Michael Attenborough has announced that he will step down as artistic director of the Almeida Theatre in Spring 2013 after 11 years at the helm.

Attenborough, who succeeded Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid at the Islington venue in July 2002, is leaving to focus on freelance directing.

He said of his decision: “My 11 years as artistic director of the Almeida Theatre have been consistently thrilling and rewarding, but I have decided that, after running theatres for the past 32 years, I now want to concentrate solely on my directing.

“I would like to place on record my immense gratitude to the superb staff at the Almeida, all of whom have played an integral part in everything we have achieved. Whoever succeeds me will find themselves blessed with a wonderful and unique theatre space, a hugely loyal audience and a board and staff that are second to none.”

He broke the news at a party last night following a performance of his production of King Lear (see photos below), marking his ten years with the venue. Also in attendance were the production's star Jonathan Pryce, as well as actors Samuel West and Eddie Redmayne. He was presented with a pair of gold converse shoes, in acknowledgement of his signature footware.

PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM

Attenborough’s own productions at the Almeida include King Lear (which continues until 3 November 2012), Filumena, Reasons To Be Pretty, Through A Glass Darkly, Measure for Measure, When the Rain Stops Falling, In a Dark Dark House, The Homecoming, Big White Fog, Brighton Rock and The Mercy Seat.

Other productions staged during his tenure include the multi award-winning Festen, Hedda Gabler, The Goat, Duet for One, Waste, Rope, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Ruined, Becky Shaw and A Delicate Balance.  

Four productions have transferred to the West End and Festen also went to Broadway.

Attenborough, the son of actor-director Richard, was previously artistic director of the Hampstead and Watford's Palace Theatre. He also acted as associate director at the RSC, Young Vic and Colchester's Mercury Theatre.

Almeida chair Christopher Rodrigues said: “It has been a privilege for all of us to work with Michael Attenborough. He has taken the Almeida from strength to strength locally, nationally and internationally by presenting a truly diverse programme of work of which we are all immeasurably proud... Our challenge now is to secure a worthy successor for one of the most exciting roles in British theatre.”