Purni Morell to step down as Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre

Purni Morell

Purni Morell © Giulia Savorelli

The Board of the Unicorn Theatre announces today that Purni Morell will step down as Artistic Director in Spring 2018 after six and a half years of leading the company.

Purni was appointed in September 2011. The announcement in June 2011 made her the first woman of colour to take the job of Artistic Director amongst the Arts Council’s top funded UK venues.

During her tenure, Morell has fiercely championed the belief that theatre for young people is as valid and as artistically challenging as that of mainstream theatre.  Since 2011, Morell has commissioned and programmed new work from leading UK and international theatre makers, including Timberlake Wertenbaker, Ellen McDougall, Tim Crouch, Nancy Harris, Chris Goode, Ontroerend Goed, Gary Owen, Ramin Gray, David Greig, E V Crowe, Gbolahan Obisesan, Ignace Cornelissen, Gobsquad, Campo and Chris Thorpe.  By May 2018, the theatre will have produced and presented 140 productions to audiences of over 400,000 under her leadership.

 Alongside co-Chief Executive Anneliese Davidsen, Morell’s tenure has seen the Unicorn grow radically in artistic output, and in the variety and number of in-house productions, international collaborations and touring work that have gone on to achieve artistic and commercial success.  With a reputation for diversity, accessibility and connection to the community, the theatre has brought some of the best national and international talent to the Unicorn in the last six years, and the theatre now begins the search for a new Artistic Director to take the theatre forward into its next stage of evolution.

Purni Morell said ‘I am incredibly proud to have been a part of this extraordinary theatre and of what we have been able to do here – it has been rewarding, exciting and challenging in equal measure. I said at the outset that I wanted to stay six years, and now that I am well into my seventh season, I feel it’s time to step down and allow new ideas and new ambitions to flow into the building. I’m indebted to my colleagues at the Unicorn, who work harder and achieve more than I’ve ever known staff at a theatre to do, and I want to thank our many loyal supporters, in particular Arts Council England, for their continued belief in what we stand for. It’s so easy to sell the next generation short and it’s so important not to – so I’m enormously excited to see where the next Artistic Director will take the theatre and to enjoy many more years of watching great shows, this time as a ticket-buyer.

Unicorn Chair John Langley said ‘I want to thank Purni for her remarkable energy and ambition, and for what she has achieved for the status of theatre for young audiences. As an Artistic Director, she has expanded the idea of what a repertoire devised for young people can be; as a producer, dramaturge and translator, she has enlarged the national portfolio; and as a director, she has provided our audiences with shows that have challenged and delighted in equal measure.  The whole Board is immeasurably grateful to her for her commitment and energy over the past six years.’

With Arts Council funding confirmed until 2022, the Unicorn Trustees now begin their search for a new Artistic Director to take the theatre into the next phase of its history.

PURNI MORELL – BIOGRAPHY

Purni Morell is the Artistic Director of the Unicorn, the UK’s leading theatre for young audiences. She also works as a freelance director and translator, with work to date produced at the Finborough Theatre, by Speeltheater Holland, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Muziektheater Transparant,‘t Arsenaal and Vlaamse Opera, Gent.

Purni began her career in stage management, working for Stephen Daldry and Annie Castledine, among others, before going to read History at the University of Glasgow. After graduating she worked as Literary Assistant at the National Theatre, London, with particular responsibility for foreign and classic plays, and then became Literary Manager at Berkeley Repertory Theater, California, from 1998-2000.

She took a break from theatre and worked for a while in environmental sustainability and development in Latin America and then at Shelter in Scotland, before becoming a producer, first with Suspect Culture in Glasgow, then running her own production company, gryllus, which provided creative and logistical support to freelance Scottish artists including Colette Sadler and Stewart Laing among others.

She was Head of Studio at the National Theatre, London, from 2007-2011. Her most recent production was Alpha Beta at the Finborough Theatre, nominated in the Off West End Awards for Best Director, Best Actor and Best Design. Her productions for the Unicorn include, as writer:  A Winter’s Tale, Henry V and The Fourth Wise Man, and, as director, A Winter’s TaleDora, The Velveteen Rabbit, Baddies: the Musical and My Father Odysseus. She will be directing Ibsen’s Public Enemy in Flint, Michigan, in June.

UNICORN THEATRE – BIOGRAPHY

The Unicorn is the UK’s leading theatre for young audiences, producing an eclectic and surprising programme of work year-round for children aged 6 months to 18 years. Based in their purpose-built home at London Bridge, they aim to connect artists and audiences through a broad range of work that is honest, refreshing and international in outlook, across a range of disciplines.

The Unicorn presents and tours between twelve to fifteen shows each year, at home and abroad, to around 80,000 children and their parents and carers, and works extensively with schools and in the community to invite children from all cultures into a conversation about art and the world we live in.

Between 2011, when Purni Morell and Anneliese Davidsen joined the theatre as Artistic Director and Executive Director, and April 2018, the Unicorn will have:

–        produced and presented 140 productions

–        reached audiences of over 400,000 in London and on 30 tours

–        given 10% of all tickets away to schools and community groups for free or nearly free, every year

–        built Box Office income by 26%

–        grown audiences by 28%

–        developed 60 co-producing partnerships with other theatre companies

–        commissioned 53 new pieces of work

–        generated 21 awards and award nominations

–        created 133 accessible performances

–        built a growing programme of Community work

–        supported a self-running Young Company of teenage performers.

Morell has brought some of the best national and international talent to the Unicorn.  The following is a comprehensive list of 140 productions at the Unicorn from spring ’12 to summer ’18.

2012/13

1001 Nights, a Unicorn production, dir. Douglas Rintoul

A Thousand Slimy Things, a Tangere Arts & Royal Exchange Theatre co-production, dir. Lewis Gibson

A Winter’s Tale, by Ignace Cornelissen, dir. Purni Morell

Before Your Very Eyes, by Gobsquad & Campo, in association with LIFT

Burning Bird, by John Donnelly, a Synergy Theatre Project production

Children of Killers, a Unicorn Young Company production

DNA, by Dennis Kelly, a Hull Truck production

Dr Korczak’s Example, a Unicorn production

Egg & Spoon, a Lyngo Theatre production, by Marcello Chiarenza and Patrick Lynch, 2012

Goldilocks, a Little Angel production, dir. Marleen Vermeulen

Handa’s Surprise, a Little Angel production, dir. Marleen Vermeulen 2012

How to Think the Unthinkable, a Unicorn production, by Ryan Craig, dir. Ellen McDougall

How Was it for You, a Unicorn Young Company production, by Evan Placey, dir. Nadia Fall

I, Malvolio, by Tim Crouch, dir. Karl James and a smith

In A Pickle, an Oily Cart/RSC co-production

Liar, Liar, a Unicorn production, by E V Crowe, dir. Blanche McIntyre

Little Red…You Know Who!, a Freehand Theatre production

Mad About the Boy, an Iron Shoes production in association with the Unicorn, by Gbolahan Obisesan, dir. Ria Parry

 

Monkey Bars, A Chris Goode & Company and Unicorn production, dialogues originated by Karl James, dir. Chris Goode, 2012

Monkey Bars, 2013

Mouth Open Story Jump Out, a BAC production, by Polarbear

Ring Round the World, by EPOC

Ruby Red Tells Tales, a Theatr Iolo production, by Sarah Argent

Sensacional, an Imaginart (Barcelona) production, 2012

Something Very Far Away, a Unicorn production, by Mark Arends and Matthew Robins

Tales from the River Thames, a New International Encounters/Unicorn production

The Elves and the Shoemakers, a Theatre Hullabaloo & Berry Theatre production, by Mike Kenny, dir. Sarah Brigham

The Legend of Captain Crow’s Teeth, a Unicorn production, by Matthew Lenton

The Legend of Woesterdam, a Studio ORKA & Kopergietery production

The Man with the Disturbingly Smelly Foot, a Unicorn production, by Nancy Harris, dir. Ellen McDougall

The Mysterious Vanishment of Pobby and Dingan, a Travelling Light production, by Finegan Kruckmeyer, adapted by Ben Rice

The Present, a BAC production by Ansuman Biswas and Hannah Ringham

The Prince and the Pauper, a Unicorn production, by Jemma Kennedy, dir. Selina Cartmel

The Tear Thief, a Little Angel production in association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, by Carol Ann Duffy, dir. Peter Glanville

 

2012/13

1001 Nights, a Unicorn production, dir. Douglas Rintoul, 2014

All That Is Wrong, Ontroerend Goed, Laika, Drum Theatre Plymouth & Richard Jordan Productions Ltd, by Koba Ryckewaert, Joeri Smet, Rob Van Ertvelde, Sophie De Somere, Zach Hatch & Alexander Devriendt

Aston’s Stones, a Teater Pero production, by Peter Engvist

At the End of Everything Else, a Unicorn production, by Mark Arends

Cape, a Synergy/Unicorn co-production, by Inua Ellams, dir. Esther Baker

Carnival, a Unicorn/Compagnia Rodisio co-production, by Manuela Capece and Davide Doro

Chalk About, a Curious Seed production, by Christine Davaney and Leandro Kees

Cinderella: A Fairytale, a Unicorn/Travelling Light/Tobacco Factory Theatre co-production, dir. Sally Cookson

Cuckoo, a Unicorn production, by Suhayla El-Bushra, dir. Nathan Curry

Dora, a Unicorn production, adapted from Helen East, dir. Purni Morell

Grandpa’s Railway, an M6 Theatre Company production

Hannah, a Unicorn production, by Chris Thorpe, dir. Simon Evans

Henry the Fifth, a Unicorn production, by Ignace Cornelissen, dir. Ellen McDougall

Lionboy, a Complicite co-production with Bristol Old Vic, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse and Warwick Arts Centre, by Annabel Arden and Louisa Young, dir. Annabel Arden

Luna, a Theatre Hullabaloo/Theatr Iolo production, by Miranda Thain, dir. Sarah Argent

Mister Holgado, a Unicorn production, by Christopher William Hill, dir. Matthew Lenton

My Father and Other Superheroes, a Nick Makoha production in association with Nimble Fish, by Nick Makoha, dir. Benji Reid

 

Next Day, presented by LIFT and the Unicorn, by Philippe Quesne and CAMPO

Nosferatu, a Bob Théâtre production

Not Now, Bernard, a Unicorn production, by David McKee, dir. Ellen McDougall

O Snap, by Erik Kaiel

Othello: The Remix, presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Richard Jordan Productions, by GQ & JQ with Rick Boynton

Pim & Theo, a New International Encounter production with Odsherred Teater & Korjaamo Culture Factory, dir. Alex Byrne

Romeo and Juliet, a Box Clever production, adapted by Michael Wicherek with OneNess, dir. Iqbal Khan

Sensacional, an Imaginart/Unicorn co-production, 2013

Sensacional, an Imaginart/Unicorn co-production, 2014

Something Very Far Away, a Unicorn production, by Mark Arends and Matthew Robins, 2013

Teenage Riot, an Ontroerend Goed, Kopergietery, Drum Theatre Plymouth & Richard Jordan Productions Ltd production, dir. Alexander Devriendt

The Pardoner’s Tale, a Tangere/Unicorn co-production

The Secret Of Q, a Het Filiaal production, by Ramses Graus & Monique Corvers, dir. Monique Corvers

The Summer Book, a Unicorn production, adapted by Jemma Kennedy, dir. Douglas Rintoul

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell

Tube, an Oily Cart production, by Tim Webb

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas… , a Unicorn production, by Douglas Rintoul

Wanted: Rabbit, a Maas Theater & Dans production, dir. René Geerlings

We Dance, Wee Groove, a stillmotion production in association with the Unicorn

You’re Not My Friend Anymore, a Shoofly Theatre production, by Katie Sykes & Craig Edwards

 

2014/15

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do), a Unicorn/Fundus Theater/Research Theatre Hamburg production, by Hanno Krieg and Sibylle Peters

Britain’s Best Recruiting Sergeant, a Unicorn production, by Joy Wilkinson, dir. Lee Lyford

Fight Night, an Ontroerend Goed, Border Project, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Richard Jordan Productions & Voornuit in association with Adelaide Festival of the Arts production, dir. Alexander Devriendt

Girls Like That, a Unicorn/Synergy Theatre Project production, by Evan Placey, dir. Esther Baker

Henry the Fifth, a Unicorn production, by Ignace Cornelissen, dir. Ellen McDougall, 2015

How Nigeria Became: A Story, and a Spear that Didn’t Work, a Unicorn production written and directed by Gbolahan Obisesan

Nosferatu, a Bob Théâtre production, 2014

One Little Word, an M6 Theatre Company production, dir. Andy Manley

Planeta KA, an Imaginart/Unicorn production

Seesaw, a Unicorn production, by Stewart Melton, dir. Sarah Argent

Scrunch, a Unicorn Theatre & Theatr Iolo (in association with Sarah Argent), by Sarah Argent & Kevin Lewis

Something Very Far Away, a Unicorn production, by Mark Arends and Matthew Robins, 2014

Tales from the MP3, a 20 Stories High production, dir. Julia Samuels

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a Unicorn production, by Bertolt Brecht, trans. Frank McGuinness, dir. Amy Leach

The Chair, a Unicorn production, by Lewis Gibson, dir. Lewis Gibson

The Fourth Wise Man, a Unicorn production, dir. Lee Lyford

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, a Unicorn production, by Annie Siddons, dir. Ellen McDougall

The Polar Bears Go Wild, a Macrobert/Fish & Game production in association with the Unicorn, by Eilidh MacAskill & Fiona Manson

The Secret Life of Suitcases, an Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker/Unicorn production, by Lewis Hetherington & Ailie Cohen

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell, 2015

Triple Bill, presented by Dance Umbrella & the Unicorn

When I Think About the Universe I Laugh for no Reason, a Unicorn Young Company production, dir. Ellen Edwin-Scott & Emma Higham

 

2015/16

A Mano, an El Patio Teatro (Spain) production, by Julián Sáenz-López & Izaskum Fernández

Baddies: the Musical, a Unicorn production, by Nancy Harris & Marc Teitler, dir. Purni Morell

Breaking the Ice, a Unicorn/Filskit Theatre Company

Dance Umbrella: Unplugged, presented by the Unicorn & Dance Umbrella

Grass, a Second Hand Dance production in association with the Unicorn

Jeramee, Hartleby & Oooglemore, a Unicorn production, by Gary Owen, dir. Tim Crouch

The Hamilton Complex, presented by LIFT and the Unicorn, by HetPaleis, dir. Lies Pauwels

Martyr, a Unicorn/Actors Touring Company production, by Marius von Mayenburg, trans. Maja Zade, dir. Ramin Gray

Minotaur, a Unicorn production, by Adam Peck, dir. Tarek Iskander

My Father, Odysseus, a Unicorn production, by Timberlake Wertenbaker, dir. Purni Morell

Once Upon A Christmas, a Unicorn event

The Polar Bears Go Up, a Unicorn/Fish & Game production, by Eilidh MacAskill & Fiona Manson

Raw, a Kabinet K (Belgium) production, by Joke Laureyns & Kwint Manshoven with Thomas Devos

Sensacional, an Imaginart/Unicorn co-production, 2015

Septimus Bean and His Amazing Machine, a Unicorn production, by Adam Peck, dir. Cressida Brown

The Snow Child, a Unicorn/Sheffield Theatres/Dancing Brick production, by Valentina Ceschi & Thomas Eccleshare

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell, New York tour

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell, Spain tour

 

2016/17

Adler & Gibb, a Tim Crouch & the Royal Court Theatre production, by Tim Crouch, dir. Tim Crouch, Andy Smith & Karl James

Baby Show, a Unicorn production in association with Theatr Iolo, by Sarah Argent & Kevin Lewis, dir. Sarah Argent

Baddies: the Musical, a Unicorn production, by Nancy Harris & Marc Teitler, dir. Purni Morell, 2016

Boing!, a Travelling Light & Bristol Old Vic production, dir. Sally Cookson, chor. Wilkie Branson & Joêl Daniel

Double Double Act, a Unicorn production in association with Made in China, by Jessica Latowicki, Christopher Brett Bailey & Tim Cowbury

Dream City, an Arch * Dancers production, presented by Dance Umbrella in partnership with the Unicorn

The Duke, a Hoipolloi, PBJ Management & Theatre Royal Plymouth production in association with Save the Children, by Shôn Dale-Jones

The Hunting Lodge, a Unicorn production, by Ignace Cornelissen, dir. Purni Morell

The Iron Man, a Unicorn production, by Ted Hughes, created by Matthew Robins

Jason & the Argonauts, a Unicorn production, by Valentina Ceschi & Thomas Eccleshare

Jeramee, Hartleby & Oooglemore, a Unicorn production, by Gary Owen, dir. Tim Crouch, 2017

The Man Who Knows It All, a Theater Artemis/Maas Theater co-production, by Jetse Batelaan

My Mother, Medea, a Unicorn production, by Holger Schober, trans. David Tushingham, dir. Justin Audibert

The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark, a Unicorn production, by Jill Tomlinson, dir. Lee Lyford

Sensacional, an Imaginart/Unicorn co-production, 2016

The Snow Child, a Unicorn/Sheffield Theatres/Dancing Brick production, by Valentina Ceschi & Thomas Eccleshare, Sheffield 2016

Tetris, a De Dansers production, presented by Dance Umbrella in partnership with the Unicorn

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell, 2016

Until You Hear That Bell, a Battersea Arts Centre production, by Sean Mahoney, dir. Yael Shavit

 

2017/18

Baby Show, a Unicorn production in association with Theatr Iolo, by Sarah Argent & Kevin Lewis, dir. Sarah Argent 2017

Beginners, a Unicorn production, written & dir. by Tim Crouch

Beowulf, a Unicorn production, by Chris Thorpe, dir. Justin Audibert

Boing!, a Travelling Light & Bristol Old Vic production, dir. Sally Cookson, chor. Wilkie Branson & Joêl Daniel

Five Easy Pieces, a CAMPO/IIPM production, by Milo Rau

Laika, a Unicorn production, by Bryony Hannah & Avye Leventis

Othello, a Unicorn production, by Ignace Cornelissen, dir. Ian Nicholson

Seesaw, a Unicorn production, by Stewart Melton, dir. Sarah Argent, 2018

Sensacional, an Imaginart/Unicorn co-production, 2017

The Velveteen Rabbit, a Unicorn production, by Margery Williams, dir. Purni Morell, 2017

Wild Life FM, a CAMPO Arts Centre (Ghent), Unicorn Theatre, Norfolk & Norwich Festival production, by Pol Heyvaert, Kim Noble & cast, dir. Pol Heyvaert, music dir. Jakob Ampe