Birmingham Repertory Theatre has appointed Rachel Kavanaugh (pictured) to become its new artistic director, taking over from Jonathan Church, who has left this month to become artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre (See News, 2 Nov 2005). Kavanaugh will be the first female artistic director in The Rep’s 93-year history.

Kavanaugh has previously been an associate director of The Rep, directing the theatre's most successful family Christmas show to date, The Wizard of Oz, in 2005 and 2003 and the David Hare trilogy with Church in 2003. Her other directing work in Birmingham includes Art, A Doll's House, The Madness of George III and The Lady in the Van. She has also been a regular director at the Royal Shakespeare Company (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park (Cymbeline, the Whatsonstage.com Award-winning Love’s Labour’s Lost).

Kavanaugh is currently working on the UK premiere production of Marie Ndiaye’s French hit Hilda, which opens at Hampstead Theatre next week, and will be directing The Taming of the Shrew at the Open Air at the end of May.

Commenting on her new job, Kavanaugh said: "I am very excited to be the new artistic director of such a vibrant theatre and look forward to building on Jonathan Church's success here. I've worked at The Rep over the last five years, and I know that the theatre can be both a truly local resource and a national centre of excellence, providing the best and most varied entertainment for the City, the West Midlands and its many communities. It is a theatre that has a significant impact on the rest of the country."

Ian Squires, chairman of the Board at The Rep said: "We are thrilled that Rachel is joining us as artistic director. She is one of this country's outstanding and brightest directors, and her passion for theatre will ensure that our audiences will continue to enjoy work of the highest quality.”

- by Terri Paddock