‘Beacon for change’: The Gate Theatre announces new leadership team

Róisín McBrinn takes over as artistic director and Colm O’Callaghan as executive director

The Gate Theatre has announced its new leaders, with Róisín McBrinn set to take over as artistic director, and Colm O’Callaghan as executive director, this summer.

McBrinn and O'Callaghan will be co-chief executives of the Gate, reporting to the board. They start in mid-August and late-July respectively, taking over from outgoing director Selena Cartmell. Her five-year term finished last July and she has remained as director since then, working with the board on the transition.

The Gate Theatre, founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál MacLiammóir is one of Ireland's largest producing theatres and plays a critical role in the Irish cultural landscape.

Appointing two separate people to artistic and executive roles marks a departure in structure for Dublin's Gate Theatre, which has had one director overseeing both artistic and management leadership for decades. Michael Colgan was director for over 30 years, before Cartmell took over five years ago. Early in her term, bullying allegations from the previous era at the theatre emerged.


'We are fortunate to have secured the services of two enormously talented and visionary theatre professionals'

Cartmell congratulated Róisín and Colm on their appointments and wished them well in their new roles. “The Gate has found a great new team to take this world-class theatre on the next stage of its journey. Despite the impact of Covid on the arts sector and other unprecedented challenges, the Gate team has built a programme that has re-engaged audiences with the best of Irish and international talent, and I am confident that under their stewardship, it will continue to be a beacon for social and cultural change.”

Both McBrinn and O'Callaghan are Irish, and have been based abroad for a number of years. McBrinn has worked in London with Clean Break Theatre for over seven years, and is now artistic director and chief executive there. While in London she has also directed theatre in Ireland, including the successful Gate production of The Snapper, adapted from Roddy Doyle's novel.

O'Callaghan has been executive director of Australian dance theatre company Force Majeure since 2016, and worked previously with Sydney Theatre Company. Before moving to Australia he worked in Ireland with Landmark Productions and Druid Theatre Co.

It's expected they will oversee the Gate's Dublin Theatre Festival show, which is likely to be a co-presentation rather than a Gate production, before taking over programming at the theatre with the pre-Christmas show.

Gate chairman Peter Crowley said: "We are fortunate to have secured the services of two enormously talented and visionary theatre professionals, as we move closer towards the 100th anniversary of the Gate establishment." The Gate celebrates its centenary in 2028.

“Selina did an amazing job, and we can’t thank her enough,” Crowley said. “During her tenure, The Gate presented 11 world premieres, including seven Irish premieres of contemporary writing. Alongside the Gate’s significant critical and commercial success with production of The Great Gatsby, A Christmas Carol, The Snapper, Hamlet (transferring to New York) and Endgame, Selina has also made huge strides forward in terms of gender balance, and diversity and reaching new audiences. We look forward to Róisín and Colm building on the legacy of Selina’s very significant achievements.”

O’Callaghan said he was “so excited to return to my original theatre home of Ireland and shall be a privilege to work alongside Róisín at the Gate and contributing to this legacy.” McBrinn acknowledged Cartmell’s work, including in developing audiences, investing in women directors, and looked forward to producing “exhilarating experiences for our audiences”.

McBrinn and O’Callaghan did not apply for the post together and have not met, but Crowley says they have done quite a bit of “pre-marriage counselling” remotely in the interim, as they prepare to take over the roles together.

The positions were advertised late last year and the Gate theatre has been since then in a process of restructuring the roles and the theatre itself, along with the its funding partner the Arts Council. It has been a period of transition said Crowley, and he and the board are very happy the new directors and the support of the Arts Council and he looks forward to "the next chapter of the Gate's development".

It is believed that Arts Council funding for the Gate theatre for this year was signed off by the Arts Council at a meeting last week.

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times