The artistic director who has overseen the most successful decade in the history of the Young Vic theatre has announced he will step down after 18 years in the role.
David Lan , who took over the London venue in 2000 having only directed two plays, has established it as the home of some of the most pioneering and agenda-setting productions in the UK.
Lan admitted it was not an easy decision to “slip away” but said he wanted to “leave at a time of our greatest strength and success”.
Lan said that while it was the “best job in the word and I’ve had the best time doing it,” 18 years was “long enough for anyone”.
He said the decision to step down was entirely his own and he would leave the position next year when his successor was appointed, after having overseen his final 2017-18 season.
“I’ve decided to leave three times in the past and each time I’ve discovered an overwhelming reason to stay,” said Lan. “This time, though, it’s for real. I want to go when the theatre is strong and successful – which I believe it currently is.”
Rupert Goold, artistic director of the Almeida, was one of the first to pay tribute to Lan’s contribution to the British theatre landscape over the past 17 years.
“David Lan redefined the way theatre was made in this country,” said Goold. “As with all the greatest leaders his vision was only matched by his humility.”
Those who have produced plays under Lan’s tenure include some of the biggest names in theatre, including Peter Brook, Katie Mitchell, Joe Wright and Ivo van Hove. The theatre’s most recent hit was a revival of Yerma, directed by Simon Stone and starring Billie Piper, which won two Olivier awards.
He also took a very hands-on role in the architectural redesign of the theatre, which was completed in 2006 and was named the RIBA London building of the year.
Lan was born in South Africa and became transfixed by theatre as a teenager when he worked with a travelling marionette company. He moved to London in 1972, where his plays began to be picked up by the fringe and then the Royal Court, but then moved away from the theatre for a period to study anthropology at LSE.
It was after directing The Glass Menagerie at Watford Palace, and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, starring Jude Law, at the Young Vic, that he landed the job as artistic director of the theatre. It was not long after that the Young Vic won an Olivier award for the entire 2003 season.
Lan said: “The Young Vic is now admired and emulated internationally as well as loved by our audience in Waterloo, in London and across the UK. It’s the right moment for it to set off on a new journey and a new adventure.”
Speculation over his replacement has already begun, with Emma Rice, the outgoing artistic director of the Globe theatre, among those put forward as a suggested successor. Rice will step down from the Globe after just two years next year, after a very public dispute between her and the theatre board for her experimental approach to Shakespeare and a claim by Rice that the board “did not love and respect me back”.