Lyceum chief to quit as venue prepares anniversary

The Royal Lyceum's artistic director Mark Thomson has announced he will leave the theatre at the end of its 50th anniversary season. Picture: Jon Savage

The Royal Lyceum's artistic director Mark Thomson has announced he will leave the theatre at the end of its 50th anniversary season. Picture: Jon Savage

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THE figurehead of one of Scotland’s best-known theatres has announced he is to quit - just months ahead of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Mark Thomson has revealed his departure from the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh after 12 years as artistic director.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre on Edinburgh's Grindley Street. Picture: TSPL

The Royal Lyceum Theatre on Edinburgh's Grindley Street. Picture: TSPL

Mr Thomson, who has overseen more than 90 productions during his tenure, has resigned just weeks after unveiling plans for the theatre’s 50th anniversary season.

His announcement has also come less than six months after the theatre was hit with a huge funding cut for the next three years.

Although it is understood he does not have another job lined up, he said he had decided it was “time for a new adventure.” The theatre hopes to have a new artistic director confirmed by the autumn.

There was no mention of the theatre’s long-term funding situation in the statement announcing his departure after the end of the anniversary season, which will see Brian Cox and Bill Paterson join forces on stage for a new version of Waiting for Godot.

It is so difficult to leave a place like this with its incredible, dedicated and skillful teams, creative buzz and intelligent audiences

Mark Thomson

Mr Thomson had strongly condemned the 17.5 per cent cut for the Lyceum at the time it was confirmed in late October by Creative Scotland, which also cut the neighbouring Traverse Theatre’s funding by 11.1 per cent and urged the two venues to work more closely together in future.

At the time Mr Thomson, who issued a joint statement with the theatre’s executive director Alex McGowan, said he was “extremely disappointed and surprised.”

Their statement said: “Without warning or explanation, at a time when Creative Scotland have more, not less money to spend, they have made the historic decision that the Lyceum Theatre Company that has been supported by various arts councils over the past 50 years will no longer be able to provide theatre in the way that it has.

“After seven years of standstill funding this latest decision will create an effective funding cut of almost £1.5 million over a ten year period.”

Announcing his departure, Mr Thomson said: “It is so difficult to leave a place like this with its incredible, dedicated and skillful teams, creative buzz and intelligent audiences.

“However, it’s absolutely time for a new adventure for me now just as I have always seen my time here as the constant refreshing of passion-led creative adventure for the artists and audiences in this extraordinary arena that celebrates theatre so vibrantly.”

Shonaig Macpherson, chairman of the Lyceum’s board, said: “Mark has been a passionate and inspiring artistic director.

“His commitment to ensuring the company produced bold seasons of work, encompassing the great classics of the theatre canon alongside new plays commissioned by The Lyceum, provided our audiences with a rich repertoire of high quality theatre.

Our recently announced 50th Anniversary Season is the embodiment of this commitment and is set to be a fitting testament to his vision.

“We will of course be sad to see Mark leave, but in announcing his decision now our succession plans should allow for a smooth transition into the next chapter of artistic leadership.”

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