Clark took over at Hampstead in 2003, just after the theatre had moved into its new purpose-built £15.7 million state-of-the-art facility in Swiss Cottage, north London. A rocky first year in the much larger home ended with an appeal to the Arts Council for rescue package funding and the resignation of the theatre’s executive director (See News, 18 Dec 2003).
Though Hampstead’s mixed fortunes continued with a number of poorly received productions over subsequent years, Clark’s tenure has seen two West End transfers (Simon Mendes da Costa’s Losing Louis and a revival of Joe Orton’s What the Butler Saw) and new work from playwrights including Gregory Burke, Alistair Beaton, Roy Williams, Dennis Kelly, Nell Leyshon, Alan Plater, Ryan Craig, Richard Bean, Robin Soans, Antony Sher, Bola Agbaje, Bryony Lavery, Amy Rosenthal, Polly Teale and many others.
Commenting on his resignation, Clark said today: “This has been a tough decision after a tough, but extremely rewarding seven years. As we come to the end of a year in which we are celebrating past achievements and looking to the future, I feel it is a good time to hand over to a new artistic director, leaving me free to pursue my own freelance interests as a director and writer. I am proud of the number of new plays we have produced in my time here, and of the diversity of their form and content. We have seen our core audience grow and remain loyal as well as developing a much wider audience for new writing. I have had the opportunity to produce the plays of some very exciting emerging writers, alongside those of more established playwrights.
“I am thrilled to have encouraged a Creative Learning programme that is seen as an integral part of the company but also serves the local community so effectively. Year on year audiences have increased, and it is now time for someone else to focus the talents and energies of a wonderful staff to make sure audiences and participants get the most out of Hampstead for years to come.”
Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the theatre’s board, added: “Anthony has brought to Hampstead a passion and indestructible commitment to new writing. He has ensured the new theatre has provided a wealth of opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds, ambitions and abilities. His dedication to co-producing and extending the life of new work has united Hampstead with the UK’s leading repertory companies and commercial producers. Under his leadership, Hampstead has won numerous new writing awards including the Wolff Whiting Award in two consecutive years, the Meyer Whitworth Award and the Evening Standard Charles Wintour Award ... It has been a pleasure working with him, and I know the Trustees and all the staff will join me in wishing Anthony every success for his future projects. “
Formerly the associate artistic director at Birmingham Rep and artistic director of Manchester\'s Contact Theatre, Clark joined Hampstead as artistic director designate in January 2003, was on hand for the opening of the new theatre in February 2003 and took over full time from his predecessor Jenny Topper, who ran Hampstead for 13 years, in July 2003.
Clark will leave in January 2010, at the end of this year’s 50th anniversary season. The appointment process for his successor will begin this summer.
Hampstead also today announced the final productions in its year-long 50th anniversary season, which will culminate with an alternative family Christmas show starring Green Wing star Julian Rhind-Tutt and League of Gentleman’s Mark Gatiss.
First off in the autumn, continuing the year’s theme of selecting key works from each decade of the theatre’s history, Philip Ridley’s second play The Fastest Clock in the Universe, first performed at Hampstead in 1992 with a young Jude Law in the cast, will receive a major revival, directed by Edward Dick, from 22 September to 17 October 2009 (previews from 17 September). Further hits from the Nineties are celebrated with readings of Shelagh Stephenson’s An Experiment with an Air Pump (1998) and Simon Block’s Chimps (1997).
What Fatima Did..., the debut play by Hampstead youth company member and Skins writer Atiha Sen Gupta, premieres from 27 October to 7 November 2009 (previews from 23 October). The comedy concerns a schoolgirl who decides to start wearing the hijab. Hampstead’s third new writing festival, Daring Pairings 3, runs alongside from 28 October to 7 November 2009, with new work from The Factory, Nabokov and Central School of Speech and Drama.
Jasper Rees’ I Found My Horn, co-adapted and performed by Jonathan Guy Lewis and directed by Harry Burton, has a stint at Hampstead from 10 to 28 November, after its premiere last year at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
Clark’s final directorial offering will be Michael Punter’s ghost story Darker Shores, starring Mark Gatiss and Julian Rhind-Tutt. In 1875, a professor moves into a house on a desolate stretch of the East Sussex coast, where unexplained happenings soon occur. An American spiritualist helps to unravel the house’s mysteries. Suitable for 12+ years, Darker Shores runs in the main house from 7 December 2009 to 16 January 2010 (previews from 3 December). Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play, a puppet show for three years and up, is also on offer from 11 December to 2 January (preview 10 December).