Cheek by Jowl was established in 1981 by its co-Artistic Directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod. The company is dedicated to producing fresh and vivid productions that focus on the actor's art. Cheek by Jowl produces work in English, French and Russian. The company has performed in 380 cities in over 50 countries spanning six continents.
Cheek by Jowl's first production was William Wycherley's The Country Wife, presented at the Edinburgh Festival in 1981 and supported by a small Arts Council grant. Before long the company received its first official invitations to perform abroad, taking their productions of Vanity Fair and Pericles to the Almagro, Valladolid and Jerusalem festivals in 1984. These productions were subsequently invited to perform in London at the Donmar Warehouse.
For that first London season Cheek by Jowl won the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 1986, with more than half of the company's plays receiving Olivier awards. The company grew rapidly throughout the 1980s - creating 18 productions in ten years, touring across five continents and giving more than 1,500 performances. By 1990, The Independent could say that, "If there is one company to have influenced British theatre in the 1980s, it is Cheek by Jowl."
In 1997, Donnellan and Ormerod directed and designed The Winter's Tale for the Maly Drama Theatre of Saint-Petersburg, a production which went on to win Russia's prestigious Golden Mask Award. Throughout the 1990s the Russian Theatre Confederation had regularly invited Cheek by Jowl to Moscow as a part of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival; this relationship with Russia intensified in 1999, when the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, under the leadership of Valery Shadrin, commissioned Donnellan and Ormerod to form their own company of Russian actors in Moscow. This company performs in Russia and internationally and its current repertoire includes Boris Godunov by Pushkin, Twelfth Night and The Tempest by Shakespeare, and Three Sisters by Chekhov. 2013 saw Cheek by Jowl's first full co-production in Russia with Measure for Measure co-produced by Moscow's Pushkin Theatre.
The core of the Cheek by Jowl's repertoire has always been Shakespeare; by the time of The Tempest in 2010 the company had presented no fewer than 13 of Shakespeare's plays. Another of the company's principles has been to present major works of European drama, both in translation and their original versions. To date Cheek by Jowl has given the British premières of 10 European classics including The Cid by Corneille and Andromache by Racine, over three hundred years since they were first presented in Paris.
In addition to their work in English and with Russian, Cheek by Jowl also works in French. In 2007 Peter Brook invited Donnellan and Ormerod to form a group of French actors. The result was a French language production of Andromaque by Racine, co-produced with Paris' Bouffes du Nord, which toured throughout the UK and Europe in 2008/2009. The company's latest production is Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry. The production features many of the actors from Andromaque, and marks another new phase in Cheek by Jowl's relationship with France, as the first production on which the company is lead-producing in a foreign language and culture.
Cheek by Jowl
The Barbican Centre
London EC2Y 8DS
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