Headlong is a British touring theatre company noted for making bold, innovative productions with some of the UK’s finest artists.
Jeremy Herrin took over the artistic directorship of the company in 2013, and is the current artistic director.
Originally founded as The Oxford Stage Company in 1974, the company underwent a major rebranding and received its current name under the leadership of artistic director Rupert Goold (2005–2013).
Headlong's first season (2006–2008), was called Reinventing the Epic. Headlong began with two major revivals: Edward Bond's Restoration (with new songs written for the revival by Bond, scored by Adam Cork) and Tony Kushner's Angels in America. The major production, however, was Faustus. This radical reworking of Christopher Marlowe's epic was a reimagining, half-Marlowe and half new text (written by Rupert Goold and Ben Power) contrasting Faustus's story with that of the Chapman Brothers and their rectifying of Goya's The Disasters of War etchings by adding clown faces to them.
Goold directed a revival of King Lear in 2008, starring Pete Postlethwaite, however Headlong moved towards new work, including three new plays commissioned and developed in-house: Richard Bean's The English Game, Anthony Neilson's Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness and, most notably, Lucy Prebble's ENRON. ENRON was one of two productions to transfer from this season into the West End. The other was Rupert Goold and Ben Power's reworking of Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author , which reframed Pirandello's play in a contemporary structure.
In 2010 Headlong showcased two further new plays developed in-house: Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett which was produced at the National Theatre. Headlong's major production in 2011 was Decade, an unusual and ambitious multi-authored piece responding to the decennial of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Directed by Goold, it was performed at St. Katharine Dock.
Headlong's fourth season (2012–2014) was announced via a 'season trailer' video released online,shot by the company itself, rather than a traditional press release, a move which provoked controversy in the theatre press.
The season included Lucy Kirkwood's play Chimerica (directed by Lyndsey Turner), which transferred to the West End in 2013 after an initial run at the Almeida Theatre. The production won several awards including: five Olivier Awards (Best New Play, Best Director, Best Set Design, Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design); three Critics Circle Awards (Best New Play, Best Director and Best Designer); the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play; the Susan Blackburn Prize; and the National Stage Management Award for Stage Management Team of the Year.
Other new work included The Effect, a major new play by Lucy Prebble (directed by Rupert Goold) developed by Headlong and produced in late 2012 at the National Theatre. The Effect won the 2012 Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play.
Revivals included George Orwell's 1984 in a new adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan and opened at Nottingham Playhouse before embarking on a UK tour in the autumn of 2013. The production transferred to the West End in 2014, after a sell-out London run at the Almeida Theatre. The production embarked on a second UK tour during the autumn of 2014 and reopened in the West End in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, it played on Broadway, making it the company's single most successful show to date.
Under Jeremy Herrin's artistic directorship Headlong's first big hit was The Nether by American playwright Jennifer Haley (directed by Jeremy Herrin), transferred to the West End in 2015 after a successful run at the Royal Court Theatre.
People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan (directed by Jeremy Herrin) played at the National Theatre in 2015 before transferring to The West End and will embark on a UK tour in 2017.
Other new work under Jeremy Herrin's artistic directorship includes Labour of Love by James Graham, featuring Martin Freeman and Tamsin Greig, Junkyard by Jack Thorne, and The House They Grew Up In by Deborah Bruce. The revival of both classic and modern masterpieces have also been part of the canon led Jeremy Herrin, including a radical new version of Frank Wedekind's Spring Awakening in an adaptation by Anya Reiss, David Hare's The Absence of War and Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie .A successful tour of Pygmalion, radically re-imagined by director Sam Pritchard, was a hit for the company in 2017.
As well as touring their work across the UK, Headlong have toured many of their productions worldwide, including Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme , written by Frank McGuinness and directed by Jeremy Herrin, which toured to the Republic of Ireland and France, as well as around the UK.
In September 2019, Herrin announced that he was stepping down as artistic director and will leave the company in 2020.
Headlong has garnered a reputation for discovering the next generation of theatre artists. As Matt Trueman wrote in The Stage, 'Headlong has been full of bright young talent – Ben Power, Lucy Prebble, Robert Icke, Ella Hickson, Tom Scutt.'
The company has commissioned writers including James Graham, Penelope Skinner, Lucy Prebble, Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Mike Bartlett, Ella Hickson, Duncan Macmillan, and Jack Thorne and employed directors including Natalie Abrahami, Steve Marmion, Carrie Cracknell, Jamie Lloyd, Simon Godwin, Ben Kidd, Sam Pritchard and Robert Icke and Blanche McIntyre.
Since 2006, productions have included:
The Almeida Theatre, opened in 1980, is a 325-seat producing house with an international reputation, which takes its name from the street on which it is located, off Upper Street, in the London Borough of Islington. The theatre produces a diverse range of drama. Successful plays are often transferred to West End theatres.
The Royal Court Theatre, at different times known as the Court Theatre, the New Chelsea Theatre, and the Belgravia Theatre, is a non-commercial West End theatre in Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England. In 1956 it was acquired by and remains the home of the English Stage Company and is notable for its contributions to contemporary theatre.
Forbes (Robertson) Masson is a Scottish actor and writer. He is an Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is best known for his roles in classical theatre, musicals. comedies and appearances in London's West End. He is also known for his comedy partnership with Alan Cumming. Masson and Cumming wrote The High Life, a Scottish situation comedy in which they play the lead characters, Steve McCracken and Sebastian Flight. Characters McCracken and Flight were heavily based on Victor and Barry, famous Scottish comedy alter-egos of Masson and Cumming.
Paul Shelley is an English actor.
Rupert Goold, is an English director who works primarily in theatre. He is the artistic director of the Almeida Theatre, and was the artistic director of Headlong Theatre Company (2005–2013).
Ben Ellis is a playwright from Gippsland in Australia, now based in both London and Melbourne. His significant works include Post Felicity (2001), Falling Petals (2002), a stage adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (2005), and more recently Poet No. 7 (2006) and The Final Shot, both premiering in London. The Final Shot, about the television broadcast of a man's death, featured Susannah York. His latest play, The Captive, explores the folklore surrounding the supposed capture of a white woman by aboriginal people in East Gippsland.
The Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director is an annual award presented by The Society of London Theatre in recognition of achievements in commercial British theatre. The award ceremony in which it is presented was established in 1976 as the Society of West End Theatre Awards, renamed the Laurence Olivier Awards in 1984 in honour of English actor Lord Olivier. In 2018, the Best Director award was renamed in honor of acclaimed theatre director Sir Peter Hall, beginning with the 2019 award ceremony.
Lucy Prebble is a British playwright. She is the author of the plays The Sugar Syndrome, The Effect, ENRON and A Very Expensive Poison. For television she adapted Secret Diary of a Call Girl and co-created I Hate Suzie with her close friend Billie Piper. Since 2018, Prebble is Co-Executive Producer and writer on Succession.
Enron is a 2009 play by the British playwright Lucy Prebble, based on the Enron scandal.
Jeremy Herrin is an English theatre director. He is the Artistic Director of Headlong Theatre.
Anya Reiss is a British playwright and screenwriter.
Theo Cowan is a British actor. After graduating from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2014 Theo has performed in various television and theatre productions including Primetime at The Royal Court Theatre, Headlong 's production of The Absence of War directed by Jeremy Herrin, Lucy Bailey's Comus at Shakespeare's Globe and has completed filming the BBC adaptation of The Outcast written and adapted for screen by Sadie Jones.
Ella Hickson is a British playwright and theatrical director who was brought up in Surrey near Guildford and educated at Guildford High School from 1996-2003. She now lives in London.
Peter Caulfield is an English actor.
Samuel James is a British actor, and voice artist best known for playing the role of Garth Stubbs in the ITV sitcom Birds of a Feather since 2014. He has also starred in Casualty and EastEnders.
Nick Powell is a British musician, composer and sound designer. He has worked extensively in theatre on productions in the West End and on Broadway, and for companies including the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Donmar Warehouse.
Robert Icke is an English writer and theatre director. He has been referred to as the "great hope of British theatre."
Duncan Macmillan is an English playwright and director. He is most noted for his plays Lungs, People, Places and Things, Every Brilliant Thing and the stage adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four which he co-adapted and co-directed with Robert Icke.
1984 is a 2013 play by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan based on the 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
The Effect is a 2012 play by the British playwright Lucy Prebble. It received its world premiere at the Royal National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre in November 2012, and starred Billie Piper and Jonjo O'Neill.