After five and a half years in charge Fiona Gasper is leaving Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre (RX). However, she’s not moving far: her next job is as executive director of Manchester International Festival (MIF).
During her time as executive director Gasper has consolidated the artistic leadership into a single position – that of artistic director, held by Sarah Frankcom – and appointed a new chair of the board, Ben Caldwell. RX has also launched a number of community engagement initiatives, branding itself as a place to ‘exchange ideas’. Its outreach efforts include a scheme for young theatre makers and a series of relaxed performances.
‘The theatre that Fiona leaves behind is very different to the one she joined five years ago,’ said Frankcom, ‘I want to thank her hugely for her considerable contribution to this.’
Gasper’s tenure has also been a time for collaboration, particularly with MIF. The Masque of Anarchy and The Skriker (both directed by Frankcom and starring Maxine Peake) were part of MIF in 2013 and 2015 respectively, meaning Gasper’s move to the festival comes as no surprise. She replaces MIF founder Alex Poots, who left earlier this year to take over as chief executive and artistic director at New York’s Culture Shed.
‘The theatre is brave, bold and ambitious and Sarah’s vision and determination to push the boundaries of what kind of theatre the Exchange can be is inspiring,’ said Gasper, who added that she was ‘thrilled’ to be joining MIF.
RX has kept attendances high and garnered critical praise throughout Gasper’s five and a half years. Notable productions included Hamlet (starring Peake), To Kill a Mockingbird and Victoria Wood’s That Day We Sang, while its performances of new plays from the Bruntwood Prize series have also been well received.