Three years after taking over as artistic director of west London’s Lyric Hammersmith, David Farr (pictured) has announced that he is stepping down (See News, 18 Oct 2004). He will leave in early 2009 after the opening of Spring Awakening, the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit for which he successfully waged a battle to obtain the UK premiere rights (See News, 19 May 2008).

Farr leaves to take up a full-time position within Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Michael Boyd’s expanded team of associate directors at Stratford-upon-Avon. Also joining the team of RSC associates will be Rupert Goold (from 2010) and Roxana Silbert (from later this year), artistic directors of Headlong Theatre and Paines Plough respectively, who will also continue to work with their current companies.

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com at a press briefing last night to announce the Lyric’s autumn/winter programming, Farr, a father with two young children, said that he had decided to take a break from the demands of running buildings after seven years in order to spend more time with his family. Prior to his Lyric appointment, he was joint artistic director at Bristol Old Vic.

The Lyric Hammersmith will begin advertising for Farr’s successor within the next fortnight and hope to make an appointment by the end of the summer. Before his departure, Farr will programme the theatre’s spring/summer 2009 schedule, which he’ll announce in the autumn and is likely to include a play he has written.

At the Lyric, Farr has overseen a major front-of-house refurbishment and developed loyal, young audiences with signature devised and physical theatre pieces, often in collaboration with other companies, such as Frantic Assembly, Headlong, Theatre Vesturport and the National Theatre of Scotland. Significant productions during his tenure have included Metamorphosis, Ramayana, Angels in America, The Bacchae, the musical stage adaptation of Absolute Beginners and the current 50th anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, which Farr himself has directed.

A writer and director, earlier in his career, Farr served as artistic director of London’s Gate Theatre from 1995 to 1998. He has directed for the Young Vic, Almeida and National Theatre, while his productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company have included Coriolanus with Greg Hicks, Julius Caesar and his own play Night of the Soul. Other plays he’s written include Elton John’s Glasses (at Watford before transferring to the West End), The Danny Crowe Show (Bush) and Crime and Punishment in Dalston (Arcola).


In addition to the associate directorships of Farr, Goold and Silbert, the RSC’s Michael Boyd announced that playwright-director Anthony Neilson has been appointed a literary associate and actor-director Kathryn Hunter will become an artistic associate. The new recruits join the current RSC creative team – Boyd, chief associate Gregory Doran, associate director Deborah Shaw and associate designer Tom Piper – as the company plans the programme for the next long-term acting ensemble from 2009 and the reopening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre after a three-year, £113 million redevelopment (See News, 19 Apr 2007).

Rupert Goold’s appointment is of particular interest. The director is riding high at the moment having won three Best Director gongs this year – the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Olivier – for his Chichester Festival production of Macbeth, starring Patrick Stewart and Goold’s wife Kate Fleetwood, which has now transferred to Broadway where it’s just garnered six Tony Award nominations (See News, 13 May 2008). He’s also heading Cameron Mackintosh’s big-budget revival of Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and overseeing a Headlong season that includes his own productions of Pirandello’s reworked Six Characters in Search of an Author, opening at Chichester in July, and King Lear with Pete Postlethwaite, at the Liverpool Everyman in November (See News, 29 Jan 2008).

A Headlong spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that Goold’s RSC appointment will not interfere with his ongoing plans for Headlong, where he is now in his third year. Goold took over as artistic director of the touring company, then known as Oxford Stage Company, in October 2005 from Dominic Dromgoole. He relaunched and rebranded it as Headlong in 2006 (See News, 29 Aug 2006), with subsequent acclaimed productions including Faustus, Angels in America, Rough Crossings, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (just finished at the Almeida Theatre) and the premiere of Richard Bean’s The English Game (just opened on tour).

- by Terri Paddock