Michael Boyd to leave Shakespeare Company

Michael Boyd Michael Boyd oversaw the £112m renovation project of the RSC

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Michael Boyd is to leave his post as the artistic director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The 56-year-old joined the RSC in 1996 as an associate director, and was appointed to his current role in 2002.

He oversaw the £112m renovation project to the Stratford-upon-Avon theatres and the RSC's 50th birthday.

In a statement, he said his "chief co-conspirator" Vikki Heywood, the RSC's executive director, would step down at the same time.

"We have opened the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre to unusual acclaim. Our new home is already much loved by the public and critics alike and has won many major awards," he said.

"It's arguably the best theatre for the contemporary production of Shakespeare in the world."

They say the art of comedy is all in the timing. It is certainly a crucial factor in the art of staging a successful career. Go too soon and people think you weren't up to it; stay too long and nobody will remember why they hired you in the first place.

There are no golden rules to go by: instinct and opportunity tend to govern. Vikki Heywood and Michael Boyd seem to have decided that once they have completed their ten-year partnership at the end of next year, it will be time for them to leave the RSC.

They have already overseen the renovation of the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres and will have navigated the institution through the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival. It would appear a good moment to go and try something new.

But it leaves plenty for the new top-team to take on. The Arts Council budget cuts will only just have started to bite, a permanent London home for the company is still to be found, and the revival of its old experimental theatre space in Stratford-upon-Avon (The Other Place) is yet to be resolved.

The announcement of his departure was made as the RSC released its annual report at the company's AGM in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Figures have shown that since the theatre complex reopened in November last year, there have been 500,000 additional day visitors to the building.

"This is my tenth AGM as artistic director, and next year will be my last," Boyd said.

"I have always said that it would take 10 years to make a genuine difference in the life and the soul of the company, and though 10 years will not be enough to achieve all that I would like, it will be time for me to pass the challenges on to a new artistic director."

Boyd paid tribute to Ms Heywood and departing Chairman Sir Christopher Bland, who is handing over his role to Nigel Hugill.

"If the RSC is in good shape now, it is in large part due to the expert, passionate and playful chairmanship of Sir Christopher Bland... and to my chief co-conspirator Vikki Heywood.

"Her shrewd insight, her tremendous energy, and her robust rigour have made all our achievements possible."

Under Boyd's leadership, the RSC recently launched the World Shakespeare Festival - the "trump card" of next year's Cultural Olympiad, and next month sees Matilda The Musical opening in London's West End.

The appointment of a new artistic director to the RSC is expected to announced early next year.

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