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Purni Morell to step down as Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre

Purni Morell. Photo by Giulia Savorelli.

Theatre news

THE Board of the Unicorn Theatre has announced that Purni Morell will step down as Artistic Director in Spring 2018 after six and a half years of leading the company.

Purni was appointed in September 2011. The announcement in June 2011 made her the first woman of colour to take the job of Artistic Director amongst the Arts Council’s top funded UK venues.

During her tenure, Morell has fiercely championed the belief that theatre for young people is as valid and as artistically challenging as that of mainstream theatre.

Since 2011, Morell has commissioned and programmed new work from leading UK and international theatre makers, including Timberlake Wertenbaker, Ellen McDougall, Tim Crouch, Nancy Harris, Chris Goode, Ontroerend Goed, Gary Owen, Ramin Gray, David Greig, E V Crowe, Gbolahan Obisesan, Ignace Cornelissen, Gobsquad, Campo and Chris Thorpe.

By May 2018, the theatre will have produced and presented 140 productions to audiences of over 400,000 under her leadership.

Alongside co-Chief Executive Anneliese Davidsen, Morell’s tenure has seen the Unicorn grow radically in artistic output, and in the variety and number of in-house productions, international collaborations and touring work that have gone on to achieve artistic and commercial success.

With a reputation for diversity, accessibility and connection to the community, the theatre has brought some of the best national and international talent to the Unicorn in the last six years, and the theatre now begins the search for a new Artistic Director to take the theatre forward into its next stage of evolution.

Purni Morell said: “I am incredibly proud to have been a part of this extraordinary theatre and of what we have been able to do here – it has been rewarding, exciting and challenging in equal measure. I said at the outset that I wanted to stay six years, and now that I am well into my seventh season, I feel it’s time to step down and allow new ideas and new ambitions to flow into the building.

“I’m indebted to my colleagues at the Unicorn, who work harder and achieve more than I’ve ever known staff at a theatre to do, and I want to thank our many loyal supporters, in particular Arts Council England, for their continued belief in what we stand for. It’s so easy to sell the next generation short and it’s so important not to – so I’m enormously excited to see where the next Artistic Director will take the theatre and to enjoy many more years of watching great shows, this time as a ticket-buyer.”

Unicorn Chair John Langley said: “I want to thank Purni for her remarkable energy and ambition, and for what she has achieved for the status of theatre for young audiences. As an Artistic Director, she has expanded the idea of what a repertoire devised for young people can be; as a producer, dramaturge and translator, she has enlarged the national portfolio; and as a director, she has provided our audiences with shows that have challenged and delighted in equal measure. The whole Board is immeasurably grateful to her for her commitment and energy over the past six years.”

With Arts Council funding confirmed until 2022, the Unicorn Trustees now begin their search for a new Artistic Director to take the theatre into the next phase of its history.

Image: Purni Morell. Photo by Giulia Savorelli.