Smaje quits as chief executive of Hull Truck

Andrew Smaje. Photo: Karl Andre Photography
Andrew Smaje. Photo: Karl Andre Photography
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Andrew Smaje has left his position as chief executive of Hull Truck Theatre “to pursue new opportunities”.

Smaje’s tenure at the theatre has been sometimes controversial, with both him and the venue coming under fire from Equity in 2011, when the theatre’s artistic director Gareth Tudor Price was made redundant and not replaced. The move resulted in playwright John Godber, a former artistic director of Hull Truck, ending his 25-year association with the theatre and describing the move as “ludicrous”.

Following Smaje’s departure, which it is understood happened with immediate effect, the theatre issued a statement but stressed that “no further details will be given and no further comment will be made at this time”.

In the statement, Sarah Jane Dickenson, chair of Hull Truck, said: “Since 2010 Andrew Smaje has developed and diversified the artistic profile of Hull Truck Theatre. He has successfully supported the production of work which has attracted new audiences and critical acclaim, both in Hull and on tour throughout the UK. Having taken the theatre through a significant period of change Andrew is now leaving the company to pursue new opportunities. The board of Hull Truck Theatre wishes him every success.”

Meanwhile, Smaje added: “I know that the theatre is in safe hands with the excellent team in place there. I’d like to thank them for the tremendous job they have done in helping to turn Hull Truck Theatre around in the last couple of years. I wish them well for the future.”

8 Comments

  1. Excellent news! It’s true that Andrew Smaje diversified Hull Truck Theatre’s artistic profile, but to the ever-growing detriment of its mission, reputation and staff morale. After all, a theatre’s diversity needs to work in favour of the collective, providing entertainment, education and enlightenment; not to an individual’s every whim and fleeting fancy.

    Over his two years of tenure, Smaje received countless opportunities to help the team to understand and feel proud of the changes that were being made, but instead a “my way or the highway” policy was evident from the start, with behaviour considered that of a bully in effect toward the end. That, combined with obstinate fabrications concerning comparative attendance figures, has finally resulted in his swift departure, which clearly wasn’t planned as many key figures were informed after he’d left the building for the last time.

    Perhaps now a healthy balance can be achieved at Hull Truck. It doesn’t need to all be Godber and Tudor Price (although they, along with Nick Lane, did achieve far more bums on seats than Smaje’s beloved ‘Happy Now?’ and ‘The Lady in the Van’), but catering for an almost non-existent London audience in Hull city centre and alienating a loyal following built up over almost forty years isn’t the right approach either.

    After a two-year artistic dictatorship, perhaps now Truck will have the chance to ask the public what they want, programme accordingly whilst still offering the unexpected, and continue to develop its previous tradition of doing our city proud, both locally and across the nation.

    All the best, Truck; you’ve been through a dark patch, but now it’s time for you to shine again.

  2. well,we told you so.hull truck was for the people of hull.they made it what it is today.Lets hope they come back and please lets keep “london” out of this.The board should be held responsible for this terrrible error.Golden rule of theatre—-DONT WASTE TAX PAYERS MONEY.!

  3. Long overdue. Maybe now Truck can get back to being ‘theatre for the people’ as it used to be. What a relief all round. Excellent news.

  4. I don’t know the ins and out of the staff at Hull Truck Theatre but to say Andrew Smaje has alienated a Hull audience by not putting on plays by local writers is completely unfounded. In the last 6 months we’ve enjoyed a number a Hull based plays by Hull based writers, Ballroom Blitz, City of Light and most recently The Kitchen Sink (the performance we saw on a matinee was sold out). Last Christmas we also enjoyed The Flint Street Nativity by Tim Firth which has been re written for Hull and had a lovely blend of local and non local actors.

    This idea of keeping London out of Hull also seems to work against what the arts is about which I think is diversity and new experience so for me comments about not letting in London audiences borders on bigotry.

  5. Andrew Smaje made me want to go to Hull Truck on a regular basis having never been before (although lived in the city all my life) under the previous leadership of Godber. Every thing I’ve been to see over the past eight months (including local plays) in the main house has been packed. I’m seeing Rapunzel tomorrow night and it’s all but sold out.

    So much new writing, so much local writing, so many great plays, I was introduced to so many great companies like the RSC coming to Hull – I saw three brilliant Shakespeare productions that I wouldn’t have seen without the links Hull Truck made.

    I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes but, as a customer, I think it’s important to give my view and as I saw it, the staff and Smaje made the theatre a great environment and I hope that whoever takes over will do the same.

  6. Great news. If there was ever a man out of touch with the people of Hull and what it wanted with regards to theatre then he was it. With a few “in crowd” exceptions, the so called promoting local writing was purely lip service and box ticking…There are dozens of talented writers who never got a look in

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