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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 11:39 GMT
Attenborough takes on Almeida
Michael Attenborough
Michael Attenborough: 12 years at the RSC
Michael Attenborough, son of Lord Attenborough, is the new head of the Almeida theatre in London.

He replaces theatre directors Jonathan Kent and Ian McDiarmid who left the theatre after 10 highly successful years, turning it into a star magnet.


I have no doubt that he will put his unique talent and boundless energy to good use at the Almeida

Adrian Noble, RSC

Mr Attenborough's appointment - which takes effect from July - has taken the theatre world by surprise.

The 51-year-old has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for almost 12 years and is currently principal associate director with the Stratford-upon-Avon company.

Thrilled

Many in the theatre world expected the Almeida to appoint a younger, more high profile name to the job.

Mr Attenborough said he was thrilled by his appointment.

Jonathan Kent
Jonathan Kent: Developed the Almeida
"It's a completely unique space, arguably the most exciting in London," he said.

"Running a theatre and directing Shakespeare, other classical plays and new writing, I truly can't imagine a more exciting challenge," he added.

Mr Attenborough also paid tribute to his predecessors describing them as an "inspiration".

The Almeida enjoyed a glowing period of growth under Mr Kent and Mr McDiarmid, who were responsible for attracting Kevin Spacey, Juliette Binoche and Cate Blanchett to their stages in north London.

The Almeida was a 300-seat music hall theatre in north London, which did not stage its own productions until the pair took over in 1990.

Theatre awards

The Almeida has now had more than 15 world premières, including works by Edward Albee, Neil LaBute, Harold Pinter, David Hare and Phyllis Nagy.

Under their stewardship the theatre has won more than 45 theatre awards.

Ian McDiarmid
Ian McDiarmid: Played Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi
The Almeida is without a permanent base while its Islington home is being refurbished, due for completion in winter 2002 .

Michael Attenborough attended Sussex University, where he studied English, and directed his first plays, becoming president of the drama society.

In 1974 he was associate director of the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, before moving on to Leeds Playhouse as associate director.

In 1979 he became associate director of the Young Vic with Michael Bogdanov.

He worked at the Hamstead theatre in the 1980s before joining the RSC in 1990.

'Inspiring'

His productions include The Herbal Bed, which was nominated for an Olivier Award and won the Eileen Anderson Award, Romeo and Juliet, A Month in the Country and Othello.

Adrian Noble, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said he was delighted for Mr Attenborough.


Mike's a pretty straightforward kind of guy, which is unusual amongst theatre directors - he's a good thing for the Almeida

A former colleague
"He has been an invaluable and inspiring force in the company for over a decade, both as the RSC's executive producer and as principal associate director.

"What's more, as he demonstrated with his fantastic contribution to the RSC's recent Histories cycle and his current production of David Edgar's The Prisoner's Dilemma, he is on an artistic roll. "

Mr Attenborough brings with him an excellent contacts book and will more than likely be able to continue attracting high profile names to the Almeida.

'Straightforward'

His father, the veteran actor and director, will surely be able to help in this regard also.

One of his former associates at the RSC told BBC News Online: "He is very good at people management and team building, and is a pretty straightforward kind of guy, which is unusual amongst theatre directors.

"Mike is a good thing for the Almeida on the whole, and he won't bankrupt it or run it into the ground, which is important."

Mr Noble added: "Mike arrived at the RSC as a highly respected director of new plays and leaves as one of the country's most important interpreters of Shakespeare and the classics.

"I have no doubt that he will put his unique talent and boundless energy to good use at the Almeida."

See also:

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05 Sep 01 | Arts
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10 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Homeless theatre pulls in at bus depot
23 Mar 01 | Reviews
Sex, violence and Anna Friel
01 Jun 01 | Reviews
The art of being cruel
31 May 01 | Arts
Pinter leaves loud play
20 Mar 01 | Showbiz
Friel's bus depot debut
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