Director Josie Rourke in rehearsal for Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Jack Sain)
Director Josie Rourke in rehearsal for Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse (Photo: Jack Sain)

Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham to depart Donmar Warehouse

By Robin Johnson, Published January 11, 2018

The Donmar Warehouse has today announced that Josie Rourke is to step down in 2019, after eight years as Artistic Director, and Executive Producer Kate Pakenham will leave in June 2018. The team were the first female partnership to run a London theatre.

During Rourke and Pakenham’s tenure the Donmar stage has seen ground-breaking productions, including BAFTA-nominated The Vote, with Dame Judi Dench, which reached over half a million homes on the night of the 2015 General Election; the award-winning Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston (2013); and the culture-shifting all-female Shakespeare Trilogy starring Harriet Walter, from director Phyllida Lloyd (2012-2016) in London and New York, and on screen.

In pursuit of their mission to open up the Donmar and diversify its artists and its audience, half of the directors and actors on its stages during their tenure have been women.  With a focus on audiences, Rourke and Pakenham have changed access to the work on the Donmar’s stage:  Barclays Front Row ensured over 32,000 top-price seats for £10, and YOUNG+FREE has seen 10,000 people under 25 see Donmar productions for free.

The pair received an Olivier Award for Rourke’s revival of the musical, City Of Angels (2014). In 2016, they doubled the Donmar’s programme, producing plays in Covent Garden, King’s Cross, and New York.

New York transfers include Les Liaisons Dangereuses, which ran on Broadway and Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy which was seen at St Ann’s Warehouse. Notable new work includes Kwame Kwei-Armah’s production of One Night In Miami… by Kemp Powers, and the world premiere of Nick Payne’s Elegy, both of which received Olivier Award nominations for Best New Play in 2016.

Josie Rourke in rehearsals for Elegy (Photo: Donmar Warehouse)

Josie Rourke in rehearsals for Elegy (Photo: Donmar Warehouse)

Rourke, who is currently in post-production on her first feature film, the forthcoming Working Title/Focus Mary Queen of Scots, starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, due for release in November 2018, next directs on the Donmar stage later this year. Her final show as Artistic Director of the Donmar will be in the first half of 2019. The search for her successor will begin later this year.

Of the announcement, Rourke said: “After twelve years as an Artistic Director, here and at the Bush Theatre, I’ve been lucky to open two new theatre buildings, and work with some of the most significant voices of my generation.  I was proud to be the first woman director to run a major London theatre, but I’m even prouder that the landscape has now changed beyond recognition, and forever.”

“It will be a year before I say my final goodbye and I look forward to celebrating all that is great about the Donmar and its artists over the next twelve months before pursuing my next creative challenges.”

Kate Pakenham, Executive Producer, says “The last six years working with Josie and the Donmar’s brilliant team have been hugely inspiring, and a great honour.  I have immense gratitude and respect for the many incredible artists I’ve had the opportunity to work with to realise such a range of productions.  The impact of Phyllida’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy in promoting the value of women’s and diverse voices on our stages has been particularly energising.”