Foley to step down as Birmingham Rep artistic director

Published: 18 April 2024
Reporter: Steve Orme

“Privileged”: Sean Foley Credit: Ellie Kurttz

Birmingham Rep artistic director Sean Foley is to step down after his production of Bruce Robinson’s tragi-comedy Withnail and I.

Foley said, “it’s been an honour to be the artistic director of this magnificent and historic theatre over the past five years. I’ll be stepping down over the summer and the programme will continue through into the autumn and beyond with the wonderful new musical Becoming Nancy and the as yet to be announced main stage debut of associate director Madeleine Kludje.

“That the Rep has consistently been able to deliver a truly ambitious programme of artistically credible popular theatre across its three auditoria—even through the multiple challenges of the past years—is testament to the tenacity, talent and commitment of the extraordinary staff team here.

“My decision was made before the announcement of the Birmingham city council cuts to the arts budgets and is unrelated to them. I know that this staff team will rise to this latest challenge.

“The ambition we’ve shown in my time here has seen audiences come back to the Rep at greater levels than before the pandemic, with audiences growing by a further 20% in the year.

“I’m especially proud that 2023 has a claim to be one of the very best years in the Rep’s extraordinary history, with three world premières, two West End transfers, international work, multiple award nominations, our largest youth and community festival ever and being shortlisted for The Stage’s theatre of the year.

“We’ve employed more freelancers, commissioned more work and welcomed whole new audiences to the theatre, more than 50% of whom were new to the Rep and many were new to the theatre-going experience.

“The Rep is an incredible theatre in a truly great city and it’s been a great privilege to have been able to work alongside everyone connected with it.”

Ayub Khan MBE, interim chair of the board of trustees, commented, “over the past five years Sean has led the Rep artistically with great talent, formidable determination and a wide-ranging vision.

“The programme he’s delivered has consistently increased audiences, met its financial targets, brought world-class talent to work here and brought extraordinary national and international work of the highest calibre to the theatre.

“His consistent focus on excellence has meant that the Rep now means more to more people both in the city and wider afield. We wish him well with whatever he does next.”

Foley’s final show as artistic director at the Rep, Withnail and I, runs from Friday 3 until Saturday 25 May.

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