West London’s Gate Theatre (pictured) has appointed its first-ever pair of artistic directors. From next month, Natalie Abrahami and Carrie Cracknell will become joint artistic directors of the highly influential 70-seat venue, taking over from Thea Sharrock (See News, 17 Feb 2007), who is leaving to pursue her burgeoning freelance career, starting with this month’s highly anticipated revival of Peter Shaffer's Equus, starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths.

Both in their late 20s, neither Abrahami nor Cracknell have previously run a venue and, though long-standing friends, they have never worked together before. Their joint application clinched them the Gate directorship over 60+ other candidates because, according to a theatre spokeswoman, the board were excited by their vision for “expanding form and challenging the space” at the Gate.

Abrahami won the 2005 James Menzies-Kitchin Award for her production of Samuel Beckett’s playlets Play and Not I. This month her production of The Eleventh Capital opens as part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers’ Festival. Cracknell created A Mobile Thriller which was staged in a moving car for an audience of three strapped in the back. She’s currently developing a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland.

The Gate spokeswoman told Whatsonstage.com that the appointment of the relatively inexperienced Abrahami and Cracknell is in keeping with the theatre’s tradition of providing a “launching pad” for up-and-coming directors, many of whom have gone on to “illustrious careers”. In addition to Sharrock, previous artistic directors have included Stephen Daldry, Laurence Boswell, David Farr and Mick Gordon.

The break with Gate tradition in appointing “two artistic directors at once” is, said the spokeswoman, “creating a totally new and exciting dynamic for us”.

Established in 1979, the Gate was one of the first theatres to produce and collaborate with Eastern European theatre practitioners and opened the way for a rapid proliferation of international work on London’s stages. Currently at the Gate, Anna Mackmin’s production of Ibsen’s Ghosts, newly translated by Amelia Bullmore, continues until 17 February and is followed by the London premiere of Naomi Wallace’s Things of Dry Hours, which runs from 8 to 31 March (previews from 6 March) and is the final production programmed by Sharrock.

Abrahami and Cracknell join the Gate in March 2007 and will be programming the Gate’s 2007 autumn season, due to be announced this spring.

- by Terri Paddock