Anthony Clark will succeed Jenny Topper as artistic director of Hampstead Theatre when she steps down at the end of June 2003, the Hampstead Theatre board announced today. Formerly the associate artistic director at Birmingham Rep and artistic director of Manchester's Contact Theatre, Clark joins Hampstead as artistic director designate in January 2003. He will take over from Topper in July 2003, after the conclusion of her opening season in the north London theatre's new £15.6m building (pictured).

Commenting on the appointment, Vincent Wang, chairman of Hampstead board, said: "We are delighted that Anthony Clark will join Hampstead Theatre as Artistic Director Designate. His experience in developing new work makes him an ideal successor to Jenny Topper, whose commitment and vision for over 13 years has helped shape Hampstead Theatre's reputation for new writing. Anthony is taking over one of the most exciting new jobs in British theatre and we believe he has the energy and the foresight to build on Hampstead Theatre's international reputation. "

The outgoing Topper added: "I am both happy and relieved to know that I shall be handing over the new Hampstead Theatre to a director with skill and wisdom and who shares my passion for new writing." Meanwhile, accepting the appointment, Clark spoke about his plans for the theatre: "I want to extend the repertoire; to develop the complementary community and education programme, and to reinforce the infrastructure that has given so much support to established and first-time playwrights."

Topper made public last November that she would be ending her Hampstead directorship, which she has held since 1988. The announcement followed the resignations of artistic directors from London's other top theatres - Trevor Nunn from the National Theatre, Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid from the Almeida and Sam Mendes from the Donmar Warehouse. All of those positions have now been filled. Outside of London, there are now top theatre vacancies to be filled at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and the Royal Shakespeare Company, following the more recent resignations of Jude Kelly and Adrian Noble respectively.

Under Topper's leadership, Hampstead has produced 126 plays of which 90 were premieres. Of those, 21 productions have transferred to the West End (including Burn This, Dead Funny, Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs and Feelgood), 18 have toured the country (including The Memory of Water), two have transferred to Broadway (Aristocrats and Someone Who'll Watch Over Me) and 34 have had further lives in television, film, in the regions and across the world.

Construction began in October 2001 on Hampstead Theatre's new facility, which is funded by a Lottery grant of nearly £10 million and an additional £5 million raised by the theatre itself. The Hampstead's current prefab structure, which was only ever meant to be temporary, has housed the theatre for 40 years.

Terri Paddock