Murray Departs After 35 Years at Royal ExchangeDate: 24 June 2011
One of the country’s longest-serving artistic directors, Braham Murray, co-founder of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre, will step down in July 2012 after 35 years – and the majority of his career to date – with the company.
At the Exchange, Murray is one of a triumvirate of artistic directors – the other two, currently, being Greg Hersov and Sarah Frankcom, who will carry on as a pair, with no plans to replace Murray in the immediate future.
Murray’s final production will be next year’s revival of Leonard Bernstein musical Wonderful Town, a collaboration between the Royal Exchange, the Halle Orchestra and the Lowry, which will star Connie Fisher at the Lowry in April 2012 followed by a national tour.
Commenting on his departure, Murray said: “The company has been going through a highly successful artistic period. I leave it in good hands. I will never leave it in spirit.”
Since its inception in 1976, Murray has been at the forefront of the Royal Exchange, not least helping to steer it through the difficult years of closure and refurbishment following its bombing by the IRA in 1996. His productions over his decades at the Exchange have included everything from classics to musicals and full-scale operas, and he has worked with many of the country’s leading actors – including Tom Courtenay, Vanessa Redgrave, John Mills, Judi Dench, Maureen Lipman, Amanda Donohoe, Robert Lindsay, Andy Serkis and Brenda Blethyn. In 2010 he received an OBE for services to theatre.
Murray with current joint artistic directors Sarah Frankcom
& Greg Hersov at the Royal Exchange
At the Exchange, Murray has always worked part of an artistic team. The Royal Exchange is the longest running group theatre in the world – a concept he has always championed. The original group included James Maxwell, Michael Elliott, Richard Negri and Casper Wrede and, over the years prior to Hersov and Frankcom, other names have included Nicholas Hytner, Marianne Elliott (daughter of founder Michael) and Phyllida Lloyd.
Prior to the Exchange, Murray first made his name writing and directing the revue hit Hang Down Your Head, which started in Oxford before transferring to the West End and Broadway. This led to him becoming the youngest artistic director in the country when he took over the Century Theatre aged 22. In 1968 he went on to become a key figure in the creation of the influential 69 Theatre Company – which ultimately became the Royal Exchange Theatre Company – staging a total of 19 productions at Manchester’s University Theatre.
Chairman of the Royal Exchange, Paul Lee said of Murray: “The Royal Exchange simply would not exist but for Braham. His contribution is unique. He has throughout his 35 years kept faith with the original guiding spirit of the vision which drove the birth of the theatre. He has safeguarded and maintained the originality and quality of the theatre throughout, and his high reputation for innovation and excellence is a testimony to his work. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”
Tom Courtenay – who worked with Braham many times with both the 69 Theatre Company and the Royal Exchange – said: “The Royal Exchange is the most exciting theatre space in the country - I recently did my one-man show about Philip Larkin and the night at the Exchange was certainly the most enjoyable experience of the tour! The space is unique - as its founding artistic director, Braham has had a huge hand in making the Exchange happen and keeping it going. I’m sure he will want to come back in some capacity!”
Courtenay added: “Braham is a very dear friend and our association has meant a very great deal to me. He has been one of the rocks on which the company has been built and I am extremely sorry to see him go.”