A graduate of Goldsmiths College, London (MA in Directing) and the National University of Singapore (BA Theatre Studies), Nelson has headed the Department of Theatre at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, and also lectured at Lasalle College of the Arts and the Theatre Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore. He was the Associate Artistic Director of Toy Factory Productions (2003 - 2013), a Resident Artist with The Theatre Practice (2000 - 2002), an Associate Artist with The Substation (2007 - 2009), and a founding member of the ensemble collective A GROUP OF PEOPLE (2008 - 2012). In 2017, he was awarded a 3-year fellowship with the International Society for Performing Arts in New York. He currently sits on the examination board of the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore.
As a director, he is known for his detailed and tight ensemble work on stage and his translation and re-imagination of classics in Mandarin. He was the first Singapore artist to be commissioned for a consecutive three years by the Esplanade to present works at the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts, where two of his works won Best Director for two consecutive years at the Straits Times' Life! Theatre Awards, namely Twelve Angry Men (Nine Years Theatre, 2013) and Art (Nine Years Theatre, 2014). His other works include Oleanna, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, An Enemy of the People, Tartuffe, The Lower Depths, Red Demon and Red Sky, to name a few. In 2017, he was commisioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts to open the festival with Art Studio, a stage adaptation of the novel by local award-winning author Yeng Pway Ngon.
In 2012, Nelson co-founded Nine Years Theatre (NYT) with his wife Mia Chee. Within a few years, NYT has grown to become one of the key players in the scene. Through his artistic direction, he has managed to not only rejuvenate the Singapore Mandarin theatre scene with his work, but raised the awareness of actor training among the artistic community. Since 2008, he has been training regularly in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training and Viewpoints. He studied both methods with SITI Company in New York, and trained in the Suzuki Method and performed in the Toga Festival with the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) in Japan.
In 2013, he created the NYT Ensemble (NYTE) with an aim to establish a stable company of ensemble actors who train regularly in a systematic way, and create work together over an extended period of time. Today, the NYT Ensemble is the only actor ensemble of this nature in Singapore. Under Nelson’s leadership, the NYTE is currently developing a performance approach known as the “NYT Actors’ Work”.