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Bartlett resigns from Lyric Hammersmith

Story by Jack Foley

NEIL Bartlett has resigned as artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith, following ten successful years in the position.

Bartlett will stand down at the end of November, following the run of his new adaptation of Moliere’s Don Juan, which opens at the beginning of October.

However, his decision has not been taken on health grounds (he was forced to withdraw from his role as artistic director, in 1999, to undergo a liver transplant), but rather to pursue more of his own work, as both writer and director.

In a statement issued to coincide with the announcement, Bartlett said: "Given my illness in 1999, people may understandably assume that my decision to leave the Lyric is again connected with my health.

"But this is absolutely not the case. After ten years running a building, the fact is that I now wish to concentrate on my own work as a director and writer.

"My immediate plans include a new translation of Genet’s The Maids for BBC Radio Three, a staging of Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage for the American Repertory Theatre, in Boston, and the completion of my new novel.

"This has been an immensely difficult decision to make and I am enormously proud of what Simon Mellor and I have created at the Lyric.

"When I took this job, the Lyric was weeks away from closing its doors. Now it is thriving, This, then, seems as good a time as any to hand over the reins of this extraordinary theatre to someone new."

During his decade as artistic director, Bartlett has directed 21 shows, many of which he also adapted and/or designed.

Since his return from ill health in 2001, successful productions have include the Olivier-nominated Pericles, as well as Camille and The Servant. He was even made an OBE in 2000, for services to theatre.

And his successes were not restricted to productions, as he also helped to enhance the theatre’s reputation as an important London receiving house for visiting companies and artists, such as Tamasha Theatre, Kneehigh Theatre, Frantic Assembly, and Shared Experience.

News of Bartlett’s resignation will come as a blow to the Lyric hierarchy, who will now begin the difficult task of replacing him.

A measure of the high-esteem with which he is held is evident in the tribute paid to him by Sandy Orr, chairman of the theatre, who said: "Anyone who has seen productions like Pericles and Oliver Twist will recognise that Neil Bartlett is in the very top flight of theatre directors currently working in this country.

"As a writer, director and designer, Neil is a genuinely original voice in British theatre. The Lyric has been immensely fortunate in having someone of his talents creating shows here and his ten years at the helm have been an enormously rich time artistically for the Lyric.

"We are very sad to see him leave and wish him all good fortune for the future."

The recruitment process for Bartlett’s successor has already begun in earnest.

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