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Out of Joint revolt: board members quit in protest at handling of Max Stafford-Clark departure

Max Stafford-Clark. Photo: Sarah Lee Max Stafford-Clark. Photo: Sarah Lee
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Half of Out of Joint’s board has resigned en masse following the departure of former artistic director Max Stafford-Clark, in protest at the way the company is being run.

The Stage has learned that five board members have left the touring theatre company since February, including former chair Iain Gillie, producer Karl Sydow, who has been a board member for 24 years, playwright Stephen Jeffreys, and Guy Chapman, managing director of PR and marketing company Target Live. Actor Paul Jesson, who has been a board member since the company was formed in 1993, has also resigned.

The board members are understood to have walked out in reaction to a range of issues, including the way Arts Council England treated the company following the departure of Stafford-Clark, who was accused of inappropriate behaviour by a number of former colleagues last year. It was reported that the long-standing artistic director was forced to step down from the company after a formal complaint was made about his behaviour.

Max Stafford-Clark ‘left Out of Joint over inappropriate behaviour’

The board members felt aggrieved that the Arts Council made decisions, including temporarily freezing the company’s funding, based on what they believed to be rumours.

“The Arts Council acted in a state of complete frenzy and panic, believing a rumour makes you guilty,” a source close to the board said, adding that the funding body had “acted as unprofessionally as it is possible to behave”.

The members are also understood to have become increasingly unhappy with the way the company was being run by new artistic director Kate Wasserberg and executive producer Martin Derbyshire. Board members were reportedly furious that significant decisions had been taken by Derbyshire and Wasserberg without their knowledge, including announcing the initial cancellation of Rita, Sue and Bob Too at the Royal Court in London.

The source claimed that Wasserberg and Derbyshire’s style was to “completely ignore the fact they had a board”.

The Stage understands that – until a press release was issued this week – neither Derbyshire nor Wasserberg had acknowledged the resignations of some long-standing board members nor thanked them for their service.

It has also emerged that the board members were in dispute with the National Theatre over the transfer of Out of Joint’s Consent. The NT and Out of Joint were co-producers of the original production, but the NT is now working with Sonia Friedman on the transfer, without Out of Joint. The board members believed the company should have been involved in the West End transfer. However, Lisa Burger, executive director at the NT, rejected any claims of a dispute, stating there had been a “a deal to be done”, but cast availability had made this impossible.

Out of Joint did not respond to specific allegations, but this week issued a statement announcing arts consultant Clare Lovett as new chair of its board, alongside Helen Boaden, former director of BBC Radio and BBC News, Kim Lassemillante, head of finance at English National Ballet, and Charlie Thompson, solicitor at Harbottle and Lewis.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Arts Council said it was “standard practice to withhold funding while we ensure a company has complied with our funding agreement with them”. She said Out of Joint had responded to a request for information before the due date, “and their next payment was released as planned”.

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