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Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom to leave after 21 years for top LAMDA job

Sarah Frankcom. Photo: Johan Persson.
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Royal Exchange Theatre artistic director Sarah Frankcom is to leave the Manchester venue after 21 years to become head of drama school LAMDA.

Franckom joined the theatre as literary manager in 1998 before becoming joint artistic director in 2008. She was named sole artistic director in 2014.

At LAMDA, she will replace Joanna Read, who has left to join the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.

Joanna Read to step down from LAMDA to join Yvonne Arnaud Theatre as chief executive

Frankcom, who leaves in November this year, said there were “very few jobs” she would give up the Exchange for, but said the challenge was “too enticing” to pass up.

“My background in teaching and enduring appetite for finding new and innovative ways of developing the widest variety of theatre talent, made the offer to lead LAMDA, and reimagine what drama training might be in the future, too enticing a challenge to pass up,” she said.

She said her last four years as artistic director at the Royal Exchange had been “the most fulfilling and exhilarating” of her career to date.

“The theatre has allowed me to focus on my passions of nurturing new work and developing next generation theatre talent, whilst collaborating with some amazing artists and sharing work with an increasingly wide range of audiences. I’m immensely proud of the strides the company has taken on and off our stages, increasing representation in both the stories we share with audiences, the artists we make work with, and the meaningful way in which we now work with, and listen to the communities we serve,” she added.

However, Frankcom claimed the “time is ripe for fresh ideas and a new imagination to explore the possibilities of our iconic spaces”.

Frankcom’s directorial credits include Hamlet, Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker and Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, all with Maxine Peake.

Her recent productions have included Death of a Salesman with Don Warrington and Our Town, for which she was named best director at the 2018 UK Theatre Awards.

She also established the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. During her time at the venue, the Royal Exchange received the School of the Year prize at The Stage Awards 2018, for the Royal Exchange Young Company.

It was also named Regional Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2016.

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Royal Exchange executive director Steve Freeman said: “It is a testament to Sarah’s generosity and vision that she is moving on from the Royal Exchange when the organisation is at the height of its creativity, handing over one of the most exciting roles in British theatre to fresh talent.”

Arts Council England director north Alison Clark described the work that has been produced under her leadership as “artistically outstanding and innovative”.

Benedict Cumberbatch, LAMDA president, said he was “thrilled at the prospect of working with Sarah” and said she had a “passion for finding the best talent from whatever background”.

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