The Crucible Theatre at 50: Michael Grandage

In 2000, as Deborah Paige left, having directed fourteen productions in her five-year tenure, Michael Grandage took up the reigns as Artistic Director. His predecessor had laid the “foundations for the Crucible Theatre’s renaissance” and with the securing of extra funding, he arrived at an opportune moment.

Grandage was no stranger to Sheffield, having worked at the Crucible Theatre several times and joining as Associate Director in 1999.

“My first show was in 1997. In 2000, when Deborah Paige left, Grahame Morris, who was the executive director, asked me to step up.

It was a very bold thing of the board and him to do. Normally you require quite a lot more experience – I convinced them I was 100 per cent dedicated to the city and the productions. We put on two Joe Orton plays and two Shakespeares straightaway. I moved out of London, and I made a commitment to it.”

Yorkshire—born Grandage trained as an actor at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and spent twelve years working as an actor for companies such as the Royal Exchange and Royal Shakespeare Company before turning to directing. His directorial debut was in 1966 with a production of Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester while his first Shakespeare production was in 1998 in the Crucible’s production of Twelfth Night.

Within a few years of his stay, the Crucible had attracted a succession of stage and screen stars such as Derek Jacobi, Joseph Fiennes, Diana Rigg, Ian McDiarmid, Amanda Donahoe and Kenneth Branagh. Grandage produced over forty plays with predominantly young directors and designers. He is credited with delivering consistently high quality work as well as bringing in new audiences and in 2001, Sheffield Theatres won the Barclays TMA Theatre of the Year.

In 2003, Grandage unveiled a £15m expansion scheme for the Crucible.

“We are generously told by audiences, critics and awards juries that Sheffield is now at the forefront of British Theatre, but we want and need to go further.”

Grandage left in 2005, Sheffield Theatres hailed as ‘the National Theatre of the north,’ and concentrated on his other role as Artistic Director at the Donmar Warehouse, London, where he’d succeeded Sam Mendes three years earlier.

He left in 2012 and now heads the Michael Grandage Company producing theatre, film, and TV work, and recently returned to the Crucible to direct the world premiere of Ian McDiarmid’s one-man show, The Lemon Table, which was based on two Julian Barnes short stories.