The Donmar Warehouse today announces that Josie Rourke is to step down in 2019, after eight years as Artistic Director, and Executive Producer Kate Pakenham will leave in June 2018. The team were the first female partnership to run a London theatre.
During Rourke and Pakenham’s tenure the Donmar stage has seen ground-breaking productions, including BAFTA-nominated The Vote, with Dame Judi Dench, which reached over half a million homes on the night of the 2015 General Election; the award-winning Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston (2013); and the culture-shifting all-female Shakespeare Trilogy starring Harriet Walter, from director Phyllida Lloyd (2012-2016) in London and New York, and on screen. The pair received an Olivier Award for Rourke’s revival of the musical, City of Angels (2014). In 2016, they doubled the Donmar’s programme, producing plays in Covent Garden, King’s Cross, and New York.
In pursuit of their mission to open up the Donmar and diversify its artists and its audience, half of the directors and actors on its stages during their tenure have been women. With a focus on audiences, Rourke and Pakenham have changed access to the work on the Donmar’s stage: Barclays Front Row ensured over 32,000 top-price seats for £10, and YOUNG+FREE has seen 10,000 people under 25 see Donmar productions for free. In March 2014 they oversaw the opening of the Donmar’s own rehearsal and education hub on Dryden Street. They have taken the Donmar’s work into schools and prisons, opening a theatre in King’s Cross to present Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy. This has been made possible through the loyalty of the Donmar’s partners and supporters.
Notable productions during their tenure include: Josie Rourke’s revival of Conor McPherson’s The Weir and Associate Director Robert Hastie’s production of Kevin Elyot’s My Night with Reg, both of which transferred to the West End; City of Angels, which received the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival;Coriolanus, which was broadcast live in cinemas in partnership with National Theatre Live and for which Tom Hiddleston won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actor. New York transfers include: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which ran on Broadway; Privacy by James Graham at The Public Theater, The Night Alive at The Atlantic, and Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy which was seen at St Ann’s Warehouse. Notable new work includes: Kwame Kwei-Armah’s production of One Night in Miami… by Kemp Powers and the world premiere of Nick Payne’s Elegy, both of which received Olivier Award nominations for Best New Play in 2016; and The Vote, which was broadcast live nationwide on More4 on the night of the 2015 UK General Election to an audience of half a million and was nominated for a BAFTA.
One of the hallmarks of Rourke and Pakenham’s tenure has been partnerships with some of the UK’s brightest talents. Notable examples include Rourke’s collaborations with the UK’s leading playwright James Graham on Privacy, and The Vote, which saw the biggest and most diverse cast ever to perform on the Donmar’s stage; Lyndsey Turner’s three productions of Brian Friel’s work, latterly Faith Healer; and proudly welcoming Kwame Kwei-Armah’s return to the UK with two productions as Associate Director, One Night in Miami… and The Lady from the Sea. Finally, Associate Director Phyllida Lloyd’s ground-breaking all-female Shakespeare Trilogy in London, New York and for screen.
Rourke, who is currently in post-production on her first feature film, the forthcoming Working Title/Focus Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, due for release in November 2018, next directs on the Donmar stage later this year. Her final show as Artistic Director of the Donmar will be in the first half of 2019. The search for her successor will begin later this year.
Josie Rourke, Artistic Director, says:
“Leading the Donmar is one of the great privileges of London theatre, and doing so in partnership with Kate Pakenham has been one of the great joys. I am so grateful for the chance to have brought new plays, new audiences and new talent to its stage. After twelve years as an Artistic Director, here and at the Bush Theatre, I’ve been lucky to open two new theatre buildings, and work with some of the most significant voices of my generation. I was proud to be the first woman director to run a major London theatre, but I’m even prouder that the landscape has now changed beyond recognition, and forever.
“It will be a year before I say my final goodbye and I look forward to celebrating all that is great about the Donmar and its artists over the next twelve months before pursuing my next creative challenges.”
Kate Pakenham, Executive Producer, says:
“The last six years working with Josie and the Donmar’s brilliant team have been hugely inspiring, and a great honour. I have immense gratitude and respect for the many incredible artists I’ve had the opportunity to work with to realise such a range of productions. The impact of Phyllida’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy in promoting the value of women’s and diverse voices on our stages has been particularly energising. I am so grateful to the Donmar’s supporters and partners whose generosity over this time has made all of the work possible, and particularly for their help in delivering bespoke access programmes, unique screen partnerships, transfers and specialised projects within schools and prisons. I’m confident that I’m leaving the Donmar in a strong position to support its next exciting period of growth, and will always be an avid supporter of this very special London theatre.”
John Browne, Chairman of Donmar Warehouse Projects, says: “On behalf of the Board, I thank Josie and Kate for their hugely successful period of leadership. They have continued to evolve the variety, vibrancy and quality of our creative programme. They have strengthened our organisation and inspired the loyalty of our great supporters. They leave the Donmar in a strong position for the future. Recruitment of a new Artistic Director is underway.”