Vicky Featherstone to resign as artistic director of the Royal Court

The artistic director of the Royal Court, one of London’s most prestigious theatres, is stepping down after 10 years on the job.

Vicky Featherstone, who nurtured hundreds of emerging and established writers during her time at the Royal Court, will leave later this year. Having set herself a 10-year time limit when she took the job, she said it was time to “give the guardianship of this extraordinary, permanent mission to someone else”.

Featherstone is the latest high-profile figure to leave a major theater in recent months. Last week, Michael Longhurst announced that he would step down as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse in 2024 after five years in the job.

In December, Roxana Silbert resigned as artistic director of the Hampstead theater due to financial constraints following Arts Council England’s decision not to renew its £766,455 annual grant.

In September, Daniel Evans said he would step down as artistic director of the Chichester Festival theater to join the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Featherstone said: “Being artistic director of the Royal Court is one of the best jobs in the world – something that will create over 10 years with the most dedicated, passionate and thoughtful people across all areas of the organization – from the stage door to the board and the donors – to the actors, other artists and volunteers who give of themselves to make incredible plays happen, and of course have the ultimate privilege of being in daily conversations with visionary, transformative writers .

“I would do it forever if I could. And even though I’m usually the last one to leave the party, it’s time for me to hand over the guardianship of this unusual, permanent mission to someone else.

“When I started this job in 2013 I set myself a time limit of 10 years, and I’m sticking to that. There are no words for how life-changing, challenging, invigorating and complex this job is, and like everyone who has ever done this role here, it will forever be part of my DNA.”

She said she had “no concrete plans for what I’m going to do next. At the top of the list is making an appointment at the dentist. I’m basically releasing myself back into the wild.”

Featherstone will remain in her post until a new artistic director is appointed. She said she hoped the void she created by leaving would “ignite the fires of people who can create the future of theatre”.

When she was appointed artistic director in 2013, Featherstone launched Open Court, a six-week festival that included 133 performances and more than 40 new plays.

Since then, the theater has supported more than 600 writers through its programs and writer development groups. Among those who wrote plays during Featherstone’s tenure are Abi Morgan, Caryl Churchill, Gary Owen and Zinnie Harris.

Anthony Burton, chairman of the Royal Court Theatre, said Featherstone had been “a tireless leader of the Royal Court for 10 years, coping admirably with turbulent times, notably keeping the Court afloat for two years during Covid.

“She was an innovator and leader of many initiatives such as the ‘Me Too’ movement in the theatre. We are extremely grateful to Vicky for her invaluable and profound contribution to the work, welfare and financial stability of the Court.”

In 2018, she topped the Stage 100 list of the most influential people in the theater world for her “brave” and “enlightening” leadership in the face of allegations of harassment and abuse of power in the theater industry.

In 2021, the theater was caught in the crossfire of anti-Semitism after giving the name Hershel Fink to the main character of a play, a predatory billionaire, although he is not Jewish. Accused of an antisemitic trope, the Royal Court admitted unconscious bias and apologized.

According to its website, the Royal Court receives less than half of its annual income from Arts Council England. The rest comes from ticket sales, commercial activities and fundraising.

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