It was a job Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett managed to juggle despite Blanchett’s international film commitments, but it has proved too much for new Sydney Theatre Company artistic director Jonathan Church, who has stepped down from the role after just nine months.
The British musical-theatre director and former artistic director of the Chichester Festival Theatre said in a statement it was no longer “viable” for him to continue in the STC top job: “regrettably it has not proved viable for me to continue ... while balancing my other interests”.
The appointment of a British, not local director had attracted some criticism. Australian actors were quick to express their views on social media following his resignation, with Secret River actor Colin Moody writing, “phew! Thanks f**k for that!” and Ben Wood, “We’ll take an Aussie now thanks guys,” on Twitter.
Executive director of the STC Patrick McIntyre has defended the board’s appointment of an internationally in-demand director who runs his own UK-based company, Jonathan Church Productions.
“When Jonathan came up in the field it was very exciting [and] he was clear from the beginning he had his own company that is active internationally. Jonathan is a great guy who has a good track record so it looked like a great opportunity worth exploring,” McIntyre says, pointing out it isn’t unusual for artistic directors to pursue outside interests.
“They knew from the outset it could be a tough call but they wanted to really explore that opportunity. It was a surprise [that he quit], but it’s been very cordial.”
McIntyre says the STC’s in-house artistic team will run the company until a new artistic director is appointed, but the search will only start after the 2017 season launch in September, which Church partly programmed.
While it is highly unlikely Church will return to launch the 2017 season, Sydneysiders can expect to see him when his West End musical Singin’ in the Rain opens in July following its Melbourne season.