Headlong (theatre company)

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Headlong is a theatre company noted for reworking plays of the past and commissioning and developing new work. Formerly the Oxford Stage Company, the company undertook a major rebrand in 2005, which paved the way for a dramatically increased profile for the next ten years.


Season 1

Headlong’s first season (2006-2008) moved the company decisively away from the traditional touring fare with which it had been associated under its previous name, Oxford Stage Company. Titled Reinventing the Epic[1] the season 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. This simultaneous interest in classical form and contemporary subject matter was later to prove a hallmark of Goold's work for Headlong.

Season 2

The only revival in Headlong's second season (2008-2009) was Goold’s own production of King Lear, starring Pete Postlethwaite. 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 Goold’s own reworking of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, which followed where Faustus had led in reframing Pirandello’s play in a contemporary structure.

Season 3

Headlong’s third season (2009-2011) showcased two further new plays developed in-house: Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett (later reprised on a national tour) and an (unproduced) play about Orson Welles by Anthony Neilson. This was to be complemented by a re-working of Gulliver’s Travels.

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.

Season 4

Headlong’s fourth season (2012-2014) was announced via a ‘season trailer’ video released online,[2] shot by the company itself, rather than a traditional press release.

The season included Lucy Kirkwood's play Chimerica, which opened at the Almeida Theatre in May 2013 before transferring to the West End. 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 developed by Headlong. It was produced in late 2012 at the National Theatre starring Billie Piper. The Effect won the 2012 Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play. A musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho directed by Goold opened at the Almeida Theatre in December 2013, with a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik. Ella Hickson's Boys was produced at Soho Theatre in conjunction with High Tide and was directed by Robert Icke.

George Orwell's 1984 in a new adaptation by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan opened at Nottingham Playhouse before embarking on a UK tour in the autumn of 2013. The production transferred to the West 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, making it the company's most successful production to date.

Rupert Goold and Robert Icke left the company in 2013 for the Almeida Theatre in Islington. Jeremy Herrin was announced as Headlong's new artistic director.

Recent work[edit]

Headlong's fifth season (2014-2016) and its first under the artistic directorship of Jeremy Herrin, includes new plays by Duncan Macmillan and Jack Thorne. American playwright Jennifer Haley's new play 'The Nether' opened at the Royal Court in July 2014. This was the first production to be directed by Jeremy Herrin.


The company has produced the work of emerging directors on major national tours in a series of interventionist, non-traditional classical revivals: The Winter’s Tale (dir. Simon Godwin, 2009), Oscar Wilde’s Salome (dir. Jamie Lloyd, 2010), Frank Wedekind’s Lulu (dir. Anna Ledwich, 2010), Elektra (dir. Carrie Cracknell, 2010), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (dir. Natalie Abrahami, 2011), Romeo and Juliet (dir. Robert Icke, 2012), Medea (dir. Mike Bartlett, 2012), The Seagull (dir. Blanche McIntyre, 2013), 1984 (dir. Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan, 2013)and Spring Awakening (dir. Ben Kidd, 2014).

Emerging talent[edit]

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.’[3] Under Goold’s directorship, the company has commissioned writers including Lucy Prebble, Ella Hickson, Lucy Kirkwood, Mike Bartlett, D. C. Moore, Alecky Blythe, and Beth Steel, and employed directors including Natalie Abrahami, Steve Marmion, Carrie Cracknell, Jamie Lloyd, Simon Godwin and Robert Icke.


Since 2006, productions have included:

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Headlong, Season One Brochure (Headlong 2005)
  2. ^ Falling Headlong, dir. by Rupert Goold (Headlong, 2012) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNH6ANbLsnA
  3. ^ Matt Trueman, 'Tom Scutt: Grand Designs', The Stage (15 June 2012) http://www.thestage.co.uk/features/2012/06/tom-scutt-grand-designs/