The Almeida Theatre’s artistic director Michael Attenborough celebrates 10 years in ‘the best job in London theatre’

14:14 22 March 2012

Michael Attenborough in rehearsals for Filumena at the Almeida Theatre. Picture by Hugo Glendinning

Michael Attenborough in rehearsals for Filumena at the Almeida Theatre. Picture by Hugo Glendinning

HUGO

As his latest production opens and he celebrates a decade at the Almeida Theatre, Michael Attenborough speaks about his time leading one of London’s top theatres

»There is a restless spirit to Michael Attenborough that comes out when he reflects on his 10 years at the helm of the Almeida.

He must surely be proud of his many successes, but it quickly becomes apparent that the theatre’s artistic director has no intention of basking in past glories.

After 10 years, it’s clear his appetite for staging exciting productions hasn’t waned, as he reveals his vision for a more daring future.

He says: “My feeling about the future is we should go even bolder and even more adventurous. We have tried never to be complacent and to keep stretching the boundaries.

“But whether its bigger cast plays or less well-known works, I want to push the boat out and take risks.”

Running a major theatre must be fairly tough going and Attenborough describes it as a “pretty full-on and stressful job” – but he’s obviously happy with his lot.

“I have the best job in London theatre,” he says.

“It’s a big job, you’re always planning or directing and you’re responsible for the whole outfit.

“But the Almeida is a great space and I’ve been fortunate that wonderful artists want to work here.”

In recent years, those artists have included such heavyweight playwrights as Neil LaBute, David Mamet and Stephen Poliakoff.

With LaBute, he has enjoyed an especially fruitful partnership that has yielded three productions, including the past winter’s hit Reasons to be Pretty, starring Billie Piper.

“You’re only as good as the artists you work with,” he says.

“When I look back, a couple of plays didn’t work as well as I would have liked in the first couple of years, but on the whole it’s been a very happy ride.”

The 62-year-old, son of actor Richard, has faced a fair few challenges from the moment he took up the reins in March 2002.

At the time, the playhouse in Almeida Street, Islington, was shut for a multi-million pound restoration project and the company operated out of a former bus shelter in King’s Cross, while last year it faced a hefty cut in Arts Council backing.

But despite these hurdles, the theatre has continued to flourish under Attenborough’s stewardship with one hit after another.

He says: “There is clearly a following for the Almeida. People trust they will have a good evening, even if they are coming to something they have never heard of.”

The latest production, which Attenborough directs, is a new translation of Italian playwright Eduardo De Filippo’s Filumena, and opened last Thursday.

He says: “It’s a beautiful human story. It’s set in Naples in the 1940s and I think it transports the audience into quite an extraordinary other world.

“It’s the tale of a woman who pulls herself out of a slum and makes a life for herself.”

n Filumena is at the Almeida Theatre, in Almeida Street, N1, until Saturday, May 12.

Latest Stories

19:19
The case is being heard at the Old Bailey (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

A former public school boy accused of sexually assaulting an ex-classmate after a boozy night out told jurors that their encounter was “definitely consensual”.

Read more
Myles Lovell saved the lives of two people - and now wants to know how they are doing [Picture by St John's Ambulance]

A man who saved the lives of two people after their car flipped over is appealing for them to get in touch.

Read more
Seahorses are a protected species and trade in them is illegal (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A Chinese medicine trader has been fined for selling sexual enhancement pills made with seahorse extracts in Elephant and Castle.

Read more

Top Stories

Promotions

Advanced running and training technology for beginners up to elite athletes

If you’re thinking of adding running treadmill to your fitness routine, you’re on the right track! There are several advantages to running on a treadmill versus running outdoors.

Renault-Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the ZOE was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

Quizzes

Can you guess which bridge crossing the Thames in London which? (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Do you know your Blackfriars from your Southwark, Cannon Street from Waterloo, or do all of London’s bridges look alike to you?

Read more
Amy Winehouse's second album became a classic

Are you an Amy Winehouse superfan?

Read more
I'm only going to say this once: Stand. On. The. Right.

James Bond is Britain’s most famous secret agent, and the capital is its most famous city, so it makes sense that 007 would live and work here when he isn’t gallivanting around the world.

Read more