Headlong (theatre company)

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Headlong is a British theatre company noted for commissioning and developing new work, as well as staging new productions of established plays from the theatrical canon. Originally set up in 1974 as The Oxford Stage Company, the company underwent a major rebranding and received its current name under the leadership of artistic director Rupert Goold (2005-2013). Previous artistic directors include John Retallack (1989-1999) and Dominic Dromgoole (1999-2005). Jeremy Herrin took over the artistic directorship of the company in 2013, and is the current artistic director.


Season 1

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.[1]

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 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.[2]

Season 3

Headlong’s third season (2009-2011) showcased two further new plays developed in-house: Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett which was produced at the National Theatre 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.[3]

Season 4

Headlong’s fourth season (2012-2014) was announced via a ‘season trailer’ video released online,[4] shot by the company itself, rather than a traditional press release.

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. Other new work included Ella Hickson's Boysand a musical version of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho with a book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik.

Revivals included George Orwell's 1984 in a new adaptation by Robert Icke and 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 and reopened in the West End in 2015.[5]

Recent work[edit]

Headlong’s fifth season marked Jeremy Herrin's first season as artistic director.

This season has showcased new work including 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. Other new work to be produced as part of the season includes People, Places and Things by Duncan Macmillan; and Junkyard by Jack Thorne.

The season has also seen the revvial of both classic and modern masterpieces 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.[6]


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), Spring Awakening (dir. Ben Kidd, 2014) and The Glass Menagerie (dir. Ellen McDougall, 2015).[7]

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.’[8]

The company has commissioned writers including 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, Robert Icke and Blanche McIntyre.


Since 2006, productions have included:

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/history/season-1/
  2. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/history/season-2/
  3. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/history/season-3/
  4. ^ Falling Headlong, dir. by Rupert Goold (Headlong, 2012) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNH6ANbLsnA
  5. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/history/season-4/
  6. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/history/season-5/
  7. ^ Headlong Website, http://headlong.co.uk/work/
  8. ^ Matt Trueman, 'Tom Scutt: Grand Designs', The Stage (15 June 2012) http://www.thestage.co.uk/features/2012/06/tom-scutt-grand-designs/