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'Knackered' - Rose Theatre artistic director Stephen Unwin explains why he's leaving
The artistic director of the Rose Theatre has said his decision to quit was "entirely amicable and straightforward".
Stephen Unwin, who has been in charge of the theatre’s creative output since it opened in 2008, announced last week that he will leave the venue in January 2014.
The 53-year-old said he felt the time was right for a fresh face at the Rose, and said the long commute from his home in Stoke Newington played a part in his decision.
Mr Unwin, a father of three, said: “I’ve done my reckoning. It’s a long time to be artistic director of a theatre.
“I have a son with profound learning difficulties and because of that I wasn’t able to move to Kingston.
"I was commuting three hours a day and it started taking its toll. It’s all entirely amicable and straight forward.
“I love the place and I love Kingston. I’m leaving with lots of very positive feelings and a sense that it was a great thing to do.”
Mr Unwin’s tenure has not been without its difficulties.
In its short life, the theatre has never recorded a profit without the help of a council and university subsidy, with many shows struggling to attract big audiences.
He sat with his head in his hands at a council meeting in December 2008 as arguments raged over whether to withhold the subsidy and face closing the theatre.
But Mr Unwin has also enjoyed critical and commercial success, most recently with his production of Noel Coward’s The Vortex, which garnered rave reviews from several national newspapers.
Mr Unwin said: “It has been a ride. It has had some fantastic highs and some hard, challenging times.
“It hasn’t been the easiest, but it’s been fantastically rewarding.
“Putting a new theatre on the map is really challenging. I know there are always people who are going to snipe, but you get that with anything in life.
“For me the stuff that matters is the people that have said: ‘This is a bit of a crazy dream, but let’s make it work’. And I think it has.
“We have had to gain the trust, respect and affection not just of Kingston, but of the whole area.
“And I think and hope that some of the sceptics have begun to be won round.”
Mr Unwin said he planned to take a sabbatical in America and write another book once he leaves the Rose.
But he added: “Before the Rose I ran the English Touring Theatre for 15 years.
“I’ve got three kids and I’m in my mid 50s. I’m knackered. I want a bit of a rest.”