News: Headlong announces Jeremy Herrin’s last season as Artistic Director

Headlong have announced their programme for 2020/21, the final season under current Artistic Director, Jeremy Herrin.

Jeremy Herrin, Artistic Director, Headlong said: “Running Headlong has been the privilege of a lifetime and I’m immensely grateful to the colleagues, artists, stakeholders and audiences who have been part of the journey. It seems appropriate to draw my time as Artistic Director to a close with a range of projects and collaborators that are close to my heart.

Bunny Christie, Jack Thorne and I have been incubating After Life for a while and I hope it will be a soulful and satisfying show that showcases what Headlong and the National Theatre can do at their best.

I’m a big fan of August Wilson’s peerless writing, and Tinuke Craig’s production of one of his greatest plays Jitney will be a meaningful expansion of the canon on the UK’s touring scene.

I’ve always been proud to make our work digitally available. With Holly Race Roughan and April de Angelis collaborating on Mrs Noah, a joyful response to the very real climate crisis, and our continued collaboration with The Guardian on Europeans: Dramas from a Divided Union, we are building on past achievements.

Despite our very visible successes in London and the West End, Headlong is, at heart, a national company and I’m particularly proud to leave a scheme that encourages regional theatre directors and offers them practical and structured support in Headlong Origins. This talented generation of theatre artists based outside London will provide a creative legacy for Headlong and regional theatre in general and I’m delighted that some of the success of my time at Headlong can be channelled in such a targeted way. Alongside Headlong Futures, it has been great to expand our work.

I’ll be sad to leave Headlong with its supportive and wise board, Alan Stacey and the wonderful team that make the company consistently punch above its weight. I’ve loved the time sharing some magical evenings of theatre up and down the country with the team past and present. I’m happy that I leave the company in strong health with an inspired staff, a capable and ambitious board and a range of excellent commissions, making it an appetising opportunity for a talented and visionary new Artistic Director.”

The season celebrates the breadth of the company’s work under Herrin and Executive Director Alan Stacey; from bold, ground-breaking productions made with some of the UK’s finest artists, to digital projects which respond to, and provoke, discussion around the political and social crises of our time. Headlong continues to take their provocative mix of innovative new writing and influential 20th century plays across the UK seeking, out new audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Alongside their stage work, the company continues its commitment to supporting young theatre makers and artists from around the UK.

In early spring 2021, Headlong and the National Theatre will co-produce After Life, a new play created by Jack Thorne, Jeremy Herrin and Bunny Christie. After Life was adapted for the stage by award-winning writer Jack Thorne (His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and will be directed by Jeremy Herrin (Labour of Love, People, Places and Things) and designed by Bunny Christie (Best Design, Evening Standard Theatre Awards, 2019). Based on the film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, the Palme d’Or-winning director of Shoplifters, After Life takes place somewhere between life and death, and asks the people passing through it to pick one memory that they will live in for eternity. The play will receive its world premiere at the National’s Dorfman Theatre in January 2021.

Headlong and Leeds Playhouse continue their producing relationship with a new production of Pulitzer-Prize Winner August Wilson’s Jitney. Tinuke Craig (Vassa, The Colour Purple) will direct Wilson’s ground-breaking play that explores the fragile bond between eight men, as they live, love and work in racially segregated post-Vietnam America. The production will premiere at Leeds Playhouse in September 2020 before embarking on a UK tour.

Tinuke Craig, director of Jitney said:
“I’ve loved this play for many years and I’m so excited to spend time with the wonderful characters and story. It is a powerful examination of relationships, survival and the power of time, by one of the great American playwrights.”

April De Angelis’ short comedy Mrs Noah, which was originally written for Extinction Rebellion in 2019, will be developed by Headlong into a hybrid music and theatre video in early 2020. A retelling of the famous 15th Century mystery play Noah and the Great Flood, Mrs Noah tackles the climate crisis: When her husband wishes to leave their whole community behind to escape the flood, Mrs Noah has other plans. Directed by Headlong Associate Director, Holly Race Roughan (Hedda Tesman), Mrs Noah will be a hybrid mix of RnB, Hip-Hop and theatre, showcasing some of the best emerging talent in these fields.

Holly Race Roughan, Associate Director, Headlong said: “It has been thrilling working with Jeremy to help curate his last season as Artistic Director. As ever, Headlong is pushing at the very boundaries of what theatre is. 2020 sees us heading into workshops with leading R&B and rap musicians to create a hybrid theatre-music-video, and Jeremy, Bunny Christie and Jack Thorne will be working out how to bring to life the After Life at the National Theatre… We are also immensely excited about the range of scripts in development and moreover, the calibre of shows that will be hitting the road. It is set to be an exceptionally busy and imaginative year for Jeremy’s last season at Headlong, as we continue to make an argument for quality, bold theatre on the road.”

Continuing its ongoing partnership with the Guardian, Headlong present Europeans: Dramas from a Divided Union, a series of short political monologues exploring the issues consuming other EU countries, and how their unique histories have defined their relationship to the Union. Together the Guardian and Headlong have commissioned seven high profile writers from across Europe to each write intimate, fictional scripts performed in their original language by well-known actors from each country. The series of seven films from Poland, Sweden, Germany, France, Ireland, Spain and the UK will premiere as part of the London Short Film Festival on the 16th January 2020. They will also be made available on the Guardian website and Headlong digital channels. The writers include Jonas Jonasson (The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared) Alice Zeniter (winner of the Prix Goncourt for her novel L’Art de Perdre), Lisa McInerney (winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction), Jakub Zulczyk (Blinded by the Lights) Marius von Mayenburg (Plastic) Blanca Doménech (Stone) and award-winning actor and director Clint Dyer. Performers include Jacek Koman (Moulin Rouge, Top of the Lake), Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter), Viktor Akerblom (Border), Robert Beyer (Schaubuhne Ensemble), Sabrina Ouazani (The Hook Up Plan), Paul Iwasaki and Bafta Nominated Javone Prince.

Also forming part of the season is the previously announced Faustus: That Damned Woman, a new play from award-winning theatre maker Chris Bush co-produced by Headlong and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Caroline Byrne directs this radical new work in which the iconic character of Faustus is reimagined as a woman who makes the ultimate sacrifice to traverse centuries and alter the course of history. Katherine Carlton, Alicia Charles, Emmanuella Cole, Barnaby Power and Tim Samuels, join the previously announced Jodie McNee as Johanna Faustus and Danny Lee Wynter as Mephistopheles to complete the cast. This is the first work to be commissioned as part of Headlong and the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre’s long-term commitment to commissioning and producing work of scale by women playwrights. The play will premiere at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre on 22 January 2020 before touring.

Headlong is committed to supporting the development of theatre makers across the UK, outside London, with Headlong Origins. This scheme aims to celebrate and nurture emerging talent throughout the UK, diversifying the pool of directors that Headlong is currently engaged with. The Headlong Origins Directors for 2020 are Maria Crocker, Nyasha Gudo, Alix Harris, Fionnuala Kennedy, Maisie Newman and Ellie Taylor. These theatre makers will work closely with Headlong over the next 12 months, receiving mentorship from the Artistic Director and Associate Director. They will join Headlong’s R&D sessions, workshops and engage with rehearsal processes, as well as see work from regional theatres across the UK and develop their own work and artistic vision. Recruitment for two more places on the Headlong Origins scheme will being in Spring 2020.

Headlong Origins is generously supported by Backstage Trust, The Garrick Charitable Trust and Cas Donald.

Headlong is committed to delivering on 50/50 gender equality in its new commissions, with 25% of those from BAME writers. Currently under commission for the company are Josh Azouz, Chloe Moss, Nathaniel Martello-White, Inua Ellams, Naomi Wallace, Jasmine Lee-Jones (Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright, Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2019) and James Graham.

One of the UK’s most established Northern playwrights, Chloe Moss (This Wide Night, The Gatekeeper) is writing a new work for Headlong; it is a gripping feminist thriller set aboard a ship, which will examine women’s fear of men and in turn men’s fear of women’s power.

Two-time Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner, Naomi Wallace (The War Boys, Lawn Dogs, One Flea Spare) is in the process of writing a major new play for Headlong on the opioid crisis in America. The American playwright and screenwriter will bring her dark, satirical tone to a riveting examination of western civilisation’s relationship and attitude towards big pharma.

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