Josie Rourke has been appointed as the new artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden and will take over from Michael Grandage at the beginning of 2012.
Last October, Grandage announced he would be stepping down after a hugely successful decade in the role, sparking competition for one of the most sought-after posts in UK theatre.
The 34-year old Rourke had been widely tipped to land the post. She has been artistic director of new writing venue the Bush Theatre since 2007 and has been the driving force behind efforts to secure that theatre’s public funding and relocate it to a new home in Shepherd’s Bush, which opens later this year.
Rourke told The Stage that she was looking forward to having the opportunity to work on both classics and new work at the Donmar, which she described as “a wonderful space to work in as a director – the relationship between the actors and the audience is perfect – it’s a space to dream in”.
She added: “I wanted to go for the role for a number of reasons. The Donmar has an incredible history of extraordinary performances and great productions on its stage. And, on a more personal level, it’s the place where I trained. I started out there and I’ve been consistently championed by both Michael [Grandage] and by Sam [Mendes, the Donmar's artistic director before Grandage] throughout my career – not just as a freelance director but also as an artistic director – and I’m just very proud to be taking on that incredibly legacy. To those people who have known me since I started out as an assistant director and started out there, it does make a lot of sense and feel very joined up and exciting.”
Rourke will take up the position on January 1, 2012, meaning that she will be able to oversee the Bush’s move into its new home at the old Shepherd’s Bush Library before joining the Donmar.
“That’s tremendously important,” she added. “We’re opening this fantastic building in the autumn. We moved our offices in on Monday and the team at the Bush are fantastic and we’ve all got a big job to do.”
At the Bush, Rourke has directed How To Curse by Ian McHugh, Tinderbox by Lucy Kirkwood and 2,000 Feet Away and Like a Fishbone by Anthony Weigh, Apologia by Alexi Kaye Campbell and If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet by Nick Payne. Prior to the Bush, Rourke worked for five years as a freelance director and was associate director of Sheffield Theatres and trainee associate director at the Royal Court. For Sheffield, she directed World Music and The Unthinkable – both by Steve Waters – Much Ado About Nothing, The Long The Short and The Tall and Kick for Touch. At the Royal Court she directed Crazyblackmuthafuckin’self by DeObia Oparei and Loyal Women by Gary Mitchell.
She recently directed her first production at the National Theatre – Men Should Weep – and is soon to begin work on the West End production of Much Ado About Nothing starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant.
Grandage commented: “Josie has been a wonderful colleague for many years and I think the board have made an inspired appointment. She has been part of the Donmar’s evolution since her first production as a director and will bring continuity as well a distinct style of her own. Her work at the Bush shows how she has transformed the theatre landscape in London, and the Donmar will now benefit from that energy and leadership. I wish her well as the organisation enters the next exciting stage of its development.”
The chair of the board of directors, Chris Smith added: “When we set out to try and find a successor for Michael Grandage, we thought at first it would be impossible. But in Josie we’ve found the ideal person. She has a terrific track record at the Bush, she has real energy and commitment to theatre of the highest quality, and she will build on the artistic strengths developed over the years at the Donmar by both Sam Mendes and Michael Grandage.”