Stage columnist Richard Jordan writes: Michael Boyd leaves the Royal Shakespeare Company in a far more robust position than when he inherited it as artistic director nine years ago and has created big shoes to fill.
Boyd’s logical successor is the RSC’s current chief associate director Gregory Doran.
Responsible for some of the company’s most successful productions, Doran knows the company inside out, showing the ability to successfully marry the academic and populist together in his productions, which could be particularly valuable at this time of change.
But others will also be keen to throw their hats into the ring for one of the most coveted positions in world theatre. Current RSC associate directors David Farr and Rupert Goold could be two such candidates. Farr has run three theatres - the Gate, Bristol Old Vic, and the Lyric Hammersmith and directed various productions at the RSC over a number of years.
While Farr’s work has shone in the Swan, he has made less impact on the main Courtyard stage which could work against him. Goold, on the other hand, has attacked the Courtyard with vigour - his Merchant of Venice set in Las Vegas provided the talking point of this year’s season. He is certainly ambitious and will be acutely aware that Trevor Nunn became artistic director of the RSC at 28, but at this time of economic challenges the board may consider him too much of a risk.
If Michael Attenborough feels that it’s time to move on from the Almeida, then as Doran’s predecessor he would certainly be an attractive contender. The same is also true of David Thacker or Edward Hall, both of whom hold a strong past relationship with the RSC and may feel that, by 2012, it’s time for them to move on from the Bolton Octagon and Hampstead respectively.
Jonathan Kent, Stephen Daldry and Michael Grandage have all been successful artistic directors but have never directed at the RSC, therefore lack the same connection to the company as other directors such as: Howard Davies, Nancy Meckler, Matthew Warchus, Bill Alexander, Rachel Kavanagh, Sam Mendes, and even Richard Eyre (although he has only directed for the company once in 1975). All of these have successful freelance careers and may not wish to be burdened full-time with the hassle of running a theatre. The board might also consider the appointment of an actor. Kenneth Branagh, Sam West, Ian McKellen, Anthony Sher and Simon Russell Beale are all either RSC associates or honorary associate artists. Branagh and McKellen have both previously run their own companies, and West has run Sheffield Theatres, while in the case of Sher and Russell Beale, could both make attractive joint leaders in an application with either Doran or Mendes.
Finally, when identifying possible contenders, we should look to those past epic RSC productions - for Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd, it was their respective legendary marathon productions of The Plantagenets and Henry VI that helped propel them to securing the job, so this pattern could provide a clue towards who might become the RSC’s next artistic director.