Josie Rourke (pictured) – a former associate director at Sheffield Theatres, who has also helmed numerous productions, of both new plays and classics, at the Royal Court, the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Shakespeare Company and elsewhere – has been appointed as the new artistic director of west London’s Bush Theatre. She takes over from 10 April 2007, succeeding Mike Bradwell, who announced his departure at the end of last year after a decade in the job at the highly influential theatre for new writing (See News, 17 Nov 2006).

Rourke joins Fiona Clark, executive director of the Bush for the past seven years, on the venue’s management team. Commenting on her appointment, Rourke said today: “The Bush inspires, nurtures and champions playwrights, and I am thrilled to have been invited to become its artistic director. I look forward to working with Fiona Clark, the directors and the staff of the theatre to take the Bush into its bold and promising future.”

Bush Theatre Chairman John Shakeshaft added: “I’m delighted to welcome Josie as artistic director. There has been considerable interest in this position, and Josie’s vision for the future of the Bush was particularly inspiring and stood out from an incredibly strong field. Josie’s collaborative approach will celebrate the strong canon of new work created throughout the Bush’s 35-year history whilst offering a distinctive artistic leadership that will nurture and celebrate the most visceral and potent voices of our era, and ensure that the Bush continues to play a leading role in shaping the future of British theatre.”

The Bush Theatre opened in April 1972 in the upstairs dining room (previously used as Lionel Blair's dance studio) of the Bush Hotel in Shepherd's Bush, west London. Despite its size – just 80 seats – the theatre has established a national and international reputation as a centre for new writing. Amongst the Bush's many playwright discoveries are Stephen Poliakoff, Snoo Wilson, Ron Hutchinson, Kevin Elyot, Billy Roche, Tony Kushner, Jonathan Harvey, Conor McPherson, Richard Camerone, Joe Penhall, Catherine Johnson, Tim Fountain, Georgia Fitch and Charlotte Jones.

The theatre has also chalked up numerous tours and transfers, including Steve Thompson’s political satire Whipping It Up - starring Richard Wilson, Robert Bathurst, Lee Ross and Helen Schlesinger – which premiered at the Bush last November and which moved to the West End’s New Ambassadors Theatre earlier this month (See WOS TV, 2 Mar 2007).


JOSIE ROURKE’S BIOGRAPHY

Josie Rourke was born in Salford in the north-west of England. She was educated in state schools there and then read English at Cambridge University. On moving to London, Rourke was appointed Carlton Assistant Director at the Donmar Warehouse. While there, she assisted Michael Grandage, Nicholas Hytner, Phyllida Lloyd and Sam Mendes. On leaving the Donmar, Josie assisted Peter Gill on Luther at the National Theatre and on The York Realist on tour with English Touring Theatre and later at the Royal Court. The Donmar then asked her to direct a premiere of a new American play by Keith Reddin, Frame 312.

Following this production, Rourke directed Kick for Touch as part of the Peter Gill season at Sheffield Theatres, which won the Peter Brook Empty Space Award. She then joined the Royal Court for a short residency, after which she directed an award-winning production of Romeo and Juliet at the Liverpool Playhouse. Returning to the Royal Court, Rourke directed Deobia Oparei's crazyblackmuthafuckin'self and was then appointed Trainee Associate Director at the venue. During her time there, she directed two productions: Children's Day (a late-night monologue) and Gary Mitchell's Loyal Women in the Theatre Downstairs.

In 2003, Rourke directed the world premiere of Steve Waters' World Music at the Sheffield Crucible, after which the production transferred to the Donmar Warehouse. At the end of 2004, she returned to Sheffield for the third time to direct Waters' new play, The Unthinkable, in the Crucible Studio. Her other productions of Waters’ plays include Changed So Much I Don't Know You (Hotbeds Festival) and his adaptation of Joseph Roth's novel Flight Without End (LAMDA).

From 2004 to 2006, Rourke was associate director of Sheffield Theatres under artistic director Samuel West. She helped programme the 2005/2006 Sheffield Theatres Season, directing West in Much Ado About Nothing, the opening production of his tenure in charge. Last year, she directed a revival of Willis Hall's modern classic The Long and The Short and The Tall in the Lyceum at Sheffield and on tour.

Rourke has been involved with the Old Vic New Voices programme since 2002. She directed two of the 24 Hour Plays on the Old Vic stage and last year took part in the Broadway staging with a cast including Catherine Tate and Wallace Shawn. With the Old Vic New Voices programme, she has helped to develop Owen Sheers' Unicorns Almost, a one-man play with Joseph Fiennes and has worked with Peter Ackroyd to develop a play about the life of Shakespeare.

For the RSC, Rourke directed Massinger’s rediscovered Jacobean play Believe What You Will as part of the Gunpowder Season, which transferred to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios after its run at Stratford’s Swan Theatre, and directed numerous projects for the Complete Works Festival, including a new production of King John. Rourke’s other credits include The Vagina Monologues on tour, My Dad’s a Birdman at the Young Vic, and this past autumn, David Mamet’s The Cryptogram, starring Kim Cattrall and Douglas Henshall at the Donmar.

- by Terri Paddock