In 2002, after two years as an associate director of the venue, Brown took on the job of both artistic director and chief executive of WYP from Jude Kelly, who had lead the building since it opened in 1990 (and has since taken the reins at London’s Southbank Centre). He inaugurated his tenure with a production of Hamlet starring Christopher Eccleston, and at the end of this year, marking the venue’s 21st birthday, he’ll direct Tim Pigott-Smith in King Lear.
In the years between, Brown has also directed Twelth Night, Macbeth and As You Like It, while his own non-Shakespeare hits have included When We Are Married, Hay Fever and Pretending to Be Me, which starred Tom Courtenay and transferred to the West End. Other WYP co-productions that have transferred – nine in total – during Brown’s term have included Othello with Lenny Henry and the Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Award-winning The 39 Steps, still running at the Criterion Theatre, while 32 WYP shows have toured the UK.
During his time at WYP, Brown has also been an ardent supporter of new writing, directing Colin Teevan’s incisive award-winning, Steve Waters’ topical Fast Labour and Alice Nutter’s debut play Foxes, and developing new writing initiatives such as Northern Exposure and So You Want to Be a Writer?. In addition, Christmas family shows have also been an integral part of Brown’s vision for the Playhouse, with seasonal hits including Wind in the Willows, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and most recently The Secret Garden, a co-production between WYP and Birmingham Rep
Prior to his Leeds years, from 1988 to 1996, Brown was artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre where his productions included world premieres of the stage adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting.
Commenting on his departure from the Playhouse, Brown said: “It is always difficult to make the decision to step away from something of which you are extremely proud and that has been a truly amazing and enjoyable part of your life. I have always believed that artistic directors shouldn’t stay too long; that these are jobs not for life and run on fixed-term contracts for some very good reasons.
”Ten years feels about the right amount of time to have made your mark and then to let a new era in the theatre’s history begin. It is important to me to be able to hand this building over to its next artistic director in the best possible shape I can, to do that takes time and requires a smooth transition from one artistic director to another, which is why this announcement comes so early in the planning stages.
“I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to run this fantastic building. During the last nine years, we have produced many remarkable shows, collaborated with truly ground-breaking people, supported new writers, young directors and emerging companies and cemented our work for young people through the creation of First Floor. It has been a pleasure and is an honour to be part of the legacy of this flagship producing theatre.”