As previously tipped (See The Goss, 17 May 2005), Oxford Stage Company artistic Dominic Dromgoole (pictured) has been appointed to succeed Mark Rylance at Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre confirmed this morning that Dromgoole will take over as artistic director from Rylance at the end of 2005 when the latter completes his tenth year on the South Bank.

The appointment of Dromgoole as the Globe’s second leader will come as a surprise to many. In a Big Debate survey on last autumn, after Rylance announced his surprise resignation (See News, 15 Sep 2004), theatregoers nominated ten candidates, many of whom had also been mooted as front-runners in the media: Cheek by Jowl’s Declan Donnellan, Edward Hall (son of Peter), the RSC’s Gregory Doran, Kenneth Branagh, Mike Alfreds, Samuel West (since appointed to Sheffield Theatres, which he takes over from Michael Grandage next month), Steven Berkoff and actress Zoe Wanamaker (whose father, the late Sam Wanamaker, was the force behind the establishment of the theatre).

The son of another renowned director, Patrick Dromgoole, prior to Oxford Stage Company, which he joined in 1999 and has built into a leading force both regionally and in London, Dominic Dromgoole had positions as director of new plays for the Peter Hall Company and artistic director of London’s new writing powerhouse, the Bush Theatre. At the latter, he premiered 65 new plays including early works by Philip Ridley, Catherine Johnson, Sebastian Barry, Jonathan Harvey and Conor McPherson amongst others (See “20 Questions with Dominic Dromgoole”, Features, 6 Oct 2003). Dromgoole’s West End credits include the current production of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me at the New Ambassadors.

The director is also an outspoken arts commentator, who writes regularly for several national newspapers including the Sunday Times. His first book, 2000's The Full Room: An A-Z of Contemporary Playwriting, created shockwaves within the theatre industry for its frank critical assessments of many of the country's leading contemporary dramatists. Although he’s best known for his work with modern drama, Dromgoole’s new book, published by Penguin in March 2006, will be on Shakespeare.

Rylance – who has just opened in The Tempest, the first production in the 2005 summer season, which runs until 2 October (See News, 10 Nov 2004) - officially finishes at the Globe on 31 December 2005 with Dromgoole assuming the position from January 2006. Ahead of that, the artistic director designate will be working closely with Rylance to ease the transition and prepare his plans for the Globe’s 2006 season.

Commenting on Dromgoole’s appointment today, Globe chief executive Peter Kyle said: “I know Dominic to be a wholly committed man of the theatre, with a passion for Shakespeare and a strong desire to engage with what he has described as ‘the maverick energy’ of the Globe. We all look forward to Dominic’s own maverick energy being brought to bear on our 2006 theatre season which he will begin programming immediately and to welcoming him when he formally takes up the post at the end of the year.”

Sir Michael Perry, chairman of the Shakespeare Globe Trust, added: “The Globe Theatre has enjoyed enormous success over the past ten years under the inspirational leadership of Mark Rylance. We now look forward to welcoming Dominic Dromgoole as our new artistic director and have every confidence that he will lead the Globe to ever greater heights.”

Mark Rylance was appointed artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in August 1995 and took up the post in January 1996. The theatre opened its doors to the public in June 1997 with a production of Henry V, in which Rylance took the title role. In’s Big Debate survey last year, 91% of theatregoers said that Rylance had done a good job, singling out, amongst other achievements, “his overall enthusiasm, leadership and company spirit” (59%) as well as “his own memorable performances” (45%). Last summer, the Globe achieved a staggering 91% capacity for its four repertory productions.

In addition to his regular – and frequently cross-gender – roles in Globe productions including Antony and Cleopatra, Twelfth Night, Richard II, Measure for Measure and this season’s The Tempest and, still to open, Plautus’ Greco-Roman comedy The Storm, Rylance’s many other acting credits include Much Ado About Nothing, Life x 3 and True West in the West End, and Intimacy on film.

The dream of American actor and director Sam Wanamaker, who spearheaded the fundraising efforts but died before construction began in 1993, the modern Shakespeare’s Globe is modelled on the original theatre (built nearby in 1599 and burned down in 1613), where the playwright and his company premiered many of his plays. The open-air venue is now a major international destination for tourists and theatregoers alike. Also part of the complex is the Inigo Jones Theatre, an incomplete reconstruction of an early 17th-century playhouse based on designs by England's first Renaissance architect. Fundraising to finish work on that theatre and make it available for year-round performances is ongoing.

In Rylance’s letter to colleagues at the time of his resignation, he said: “Never has an actor had such an opportunity as you entrusted to me when I was asked to help bring your dream of a working Globe Theatre through its birth into its childhood…The completion of the indoor Inigo Jones Theatre is again in our dreams and I hope that it may help to attract a fantastic artistic director. I intend to do everything I can to help make the transition to a new artistic director transparent and exciting for the Globe. I will endeavour to always be at the Globe's service."

- by Terri Paddock