Cracknell and Abrahami succeeded Thea Sharrock, who stepped down as her own freelance career took off with productions including the West End and Broadway revival of Equus starring Daniel Radcliffe. Then both in their late 20s, neither had previously run a theatre. Their appointment also marked the first joint artistic directors at the Gate, which was founded in 1979.
During their tenure, Cracknell and Abrahami have built on the Gate’s reputation for promoting international theatre, while also reinterpreting classic plays and expanding into more physical and dance-driven theatre, epitomised by a partnership with Sadler’s Wells which has seen annual transfers of their work to the dance centre in Islington.
Cracknell and Abrahami have presented more than 30 productions, including 18 world premieres. Also during their years in charge, the theatre has been nominated for a South Bank Show Award and received the 2008 Peter Brook Award. The women also received the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Fund for creative entrepreneurs for their “Gate Elsewhere” initiative.
Outgoing Gate artistic directors Carrie Cracknell & Natalie Abrahami
Speaking today, when they also announced their farewell season to the end of 2011, Abrahami and Cracknell said: “After four years running the Gate, we are thrilled to announce our farewell season, which celebrates new talent, new writing and new interpretations of international classics that have been the signature of our tenure. We are honoured to welcome back so many familiar collaborators on stage and behind the scenes and we hope that the repertoire continues to delight and surprise in equal measure.”
Chair of the theatre’s board Jonathan Hull commented: “Over their four years at the Gate Theatre, Natalie and Carrie's programme of new international writing, dance theatre and contemporary adaptations of classics has been a great success and has built on the Gate's tradition of presenting bold, innovative, international theatre at our intimate venue in Notting Hill. The strength of their final season is a testament to their unique artistic vision.
“While we are sad to say farewell to Natalie and Carrie, the Gate has a strong future ahead of it, particularly given the recent confirmation of Arts Council funding through to 2015, and we are excited to see the direction in which a new Artistic Director will take the company."
In the Arts Council’s funding round, announced last month, the Gate received a 5% cash terms uplift, taking it to an annual grant of £304,565 in 2012/13, rising to nearly £320,000 by 2014/15.
Cracknell and Abrahami’s resignations follow departure announcements from the artistic directors of the Donmar Warehouse and the Gate’s west London neighbour the Bush (whose boss Josie Rourke will succeed Michael Grandage at the Donmar in the new year), as well as Birmingham Rep, West Yorkshire Playhouse and, just announced at the end of last week, Salisbury Playhouse, where Philip Wilson steps down this July after four years in the job.
The Gate’s 2011 summer/winter season will include three original adaptations of international classics, the European premiere of an award-winning American comedy, and double bill of dance theatre. The theatre’s current offering - Cracknell’s production of Sophocles’ tragedy Electra, in a new version by Nick Payne, which opens this Wednesday 13 April 2011 (previews from 7 April) and continues until 14 May – will be followed by: