Bristol Old Vic’s David Farr (pictured) will succeed Neil Bartlett at west London’s Lyric Hammersmith. Bartlett steps down, after ten years as Lyric artistic director, at the end of October 2004 (See News, 26 Apr 2004). Farr will take over in June 2005.

Programming has already been set through to next spring, concluding with the Young Vic’s ‘Walkabout’ revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, running from 18 February to 26 March 2005. Farr will programme the autumn/winter season for 2005/2006. In the interim, and after Farr joins, Simon Mellor, who has worked with Bartlett over the past decade, will remain in situ as the Lyric’s executive director.

Formerly artistic director of London’s Gate Theatre from 1995 to 1998, at the beginning of last year, writer-director Farr took over Bristol Old Vic as joint artistic director alongside his long-time collaborator Simon Reade (See “Changing of the Guard: Bristol & Leeds”, Features, 17 Feb 2003). Together, the two have been credited with re-establishing the venue as one of the country’s leading regional theatres.

Farr’s latest production, Twelfth Night, opens later this month at the Old Vic. He’ll stay on there until he joins the Lyric Hammersmith next summer, after which Reade will assume full artistic director responsibilities at Bristol. Reade said of his colleague: “Working with David these past two years – indeed, for well over a decade now – has been very exciting. I am pleased to have produced his best work ever - in particular Paradise Lost and the Bristol Old Vic Shakespeare productions. I wish him well in his new role at the Lyric.”

Commenting on his move, Farr said: “This invitation from the Lyric, the theatre that first inspired me to become a director in my teens and early twenties, is the only thing that could draw me away from a great building and a wonderful company. I look forward to finishing my work here (at Bristol) on a high, with three more productions, and to future collaborations in my new role.”

He also outlined some of his vision for Lyric Hammersmith, which he describes as a “ground-breaking” theatre: “I want to bring to the Lyric’s diverse and dynamic audience a body of work that celebrates all the magical possibilities of the live theatre experience.”

In addition to his work at Bristol, Farr has directed for the Young Vic, Almeida and National Theatre, while his productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company have included Coriolanus with Greg Hicks, his own play Night of the Soul and Julius Caesar. 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).

Lyric chairman Sandy Orr, speaking about Farr’s appointment, said: “We are delighted that we have secured David as our new artistic director. He is widely recognised as one of the country’s most talented young stage directors and writers and someone who has built a formidable reputation for his imaginative work. We see this as a particularly strong appointment…. (by which) we have made plain our intentions to keep the Lyric at the cutting edge of British theatre.”

Currently at the Lyric Hammersmith, Bartlett’s swansong production of Don Juan, which he’s adapted and directed, finishes, with Bartlett himself, on 30 October 2004. When announcing his resignation earlier this year (See News, 26 Apr 2004), Bartlett explained that: “After ten years running a building, I now wish to concentrate on my own work as a director and writer. My immediate plans include a new translation of Genet’s The Maids for BBC Radio Three, a staging of Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage for the American Repertory Theatre in Boston and the completion of my new novel.”

- by Terri Paddock