Grandage announced this past October that he would leave the 250-seat Covent Garden-based Donmar, to pursue more freelance directing opportunities. After nine years in the job, he’ll depart in December, following the opening of the final production under his helm, his own production of Shakespeare’s Richard II, starring Eddie Redmayne.
Rourke – who was always one of the leading names in the mix – is no stranger to either the Donmar Warehouse or Michael Grandage. After reading English at Cambridge and moving to London, she was appointed Carlton Assistant Director at the Donmar, assisting directors including Sam Mendes (then artistic director), Nicholas Hytner, Phyllida Lloyd and Grandage himself. And she’s already got two Donmar credits under her belt under her own name: the premiere of Steve Waters' World Music which transferred to the Donmar in 2003 from Sheffield Crucible (where it was programmed by Grandage, then in charge of both venues); and in 2006, also programmed by Grandage, she revived David Mamet’s The Cryptogram, starring Kim Cattrall.
Rourke has been artistic director of the Bush since April 2007 and, in November, secured the theatre’s long-term future via a new home in the old Shepherd’s Bush Library around the corner from the room-above-a-pub where the Bush has been based, and launched myriad playwriting careers, for the past 38 years. A fundraising campaign is now under way to complete the conversion. Rourke will stay on to oversee the Bush’s move to its new home and the opening of its inaugural season there this autumn.
Prior to the Bush, Rourke racked up directing credits at the Royal Court and RSC, played a key part in the development of Old Vic, New Voices and served as an associate director at Sheffield Theatres under artistic director Samuel West from 2004 to 2006.
Last autumn, Rourke made her National Theatre debut reviving Ena Lamont Stewart’s Depression-era tenement tragi-comedy Men Should Weep in the NT Lyttelton. And this spring, she’ll make her West End debut with one of the most hotly anticipated plays of the season, Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate as Benedick and Beatrice, which opens at Wyndham’s Theatre in June.