Current Sydney Theatre Company artistic director Andrew Upton and former co-artistic director Cate Blanchett are reportedly working to secure another high profile artistic director for the company when Upton departs at the end of 2016. Daily Review understands that Upton and Blanchett have talked to the Northern Irish actor and director Kenneth Branagh about the position.
Branagh is known for his stage and film work, particularly for his film adaptations of Shakespeare, and recently announced the formation of his own Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company in London. He is due to present a season of five shows at London’s Garrick Theatre from October 2015 to November 2016 with British stage luminaries Judi Dench, Zoë Wanamaker and Derek Jacobi.
In February, STC commenced the search for a new artistic director for the company who will take over when Upton departs, planning for their first season in 2017. At the time, a spokesperson for STC confirmed that the search would be open to international candidates. Upton and Blanchett both worked extensively to increase the company’s international profile with regular performances in Europe and North America.
Branagh’s appointment would likely be a controversial one given that the artistic directors of Australian state theatre companies are currently all Australians. But STC has a solid team in place of local directors as well as an experienced executive director in Patrick McIntyre, director of programming Rachael Azzopardi and literary manager Polly Rowe, who could all help guide an international appointee through the local theatre scene.
As the outgoing artistic director, Upton has little influence over the hiring process (that responsibility rests with the company’s Board) but may well be encouraging potential candidates. In February, Upton told The Australian that he hoped STC resident directors Sarah Goodes and Kip Williams would apply. At the time, Daily Review made a list of the potential frontrunners for the position.
Branagh has previously worked in Australia on the film Rabbit Proof Fence and recently directed Blanchett in the high-grossing Disney blockbuster Cinderella. If he was offered and accepted the job, he would be STC’s sixth artistic director, following in the footsteps of Richard Wherrett (1978 – 1990), Wayne Harrison (1990 – 1999), Robyn Nevin (1999 – 2007), Blanchett and Upton (2008 – 2012) and Upton (2012 — present).
Sydney Theatre Company declined to comment today.