He has been resident dramatist at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. Holman was brought up on a farm in North Yorkshire and worked as a bookshop assistant in Paddington station for 3 years after leaving school before receiving an Arts Council bursary in 1974. Since then, he has written plays which have impressed critics, directors and actors, without ever becoming what might be termed a fashionable writer
His plays are often set in specific landscapes, with scenes set out of doors preferred over domestic interiors.
Recurring tropes in his plays include the family, intergenerational relationships and meetings between strangers. Academic commentary on Holman"s work is scarce.
Critical reaction has wavered from the enthusiastic and respectful to the bemused, the latter especially when his 1984 play Other Worlds featured a talking monkey. Holman"s work has been produced at a variety of venues since the early 1970s.
The venues for the premiers of these plays tended to be subsidised new writing theatres such as the Royal Court and the Bush Theatre, as well as the studio spaces of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In 1999 his trilogy of short plays Making Noise Quietly was revived by the Oxford Stage Company in the West End at the Whitehall Theatre. In 2003, as well as the premier of a new play at Chichester, there was a major retrospective of his work at the Royal Exchange Theatre. 2008 "Jonah and Otto" Royal Exchange Theatre with Ian Mcdiarmid and Andrew Sheridan.
In 2012 "Making Noise Quietly" was revived at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Peter Gill.
In 2014 "Jonah and Otto" was revived at The Park Theatre, in a production directed by Tim Stark. In 2016 "German Skerries" was revived at the Orange Tree Theatre, in a production directed by Alice Hamilton.
Holman is an acknowledged inspiration for some of the younger generation of British playwrights, including David Eldridge and Simon Stephens. In 2010 the three collaborated on "The Thousand Stars in the Sky", performed at the Lyric Hammersmith.
A documentary, "Robert Holman, A Writer"s Writer" was made by the Donmar Warehouse, celebrating Holman"s influence on younger writers including David Eldridge, Simon Stephens, Samantha Ellis, Duncan Macmillan and Ben Musgrave.