Birmingham Repertory Theatre Announces New Artistic and Executive Directors

Birmingham Repertory Theatre is thrilled to announce that Sean Foley will become the theatre’s new Artistic Director, Amit Sharma will be Deputy Artistic Director, and Rachael Thomas will become Executive Director.

Sean Foley is an award-winning actor, writer and director. He co-founded The Right Size, creating many original comedies and touring nationally and throughout the world. He is a double Olivier Award-winner for co-writing and starring in The Play What I Wrote – also Tony nominated – and Do You Come Here Often? He directed the Olivier Award-winning Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, and has also directed, co-written or starred in many further Olivier Award-nominated productions, including The Ladykillers, Ducktastic, Arturo Brachetti: Change, and The Miser. He has worked extensively with many leading actors, writers and comedians, and is one of the very few people to have received Olivier nominations as an actor, a writer, and as a director. Other directing credits include The Painkiller starring Kenneth Branagh and Rob Brydon; I Can’t Sing starring Cynthia Erivoand The Walworth Farce starring Brendan, Domhnall, and Briain Gleeson. His film directing credits include Mindhorn starring Julian Barrett and Steve Coogan; TV includes Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder, starring Gemma Arterton, and One Normal Night – both for Sky Arts. 

Sean Foley said of his appointment:
“Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s history as one of the most important theatres in the country is inspiring. Birmingham itself has always had an exceptional level of creativity and innovation, and has a unique and world-class cultural ecology. I’m tremendously honoured to be invited to contribute to that, and to have been appointed Artistic Director at this ground-breaking theatre.

“The UK’s ‘Second City’ is full of amazing people: as one of the most multicultural cities in Britain, its stories are specific, but also universal. I’m British, but also half Irish, half Brummie, and am excited to be returning to work in the city having grown up in its suburbs.

“I hope to fill the theatre with stories that engage all its communities and audiences while connecting with the wider world. The ambition, in taking on this exciting challenge with Amit and Rachael, is to create a national home for truly popular theatre.”

Amit Sharma has been Associate Director at Graeae Theatre Company since 2011 and also Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange, Manchester from 2017-2019.  For Graeae, Amit directed the world première of Jack Thorne’s The Solid Life of Sugar Water – a hit of the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cosmic Scallies at the Royal Exchange, and The Iron Man which toured nationally and internationally.  Also for Graeae, Amit has co-directed the outdoor spectacle Prometheus Awakes and Sequins and Snowballs. In Autumn 2019, Amit will direct a new version of Winsome Pinnock’s One Under for a UK tour. Amit has extensive experience in creating opportunities for artists – he led Graeae’s flagship UK-wide new writing programme, Write to Play and developed many opportunities for D/deaf and disabled artists while at the Royal Exchange.

Amit Sharma said of his appointment:
“I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the iconic Birmingham Repertory Theatre. I know what a wonderful theatre it is having performed on its main stage, directed a show which was programmed in The DOOR (with another show programmed later this year) and worked with the arts team developing new talent in the past. I have had such an amazing time with Graeae, who will always be part of my life, but the opportunity to join Sean, Rachael and the remarkable team in Birmingham fills me with such excitement that I can’t wait to get started on the next chapter in The REP’s illustrious history.”

Rachael Thomas joins The REP following her role as Executive Director of Derby Theatre and a 25-year career in the cultural sector. At Derby Theatre she has helped secure significant increases in grant funding and earned income from programme and commercial sources. In her previous role at Lincoln Castle she project managed the delivery of Lincoln Castle Revealed – the £22 million award-winning restoration and re-interpretation of the medieval castle and Magna Carta exhibition.  Prior to this Rachael worked for ten years at Nottingham Playhouse as Head of Finance and Business Development. Her other roles have included Director of Phoenix Arts, Leicester and Director of the Merlin Theatre in Somerset.  Rachael has an MBA from the University of Bath.

At The REP Rachael will work closely with Sean Foley and Amit Sharma to realise their artistic vision, alongside managing and developing the business plan and the strategic management of the organisation.

Rachael Thomas said of her appointment:
“The REP is a theatre that I’ve admired throughout my career and I’m absolutely thrilled to be appointed Executive Director. These are exciting times for Birmingham as it continues its transformation into a world class city – from the major redevelopment of the city centre to its role as host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the vision and ambition within the city is clear. As one of the UK’s most multicultural cities it’s also a place with many different stories to be told and many communities to connect with and the wealth of opportunities that this presents for the theatre is extraordinary. With Sean and Amit I share a vision for The REP to play a bold and distinctive role in the life of the city as a theatre that’s firmly grounded in and relevant to all its local communities but with a national and international outlook.”

Angela Maxwell, Chair of the Board at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, said:
“The board set out to find a leadership team with a creative and cultural reputation who could take the theatre on to even greater success as a leading player in contemporary British theatre.

“Sean, Amit and Rachael are an exciting combination and in them we have found a dream team with a passion for theatre, commitment to excellence and an ambition to raise the profile and impact of The REP for the future. We’re thrilled they have chosen to come and work with us and they demonstrate Birmingham’s growing cultural confidence and ability to attract artistic talent.”

Tarek Iskander, Director Theatre at Arts Council England, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome Sean Foley as Artistic Director and Rachael Thomas as Executive Director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre. We’re also particularly pleased to welcome Amit Sharma as Deputy Artistic Director. As a graduate of the Arts Council’s Changemakers scheme, which offers support to disabled and Black and minority ethnic leaders offering experience, knowledge and skills within organisations to take the next step into senior leadership positions, it’s fantastic to see Amit’s journey continue. We look forward to seeing Sean, Rachael and Amit’s combined wealth of experience, ambition, passion and creativity drive the theatre on to future success.

“Tribute must, of course, be paid to Stuart Rogers and Roxana Silbert, as they leave The REP having worked there for a staggering 24 years between them. During this time they have successfully developed the audience, programme and artistic community for the theatre, focusing on The REP’s central commitment to the diversity of Birmingham. They have built a thriving theatre, despite the challenging economic times.

“The REP is at the heart of the city’s thriving cultural scene, creating stories that are made in Birmingham but which resonate everywhere. This an exciting time for the city, as we approach the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and we look forward to seeing the team continue to inspire audiences with innovative productions long into the future.”

Sean Foley, Amit Sharma and Rachael Thomas will take up their posts in Spring / Summer 2019 with their first season of work starting in 2020. They take over from The REP’s current Artistic Director, Roxana Silbert and Executive Director, Stuart Rogers who leave later this year

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