniseries The Pillars of the Earth (2010). The following year, Oakes was cast in the television series The Borgias (2011), airing on Showtime.[8] Whilst shooting the second season, Oakes performed a cameo in the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, World Without End (2012).

Between 2010 and 2013, Oakes had several roles playing villains on television—such as William Hamleigh in The Pillars of the Earth (2010), Juan Borgia in The Borgias (2011), and George, Duke of Clarence in The White Queen (2013).[9] When he played Mr. Darcy in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice at Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park in 2013, he said, "I've been playing bad guys back to back, so Darcy's a bit of an antidote!"[9] In 2014, he starred in the original West End production of Shakespeare in Love at the Noël Coward Theatre as Christopher Marlowe. Oakes was nominated for both WhatsOnStage and Broadway World awards for his performance in Shakespeare in Love in 2015.[citation needed]

Other performances between 2008 and 2013 for "Read Not Dead" include an early quarto edition of Henry IV: Part One as Prince Hal opposite Benjamin Whitrow's Falstaff, Calderon's Life is a Dream (La Vida Es Sueno) as Segismundo, Taming Of A Shrew as Aurelias, The Spanish Tragedy as Lorenzo, The Return from Parnassus as Ingenioso, Bassianus as Geta, Gorboduc as a "smooth, almost oily"[10] Arostus, John Lyly's Love's Metamorphosis as Montanus, and Thomas Middleton's Your Five Gallants as Tailby.[11]

In a return to TV period dramas in 2015, Oakes guest-starred in both the third season of Endeavour with Shaun Evans and in BBC's limited series The Living and the Dead with Colin Morgan. He played Prince Ernest, brother of Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, in the 2016 ITV series Victoria. The role reunited Oakes with his Trinity co-star Tom Hughes, and Pillars of the Earth co-star Rufus Sewell.

In 2017, Oakes starred in the film adaptation of Albert Sánchez Piñol's novel Cold Skin, directed by Xavier Gens and co-starring Ray Stevenson and Aura Garrido. He also starred as Thomas Novachek in the London West End premiere of David Ives's play Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. This production was directed by Patrick Marber and co-starred Natalie Dormer as Vanda.[12]

Oakes played Earl Godwin in Vikings: Valhalla, the spin-off of the show Vikings, for Netflix.

Oakes set up a theatre company called Dog Ate Cake with a long-term theatrical collaborator Henry Bell.[13]

In 2015 Oakes starred as Banquo in a charity fundraiser for the Shakespeare Schools Festival.[14] The event was largely improvised by the actors and lawyers involved, but based on a framework written by Jonathan Myerson. The cast also included Christopher Eccleston as Macbeth, Haydn Gwynne as Lady Macbeth, Paterson Joseph as MacDuff, and Pippa Bennett-Warner as one of the Weird Sisters. The event interrupted the events of the original play following the death of Duncan, placing Macbeth on trial for murder. Oakes, Joseph, and Gwynne appeared as witnesses for the prosecution while Eccleston and Bennett-Warner played witnesses for the defence. The event was overseen by High Court Judge Sir Michael Burton; the QCs were John Kelsey-Fry, Jonathan Laidlaw, Dinah Rose, and Ian Winter, and the foreman of the jury was Jeremy Paxman.[15]

In 2019, Oakes played Hamlet at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, York. The Stage wrote that he "plays Hamlet with natural ease: he is clearly comfortable with the cadences of the language and he conveys meaning well."[16] Both WhatsOnStage and the British Theatre Guide praised Oakes' performance, particularly his rapport with the audience, despite the production's more light-hearted take on the play.[17][18]

Theatre direction[edit]

Oakes has directed a number of theatre pieces alongside his acting career. In 2003 he took a stage adaptation of The Wicker Man to the Epping Forest Theatre Festival. Rehearsing in and around his hometown of Salisbury, Oakes "got kicked out of the [Cathedral] Close for rehearsing pagan rituals for [his] open-air production of The Wicker Man."[19]

While at university, Oakes directed numerous plays including Martin McDonagh's Beauty Queen of Leenane, Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter and Anthony Minghella's Whale Music.[20]

Also whilst at University in 2005, Oakes assisted director Natalie Wilson on a production of Smilin' Through that was co-produced by the Truant Company, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and Contact Theatre, Manchester. Later that year, Oakes once again turned to literary adaptation, taking a production of Stephen King's The Boogeyman to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[20]

With his and Bell's theatre company, Dog Ate Cake, in 2009 Oakes directed a small tour revival of John Maddison Morton's Box and Cox.[21]

Oakes frequently directs at Shakespeare's Globe extending their "Read Not Dead" series, a study devoted to performing fully staged readings of the entirety of the Early Modern Canon of Drama. Most recently Oakes directed Robert Greene's The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay[22] and Lewis Theobald's "Happy Ending" version of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, "The Fatal Secret".[23]

Oakes recently directed an extract of Robert Daborne's A Christian Turn'd Turk as part of a special "Read Not Dead" event at Shakespeare's Globe. Four directors with four scholars were teamed up with actors and presented their arguments and selected scenes at a special hustings event on Thursday 29 May 2014. Winning the event, teamed with Dr Emma Smith of Oxford University, Oakes directed the full play on Sunday 5 October 2014 in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.


In 2020, Oakes narrated an episode of Historic Royal Palaces' Outliers podcast.[24] He appeared as Thomas Phelippes, a spy and code breaker in the court of Elizabeth I plotting the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Oakes is the presenter of the natural history podcast Trees A Crowd. The first episode was released on 25 February 2019 and featured Mark Frith.

Personal life[edit]

Oakes has been in a relationship with actress Natalie Dormer since 2018 whom he met while appearing in Venus in Fur. Dormer gave birth to their daughter in 2021.[25] The couple entered into a civil partnership in February 2023 in Bath, Somerset.[26]

Oakes plays both the clarinet and bass clarinet, and is a bass singer.[13] He is an avid follower of folk music, and continues to support the Bristol folk group Sheelanagig.[4]

Charity work and advocacy[edit]

British Lung Foundation[edit]

Oakes, following his infant niece being diagnosed with a lung condition, has been heavily involved with raising awareness for and fundraising on behalf of the British Lung Foundation.

In 2013, Oakes collaborated with his Borgias castmate Holliday Grainger to make the short comedy film Goblin. Directed by Christian James, the film was screened at the 2014 Film 4 Fright Fest in their Shorts Showcase,[27] and all profits from the sale of this film were donated to the British Lung Foundation.[28]

Later in 2014, Oakes ran the length of the country to raise awareness for infant lung diseases for both the British Lung Foundation and ChILD Lung Foundation UK.[29] In 2016, he joined with the BLF to promote their new Children's Hub to provide families with information and support.[30]

Arts charities[edit]

Since 2014, Oakes has also been a friend of Anno's Africa,[31] an arts-based charity working with Kenyan orphans and slum children, and has supported the UK based Shakespeare Schools Festival, most notably with and surrounding their "Trial of Macbeth" and "Trial of Richard III". In 2019, Oakes helped organise, and alongside Michael Palin, Twiggy and others, appeared in the "Just A Book" poster campaign on the London Underground. The campaign was created to support independent businesses and bookshops on British highstreets and also to raise funds for Anno’s Africa.[32]

Environmental activism[edit]

Since 2019, Oakes has been an Ambassador for the Woodland Trust.[33] On 9 October 2019, Oakes hosted a discussion at the 70th Cheltenham Literature Festival on the subject of "The Art of Trees".[34]

Writing in an editorial for the Sunday Times on 2 November 2019, Oakes said:

Trees give us so much: if you can come up with a better technology and material that is cheap, enhances wellbeing, stimulates happy childhood memories, sequesters CO2, boosts biodiversity and even just looks as pretty as a copper beech, a hawthorn or a horse chestnut, then I’ll bow to you.[35]

On 30 January 2020, Oakes was a co-signatory, with the CEOs of The Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Buglife and Butterfly Conservation, and other notable environmental ambassadors and activists, on a letter written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and published in The Times, to get the UK government to rethink its stance on the second UK High Speed Rail Link along environmental and biodiversity lines.[36]

On 21 June 2020, Oakes co-hosted the live-stream event The Big Wild Quiz for The Wildlife Trusts as part of their "30 Days Wild" campaign.[37] Nine days later, on 30 June, alongside environmentalists and activists, including Chris Packham and Ellie Goulding, Oakes took part in the Climate Coalition's mass virtual lobby to focus the MPs to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the British nation’s recovery.[38] He also hosted The Big Wild Quiz in 2021.

On 26 November 2020, Oakes became an ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts.[39]

Following a visit to a Rhino Conservation project in Namibia, one supported by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, on 29 June 2023 Oakes was made a Conservation Ambassador for the charity.



Year Title Role Notes
2008 Bonekickers Alfred, Lord Tennyson Episode 6 "Follow the Gleam"
Walter's War Oswald Hennessey Television movie
2009 Henry VIII: The Mind of a Tyrant George Cavendish Episode 3 "Lover"
Trinity Ross Bonham Episodes 1, 2, 3
2010 The Pillars of the Earth Lord William Hamleigh Mini-series
2011–2012 The Borgias Juan Borgia Season 1 & 2
2012 World Without End Bishop Henri Oakes appears as a secret cameo alongside Charlotte Riley. Oakes was back in Budapest filming The Borgias, so the producers of World Without End thought it would be a fun nod to the original series.
2013 Ripper Street Victor Silver Episode 8 What Use Our Work?
The White Queen George, Duke of Clarence Episodes 1 - 7
2014 Kim Philby: His Most Intimate Betrayal Kim Philby Two-part drama documentary by Ben MacIntyre
2015 Endeavour Jocelyn "Joss" Bixby Season 3: "Ride"
The Living and the Dead William Payne Episodes 4 - 6
2016–2017 Victoria Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Season 1 and 2
2022–present Vikings: Valhalla Earl Godwin Seasons 1, 2 & 3


Year Title Role Notes
2012 Truth or Dare Justin Also known as "Truth or Die" in the United States
100Dniowk@ David Potter Polish-language feature film – for which Oakes learned Polish
2013 Love By Design Adrian
Goblin? Harry Short film with Holliday Grainger
Who Shall I Play With Now? Gregory UK premiere on 29 June 2013 at the Wimbledon Shorts Festival
2014 Sins of a Father Martin A partially re-shot, re-edited version of the 1991 film Shuttlecock with Alan Bates and Lambert Wilson
2015 Night Feed Husband A short film made by Channel 4 with Alice Lowe for Film Four Frightfest
2017 Cold Skin Friend
2018 The Garden of Evening Mists Frederick
2019 You Brandon Miller



Year Title Role Theatre Director Notes
2006 Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare Claudio & Verges Royal Shakespeare Company & Bristol Old Vic Theatre School John Hartoch
2007 Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare Dumaine Shakespeare's Globe & International Tour Dominic Dromgoole
We the People (world premiere) by Eric Schlosser Charles Pinckney & Gunning Bedford Jnr Shakespeare's Globe Charlotte Westenra
2008 Old Vic New Voices: The Twenty-four Hour Plays Davide Old Vic Theatre
Journey's End by R. C. Sherriff Raleigh Mercury Theatre, Colchester Tony Casement
Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller Mortimer Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Aida Karic
2009 All The Little Things We Crushed (world premiere) by Joel Horwood Hugh Almeida Theatre, London Simon Godwin
2011 Three Farces ("Slasher and Crasher", "A Most Unwarrantable Intrusion" & "Grimshaw, Bagshaw and Bradshaw") by John Maddison Morton Samson Slasher & John Bagshaw Orange Tree Theatre, London Henry Bell
2013 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen adapted by Simon Reade Darcy Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London Deborah Bruce [9]
2014–2015 Shakespeare in Love (world premiere) by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard adapted by Lee Hall Christopher Marlowe Noël Coward Theatre, West End, London Declan Donnellan
2015 The Trial of Macbeth by Jonathan Myerson Banquo Noël Coward Theatre, West End, London Christopher Haydon
2017 Venus in Fur (West End premiere) by David Ives Thomas Novachek Theatre Royal Haymarket, West End, London Patrick Marber
2019 Hamlet by William Shakespeare Hamlet Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, York Damian Cruden [16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Q&A with actor David Oakes". Salisbury Journal. 27 November 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  2. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "Interview for 1883 Magazine from 2011". Archived from the original on 1 July 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b Davies, Ceri (26 November 2012). "Interview for Emma Hartley entitled "Desert Island Folk Discs"". 1883 Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  5. ^ "List of graduates from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School since 1984". Archived from the original on 8 May 2010. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  6. ^ "The 200th Read Not Dead". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  7. ^ "UK Theatre Database: RSC's Much Ado About Nothing". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  8. ^ Vlessing, Etan (10 June 2010). "David Oakes, Holliday Grainger join 'Borgias'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  9. ^ a b c "Brief Encounter with David Oakes". Whats On Stage. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  10. ^ "The Marlowe Society Research Journal - Volume 05 - 2008" (PDF). Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  11. ^ "David Oakes' Spotlight CV". Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Natalie Dormer will star in erotically charged West End production of Venus in Fur" by Alistair Foster, The Evening Standard, 12 May 2017
  13. ^ a b "Interview for Fault Magazine 2011". Archived from the original on 10 January 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  14. ^ "EVENT: The Trial of Macbeth". Inner Temple Library. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  15. ^ "Guardian - Trial of Macbeth". TheGuardian.com. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  16. ^ a b Douglas, Natalie (4 July 2019). "Hamlet review at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, York – 'a production of clarity'". The Stage. Archived from the original on 4 July 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  17. ^ Simpson, Ron (4 July 2019). "Review: Hamlet (Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, York)". WhatsOnStage. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  18. ^ Ballands, James. "British Theatre Guide, Hamlet Review". British Theatre Guide. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  19. ^ "Interview for Wiltshire Life 2010" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 March 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Theatre Credits Prior To Drama School". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Dog Ate Cake". Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  22. ^ "Bacon and Bungay Review". 9 June 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  23. ^ "Globe Read Not Dead 2014". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
  24. ^ "Outliers: Seal of Fate". Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  25. ^ Earp, Catherine (28 April 2021). "Game of Thrones' Natalie Dormer announces she's secretly welcomed a baby girl". Digital Spy. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  26. ^ "Natalie Dormer and David Oakes say 'I do' to civil partnership". Yahoo!. 6 March 2023. Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  27. ^ "Goblin Film Four Fright Fest Review". 22 January 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  28. ^ "BLF Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  29. ^ "David Oakes Runs for Charity". 10 September 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  30. ^ "Josie was the Strongest". 8 December 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  31. ^ "Anno's Africa Patrons". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  32. ^ "Just A Book at The Bookseller". Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  33. ^ "Official Twitter for the Woodland Trust". Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  34. ^ "Chelt Lit Festival Website Details". Archived from the original on 10 October 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  35. ^ Oakes, David. "Conkering hero David Oakes on planting trees". Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  36. ^ "HS2 should not get the green light in current form". Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  37. ^ "Big Wild Quiz". Facebook. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  38. ^ "Climate Coalition Virtual Lobby". Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  39. ^ "The Wildlife Trusts welcome Liz Bonnin as new president". Retrieved 27 November 2020.

External links[edit]