Cheek by Jowl is the home theatre company of Nick Ormerod and Declan Donnellan.
Since it was founded in 1981 the company has been invited to perform across the world and now produces work in three languages; English, French and Russian.
A fundamental focus across all three languages has been the actor's work. Some of the principles which guide the company's work were correlated in The Actor and the Target, first published in Russian in 2000 and subsequently published in more than fifteen languages.
Cheek by Jowl's first touring production was William Wycherley's The Country Wife, presented at the Edinburgh Festival in 1981. On the drive up to Edinburgh, Donnellan and Ormerod's car crashed. Despite this inauspicious start, (the pair were unscathed) the performances received the local awards and the company went on to make its debut in London at the Donmar Warehouse.
For that first London season, Cheek by Jowl won the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer, and for the rest of that decade most of the company's plays received Olivier awards. The company's reputation grew rapidly - by 1990, the Independent newspaper was able to say, "If there is one company to have influenced British theatre in the 1980s, it is Cheek by Jowl."
It wasn't long before foreign theatre festivals woke up to the company, invitations from across the globe began to arrive, and by the nineties the company were performing in front of audiences from Perth to Warsaw and from Calcutta to Rio.
In 1986, Lev Dodin invited Donnellan and Ormerod to visit his company in Leningrad. Ten years later, they would direct and design The Winter's Tale for his company at the Maly Drama Theatre. This production went on to win the Golden Mask Award and is still being performed in Saint Petersburg today.
Throughout the 1990s the Company strengthened its ties to Russia. The Chekhov International Theatre Festival had regularly invited Cheek by Jowl to perform in Moscow, but this relationship with Russia significantly intensified in 1999, when the Russian Theatre confederation , under the leadership of Valery Shadrin, commissioned Donnellan and Ormerod to form their own company of Russian actors in Moscow.
This sister 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 Anton Chekhov. Measure for Measure (2013) was Cheek by Jowl's first co-production with Moscow's Pushkin Theatre.
The core of the Cheek by Jowl's repertoire has always been Shakespeare; by the time of The Tempest in 2011 Cheek by Jowl 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 in their original versions. To date Cheek by Jowl has given the British premières of 10 European classics. Astonishingly this includes The Cid by Corneille and Andromache by Racine, performed by Cheek by jowl for the first time in England over three hundred years after they were written!
In 1995 Peter Brook invited As You Like It to perform at his theatre in Paris, the Bouffes Du Nord, and this invitation was followed up in 2007 when he asked Donnellan and Ormerod to form a group of French actors. The result was their production of Andromaque by Racine, in the original French; after its premiere at the Bouffes Du Nord it was performed throughout France and Europe.
The same company of French actors continue to work together today on Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, which is performing even more widely with performances in Mexico and New York. This marked the first time that Cheek by Jowl was lead-producer in a foreign language and culture.
Cheek by Jowl
The Barbican Centre
London EC2Y 8DS
Tel: +44 (0)20 7382 2391
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