Edward Hall has been appointed the new artistic director of Hampstead Theatre, taking over from the current incumbent Anthony Clark at the end of this month.
Hall, son of former National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company director Peter Hall, is best known for his work with all-male Shakespeare company Propeller, which has recently staged well-received productions of The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice. He is also an artistic associate of the National Theatre, the Old Vic in London and the Watermill Theatre, Newbury.
He told The Stage that, after nearly two decades working as a freelance director, he was looking forward to being able to focus his “creative energies” in one place.
“Hampstead Theatre is dedicated to encouraging ‘the new’, a sensibility which I share,” he said. “I have been freelancing for nearly 20 years. Hampstead gives me a unique opportunity to focus my creative energies in one place. As the first stand-alone new theatre to be built in London since the National opened in 1976, the facilities offer me a chance to explore different stage configurations in a contemporary and well-designed setting. The auditorium offers the chance to explore both the intimate and the epic in an environment where the audience always feels in touch with the performance.”
Hall said it was “too early to say” whether he would be bringing any of Propeller’s work to the venue, but he will remain as artistic director of the company. He also said new writing would “remain a focus for Hampstead Theatre and be at the centre of the theatre’s agenda”.
The director inherits a company that has won seven major new writing awards since it entered its current £17 million, 325-seat home in 2003, but has sometimes struggled to perform at the box office.
The Stage can reveal that the theatre’s overall average attendance since reopening has been only 61%. In 2008/9, it averaged 65%. By comparison, the nearby Almeida Theatre averaged 84% in the same year and the Royal Court’s most recently filed annual report reveals an average attendance of 91%.
Hampstead’s last annual report, filed in March 2009, revealed an annual deficit for 2007/8 of more than £320,000, reported of shows failing to meet their box office targets and called for the theatre to “place itself on a firmer financial footing”.
However, Hall paid tribute to the work the company had produced since reopening. He added: “I hope to continue and to build on the extraordinary successes that the theatre has enjoyed over the last few years by delivering provocative drama to as wide an audience as possible. The theatre has been producing and co-producing an extraordinary amount of new plays, some have been more box office friendly than others, but all have demonstrated a commitment to new work and experiment which I hope to continue.”
The inaugural season under Hall as artistic director will be announced in spring or in the early summer and will open in the autumn of this year.