Doncaster Cast theatre boss announces departure

Kully Thiarai, outgoing artistic director at Cast in Doncaster
Kully Thiarai, outgoing artistic director at Cast in Doncaster

The woman who has been key to putting Doncaster firmly on the UK cultural map has today announced her departure from the town's Cast theatre.

Kully Thiarai, the founding artistic director of Doncaster theatre Cast, has today been named as the new artistic director and chief executive of National Theatre Wales.

Kully takes over at Wales's English-language national theatre following John McGrath’s departure to run the Manchester International Festival.

The announcement comes hard on the heels of Sheffield Theatres losing its artistic director Daniel Evans. He is leaving in the summer to become artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre after an exciting five-year stint cementing the reputation of the Crucible and Lyceum as leading regional British theatres.

Kully has been credited with transforming the artistic appetite of Doncaster since the £22 million venue Cast was opened in 2013, drawing more than 200,000 people through its doors since opening.

Before the new venue opened on Waterdale, Doncaster came seventh from bottom in a national survey measuring people's engagement with the arts.

Kully has also directed new work for Cast, including a sell-out run of a new adaptation of Barry Hines' Kes, and created a new brand of pantomime for the town with three productions being seen by almost 60,000 people in total. Another show, United Colours of FrustrAsian, toured nationally last year.

Kully has also included high-profile companies as a mainstay of Cast's artistic programme, from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performing free concerts for 1,200 schoolchildren to Northern Ballet premiering their new work in the space. The Leeds-based dance company will perform the world premiere of the new ballet Jane Eyre at Cast from May 19-21.

In a programme of outdoor work seen by thousands, the venue's opening show A Cast Of Thousands engaged Yorkshire artists in a huge spectacle celebrating the power that the arts can have in transforming people and places.

The theatre has also been a partner in the town's community arts programme, Right Up Our Street.

Kully said: “I have enjoyed three and a half extraordinary years in Doncaster, setting up and launching Cast. It has been a privilege to be the founding director of a brand new performance venue in the town and I want to extend my thanks to all those who have joined in on that journey as collaborators, audience members and supporters.

"I do believe that the foundations are well laid. Cast has successfully challenged many of the naysayers and shown that live performance, along with a strong artistic vision, is both welcomed by audiences and necessary for Doncaster and its future."

Andy Carver, chair of the theatre's board of trustees, said: "Kully being offered such a hugely prestigious national role is testimony to the fantastic success, and great reputation she has achieved for Cast in just two and a half years.

"She will be greatly missed, but the board of Cast now look forward to appointing a successor who will build on these strong foundations and cement Cast’s role as a great cultural venue at the heart of Doncaster’s community."