NORTHERN Stage boss Erica Whyman has landed one of the top jobs in British theatre as deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
As she headed off on an away day with her Newcastle-based team yesterday, Erica spoke about her seven years in the North East and the challenge ahead.
She said she had been talking to Gregory Doran, who will take over as RSC artistic director in January, for a little while before the job was offered.
She said: “Then I had to make an incredibly difficult decision because I love it here with this team and the work we’re making and have made.
“But I hope this will be an opportunity for Northern Stage and a good start to the next phase in its history.”
At the RSC Erica will be in charge of revitalising the Stratford-based company’s experimental studio space, The Other Place, as a home for new work.
She will also be involved in forging new artistic collaborations, an area she has championed during her time in the North East.
But yesterday she said she also hoped to be able to direct main house productions at the RSC’s rebuilt Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
“I have had seven exceedingly happy and rewarding years at Northern Stage and the company and the North East will always be part of my life,” she said.
“But it is an honour to be invited to join a remarkable new team at a moment of change and opportunity for the RSC.
“I have a life-long love of Shakespeare – his humanity, his theatrical ambition and his powerful sense of mischief.
“I look forward very much to being able to interpret his work for the next generation both of audiences and of theatre makers.”
Erica, who was born in Harrogate and studied at Oxford University, was appointed artistic director and chief executive of Northern Stage in 2005, at the age of 35.
Previously she had been artistic director of The Gate Theatre in London, and of Southwark Playhouse.
Gregory Doran, who is in Newcastle this week with his RSC production of Julius Caesar, said he was pleased Erica had agreed to join the world-renowned company in a newly-created role.
At Northern Stage, he said, she had demonstrated her creative and strategic leadership skills and cemented her reputation as a director and producer.
“She has a great track record and knows the RSC from her long association with us in Newcastle,” said Mr Doran, who was announced as Michael Boyd’s successor in March.
The special relationship between the RSC and Newcastle dates from 1977 when the company started to bring its entire season of plays to the city from Stratford.
Asked about the future of that relationship, Erica said: “It’s very early days and the relationship has been redefined and changed in recent years, particularly with the building of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
“But I know there’s great respect and affection and commitment to the relationship with Newcastle so I look forward to being part of ensuring that it continues.”
Erica is due to take up her new role in January but she said she would be leaving Northern Stage in excellent shape following a successful revival of Close the Coalhouse Door and with a pioneering season at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe coming up in August.
She expected that the job of finding her successor would begin in earnest in September.