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Acclaimed British Theater Company Kneehigh, Behind Brief Encounter, Announces Closure

The company will wind down operations immediately after 40 years.

Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock in Kneehigh's Brief Encounter on Broadway in 2010
(© Joan Marcus)

Kneehigh, the British theater company behind internationally renowned productions like Brief Encounter, Tristan & Yseult, and The Red Shoes, has announced that it will cease operations as soon as possible following "an orderly wind down."

In a statement post on its website, the trustees of the Kneehigh stressed that the closure is not due to insolvency, but is instead owed to "recent changes in artistic leadership," which "raised questions as to whether Kneehigh could sustain their vision going forward. The Trustees and company reflected on a possible new future but concluded that it was better and more responsible to close Kneehigh and ensure an orderly wind down."

Based in Cornwall, Kneehigh was founded by Mike Shepherd in 1980, though the company became synonymous with the work of Emma Rice, who joined the company as performer in 1994 and went on to become its longtime joint artistic director, a tenure which ended in 2016. Under Rice's leadership, Kneehigh became known internationally through the aforementioned productions like Brief Encounter, which ran on Broadway in 2010, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, among many others.

Kneehigh's final production, Random Acts of Art, closed last weekend. All of the company's physical assets — including sets, costumes, and props — will be donated to other organizations.

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