Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid, joint artistic directors of the Almeida Theatre, have announced their resignation, to come into effect in Summer 2002.
Kent and McDiarmid took over the Almeida in 1990, when it was an average fringe theatre situated off Upper Street, Islington, and less well known than its near neighbour, The King's Head. The two men transformed the Almeida into a producing house whose productions regularly moved from Islington to the West End and/or Broadway, and the Almeida's reputation was such that they were able to attract the cream of the British and even American acting talent.
An example of the men's proactive approach to programming and casting was their ability last year (during the current extensive period of refurbishment in which the Almeida will be closed until the winter of 2002) to stage two major Shakespearean productions — Coriolanus and Richard II - in the ruins of the Gainsborough films studios in Shoreditch. Both plays starring Ralph Fiennes, one of the big names the Almeida has been able to attract.
This year, with Gainsborough Studios being converted to flats, McDiarmid and Kent found another unlikely but successful venue: a converted coach house in a back yard near King's Cross Station.
Though Kent and McDiarmid have been on an artistic and commercial roll, they've decided that 12 years at the helm will be enough, and that it will be time for them to move on next year. In a dual statement, the pair said, "We have tried to create an environment in which artists are able to do their best work, a way of working that has encouraged people to aspire, where the phrase ‘that’s impossible’ has been replaced by ‘there must be a way’. This has always been a high-risk, yet considered strategy, and one which we hope will continue. Our aim has always been to make theatre a more exciting place to be.” — by Paul Webb Theatrenow