To mis-quote Lady Bracknell: losing an artistic director after just 9 months ‘smacks of carelessness’. That is exactly what has happened at the Sydney Theatre Company. Last September, then-Chairman David Gonski, announced the appointment of Jonathan Church as Artistic Director; about three weeks ago, a new chairman, Ian Narev, announced the ‘resignation’ of Church. Narev’s reasons quoted were Church’s ongoing commitments in the UK and elsewhere and that ‘the combined workload and travel will be unsustainable’. Carelessness or not, it seems a great pity.
In this column last year, not knowing the identity of the new Artistic Director, but writing about the qualities needed for the position, I noted: ‘and the successful contender would probably find it harder were they not Australian’. Jonathan Church not being Australian can’t be the whole story. He has been the remarkably successful Director of the Chichester Festival Theatre and a commercial producer in the West End, on Broadway and elsewhere. Looking to replace the glamour celebrity combination of Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, the STC Board and Gonski seemed to have struck gold with Church.
All sorts of theories are circulating as to what went wrong. Church’s international commitments were well known, indeed applauded, at the time of his appointment and travel time to the Northern Hemisphere has not increased. I don’t believe that Gonski and Church got it wrong.
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