Joe Vaněk was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. He studied in the University of Sussex and was destined for a career in teaching, before he changed direction for a future in stage design. This decision was met with concern from his Father, who recognised the risk in diverting from a safe career in teaching for the precariousness of theatre. Vaněk's individuality also meant he was subject to amused disdain from his peers, because instead of being a fan of the Rolling Stones or The Beatles he would listen to Astrid Gilberto and Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66. He was also fond of European classical music, which was a rarity among his peers. He then lived in London for a period of 13 years before moving to Dublin in 1984, where he felt he "could breathe" after his time in London.

Since then, Vaněk has been designing for most of the major theatre, opera and dance companies in Ireland. He was Director of Design at the Abbey Theatre from 1995-97, and Design Associate for the Wexford Festival Opera from 2006-08. His work is closely associated with the plays of Brien Friel, including Dancing at LughansaWonderful TennesseeMolly Sweeney and Performances.

He has also designed new plays by many of Ireland’s leading writers including John Banville, Sebastian Barry, Marina Carr, Hugo Hamilton, Tom Kilroy, Hugh Leonard, Tom MacIntyre, Frank McGuinness, Tom Murphy and Stewart Parker.


  • Grace Vroomen
  • Barry Houlihan
  • Eimhin Joyce
  • Cillian Joy
  • Aisling Keane