The position has been vacant since December 2006 when Samuel West resigned ahead of the closure of the Grade II-listed Sheffield Crucible for a two-year, £15.3 million renovation (See News, 21 Dec 2006). While the neighbouring Lyceum, which with the Crucible and Crucible Studio comprise Sheffield Theatres, has continued to present visiting shows, in-house production – aside from two co-produced tours – has ceased in the interim.
Building work is due to be completed in November and the inaugural season in the new Crucible – which will be programmed by Evans and announced in September - will launch in February 2010.
Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Evans said that, while “I don’t intend to give up acting … for the immediate future” – perhaps the first year or two in the job – “I will cut back on my acting commitments”. His last performance job for the foreseeable future will be a one-off concert for a charity in his native Wales.
Having established himself as a classical actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, Evans first broke into musicals ten years ago playing the title role in John Caird’s NT production of Candide. He was nominated for an Olivier for Candide and later went on to win Best Actor in a Musical twice over for other Sondheim musicals: in 2001 for Merrily We Roll Along (at the Donmar Warehouse), and in 2007 for Sunday in the Park with George (for which he was also Tony nominated when it transferred to Broadway, following initial runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in the West End).
Evans has already developed a special “connection” with Sheffield as a Crucible acting alumnus, having appeared there in Cloud Nine and The Tempest (opposite Derek Jacobi, which transferred to the West End), and has been directed three times by Sheffield’s former boss Michael Grandage - in Merrily We Roll Along, The Tempest and, back at the Donmar Warehouse, where Grandage is now artistic director, in Grand Hotel. He’s also racked up numerous credits at the Royal Court – including the premieres of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed and 4.48 Psychosis - and elsewhere.
However, similar to his two predecessors at Sheffield – West and Grandage, both of whom also launched their careers as actors – Evans has had relatively little directing experience to date. He started directing five years ago and has since mounted small-scale productions of Peter Gill plays at the Young Vic and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and a 2006 revival of Saunders Lewis’ Esther at the Welsh National Theatre.
Commenting on why he wanted to take on his new job, Evans told Whatsonstage.com that, after returning from Broadway in Sunday in the Park with George last year, he was “questing for a new challenge” as he had been when, as a then-untrained singer, he first tackled musical theatre. His work as a director over the past five years had started him wondering what it would be like to have an influence in programming in the subsidised sector where he’d had many of his own “formative experiences in theatre” so, when he saw the Sheffield job advertised online, he applied.
He said that he is “very fortunate to inherit a great artistic legacy. My mission is to continue that excellence”, which he plans to do by “producing great plays in a broad repertoire of both new work and reinvented classics”, a varied programme of “challenging, moving and invigorating work”. He also plans to involve Sheffield Theatres in more community outreach.
In a statement, Evans said: “I am thrilled to be joining Sheffield Theatres as artistic director. Having had hugely fulfilling experiences myself at Sheffield, I look forward to joining Donna Munday, the interim chief executive, and contributing to the cultural life of the city. These are exciting times. The theatres belong to Sheffield, and they also have great national significance. The Crucible is undergoing a transformation, as is the city itself. I cannot wait to be part of the renaissance.”
Chair of the board Dominic Shellard added that Evans’ “vision and energy will be essential in guiding the company forward and to secure its future at the forefront of the country’s theatre scene”.
- by Terri Paddock