Hull Truck Theatre 'needs strong artistic leadership' after departure of Andrew Smaje
HULL Truck theatre needs strong artistic leadership to guide it through challenging times, says a leading Hull playwright.
Richard Bean, whose play One Man Two Guvnors has won a string of awards in the West End and on Broadway, says the departure of the theatre's chief executive Andrew Smaje means the theatre now must set out a clear vision for its future.
It was announced yesterday Mr Smaje was leaving Hull Truck "to pursue new opportunities" after two years at the theatre's helm.
But Mr Bean says it is now vitally important Hull Truck establishes its own distinct personality.
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He said: "I think we've got to look to the future now.
"My feeling is that a theatre like Hull Truck needs strong artistic leadership alongside someone with strong financial grasp on the realities of running a theatre – especially in these financially-strained days.
"I would like to see a new artistic director at Truck forging a distinct Hull personality for it."
Mr Bean, 55, whose plays Toast, Pub Quiz Is Life and Under The Whaleback are all set in Hull, didn't rule out working with Truck in "some capacity" in the future.
"I would love to talk to them about doing something," said the London playwright.
"It's my home town and my favourite theatre in the world. Of course, I would."
Departing chief executive Mr Smaje arrived in Hull from the Ustinov theatre in Bath two years ago.
His tenure in charge of the Ferensway theatre has coincided with a tough economic climate and funding cuts, which have seen theatres across the country struggle.
His time in charge saw major changes including the departure of Truck icons such as John Godber.
But while he introduced initiatives promoting emerging talent such as the UK's "most promising" new playwright Tom Wells, and reforged links with Truck's founder Mike Bradwell, there were also persistent rumours of discontent behind the scenes at the Ferensway theatre and struggling box office returns.
Hull playwright Dave Windass, whose play Ballroom Blitz enjoyed a successful two-week run at the theatre in June, said he was surprised by the timing of Mr Smaje's exit – particularly after what was seen as a successful summer at the theatre.
He said: "It is something of a surprise but anyone heading up a regional producing theatre in the current economic climate has a very difficult job to do.
"I don't think that, even when he arrived two years ago, anybody thought he would be here forever.
"Speaking as an outsider, I've been in the fortunate position of having work commissioned by Gareth Tudor Price under the old management and working at Truck with Andrew Smaje at the helm.
"I don't know if I'm unique in straddling the two regimes but as far as I'm concerned it doesn't really matter who runs Hull Truck.
"The people who are in charge are looking after the theatre for the people of Hull. That theatre belongs to the city.
"It's a fantastic venue that, when full, has a great atmosphere. Now it's got to be about continuing to create work written for the people of Hull by the people of Hull."