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Unicorn Theatre’s Purni Morell to take break from theatre

Purni Morell. Photo: Giulia Savorelli Purni Morell. Photo: Giulia Savorelli
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Unicorn Theatre outgoing artistic director Purni Morell has said she is taking a break from UK theatre.

She told The Stage that the decision was based on a range of professional and personal circumstances, including unsuccessfully applying for roles at venues including the Young Vic.

Morell explained that that in recent years she has applied for artistic directorships at Sydney Theatre Company, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Young Vic in London, but was not interviewed for any of them.

She said she was “cross” and “astonished” not to have been considered for the Young Vic role, outlining her pitch for the position: “I wanted to set up an ensemble. They get £5.4 million, you spend a million employing 30 actors at £30,000. Done.”

She also revealed how she had tried unsuccessfully to have children while running the Unicorn.

She said stepping away from theatre would help her come to terms with that.

“If I want to do the things professionally and artistically that I want to do, I need to come to terms with personal demons,” she said.

Morell, who is leaving the London-based children’s theatre after six years in her role, told The Stage that she believed the British arts industry is ‘bad at diversity’.

“The arts are so bad at HR. Diversity, equality, processes, policy, just talking to people with respect,” she said in an interview with The Stage.

Unicorn’s Purni Morell: ‘Theatre is an industry – unless we get rid of that, we’ll have no art’

Morell said this stemmed from insularity within UK theatre, claiming the way artists are hired – not entirely on merit, but according to taste and connection – bleeds into other fields.

“In the theatre, we’re a little bit stuck in the idea that diversity means inviting more people to our party, rather than asking how our party might change,” she added.

Read the full interview with Purni Morell here.

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