Rep’s Church Named Chichester Artistic DirectorDate: 2 November 2005
Birmingham Rep artistic director Jonathan Church (pictured) has been appointed to succeed the artistic director-triumvirate of Steven Pimlott, Martin Duncan and Ruth Mackenzie at Chichester Festival Theatre. The trio stepped down this summer after an acclaimed but brief three years in the job (See News, 3 Aug 2005).
After stints as associate director at London’s Hampstead Theatre and artistic director at Salisbury Playhouse, Church took over at Birmingham Rep in 2001, since when his programming policy has resulted in a 92% rise in annual attendances. He’s overseen major productions of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the controversial Sikh play Behzti (whose premiere was discontinued following rioting) and the David Hare trilogy of Racing Demon, Absence of War and Murmuring Judges and a record number of West End transfers including Of Mice and Men, Elmina’s Kitchen, The Birthday Party, The Witches, On the Ceiling, The Old Masters, Fuddy Meers and, opening tomorrow night in London, Glorious! with Maureen Lipman.
Church’s latest production, a revival of Brecht’s The Life of Galileo starring Timothy West, opened in Birmingham last night. Prior to his departure in April 2006, he will also direct Promises and Lies, the new musical based on the greatest hits of homegrown reggae band UB40, which receives its world premiere at the Rep in March (See News, 5 Jul 2005).
In the meantime, Church will begin programming Chichester’s famous summer festival season, which runs annually from May to September. The programme for 2006 is expected to be announced in January or February. An exact date for his full-time start at Chichester has not yet been set.
In a statement released today, Church said of his new position: “I have always admired this theatre and, having attended productions at Chichester for almost 20 years, am especially delighted now to be part of its future. It presents me with an extraordinary opportunity, one I shall savour and look forward to with great excitement.”
Along with Church’s appointment, Chichester has announced that Alan Finch, currently the theatre’s executive director, has been promoted to chief executive to work alongside Church. Finch joined Chichester this past April after 12 years at Theatre Royal Plymouth, five of them as general manager.
Lord Young, chair of the Chichester board, commented on the executive restructure: “We are delighted to have appointed Jonathan Church to Chichester. He is an outstanding director who will bring with him a wealth of experience with which to build on the considerable legacy of Chichester. Jonathan and Alan will now lead the organisation as Jonathan’s arrival heralds the start of another exciting era for the theatre.
- by Terri Paddock