Cooke Succeeds Rickson as Court Artistic DirectorDate: 24 January 2006
Dominic Cooke will succeed Ian Rickson as artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre, it was announced today. In September (See News, 29 Sep 2005), Rickson announced that he would be stepping down in December 2006, at the end of the landmark new writing venue’s 50th anniversary celebrations this year. Cooke - a former associate director at the Royal Court and currently associate director with the Royal Shakespeare Company - will officially take over in January 2007.
At the RSC, Cooke has overseen the launch of the RSC’s annual New Work Festival, whose second season of productions transfers to London’s Soho Theatre this spring. He has also helped to bring new work back into the RSC’s main schedule while helping artistic director Michael Boyd shape overall artistic policy and directing his own productions of As You Like It, Macbeth, Cymbeline, The Malcontent and, opening next month in Stratford, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Prior to joining the RSC, Cooke was the Royal Court’s associate director from 1999 to 2002. His Court productions have included The People Are Friendly, Redundant, Fucking Games, Spinning into Butter and Plasticine, for which he was nominated for a 2003 Evening Standard Award for Best Director. His other credits include By the Bog of Cats (starring Holly Hunter in the West End), The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (Gate Theatre, Dublin) and his own adaptation of Arabian Nights (Young Vic).
In a statement released today, Anthony Burton, chair of the English Stage Company Council and the Selection Committee, said: “Dominic Cooke dazzled the interview panel with his inspirational vision, innovative programming ideas and plans for change at the Royal Court. Dominic was the unanimous choice from a truly exceptional field.”
Commenting on his new appointment, Cooke added: “The Royal Court is one of the leading theatres in the world, and I am delighted to be taking over from Ian Rickson as artistic director and pursuing my vision for its future.”
Ian Rickson, who is the third longest-serving artistic director in the Royal Court’s history, took over from Stephen Daldry in 1998. At the time, it was seen as a somewhat risky choice. Although Rickson, a former actor, had a reputation internally - having risen up through the ranks since joining the Court's youth theatre in 1991, then becoming an associate director in 1994 - he was little-known elsewhere.
That perception has certainly changed in the past few years, during which time Rickson has overseen the Court's delayed return to Sloane Square following a £25 million refurbishment, as well as the development of dozens of new writers. Before and since becoming artistic director, he has also personally directed numerous acclaimed productions including Conor McPherson’s The Weir, Jez Butterworth’s Mojo, Kevin Elyot's Mouth to Mouth and Rebecca Gilman's The Sweetest Swing in Baseball starring Gillian Anderson.
The Royal Court Theatre was originally built in 1888. In 1955, after years of disuse and bombing during the Blitz, the Court became the home of the English Stage Company, which pledged to promote the work of forward-looking, modern playwrights. The company's first season, in 1956, included John Osborne's Look Back in Anger. Since then, the theatre has played an instrumental role in developing the careers of playwrights such as Edward Bond, Arnold Wesker, Christopher Hampton, David Hare, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Sarah Kane, Caryl Churchill, Joe Penhall and many others.
As part of the 50th anniversary season this year, Rickson will direct the premiere of Jez Butterworth’s The Winterling and Christopher Hampton’s new version of Chekhov’s The Seagull. Other highlights of the Royal Court’s milestone celebrations include: Tom Stoppard making his Court debut with his new play Rock ‘n’ Roll directed by Trevor Nunn; playwright Harold Pinter performing Samuel Beckett’s one-man Krapp’s Last Tape; the returns of former Royal Court artistic directors Max Stafford-Clark, Anthony Page and Stephen Daldry; new plays by contemporary playwrights Stella Feehily, Tanika Gupta, Simon Farquhar, Christopher Shinn, Marina Carr and Simon Stephens; a ten-week season of rehearsed readings of landmark productions from the Court’s history; and a one-off performance of John Osborne’s groundbreaking Look Back in Anger on 8 May 2006, 50 years to the day after it had its world premiere two months after the English Stage Company set up residence at the Court (See News, 11 Oct 2005).
- by Terri Paddock