Eleanor Lang Appointed Chief Executive of The Shaftesbury Theatre

Lang takes over the role currently held by James Williams in November 2024.

By: Jun. 25, 2024
Eleanor Lang Appointed Chief Executive of The Shaftesbury Theatre
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Eleanor Lang has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of The Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End. 

Eleanor Lang, who is currently Executive Director of Stratford East, takes over the role currently held by James Williams in November 2024.

Williams - who has led the Shaftesbury Theatre for over 20 years, during which time he has overseen the most successful artistic and financial period in the history of the theatre - will continue to work alongside Eleanor in an advisory capacity.

Donald Taffner Jnr said:  “We are all looking forward to welcoming Eleanor to the Shaftesbury Theatre team. Following an extensive search, we strongly believe she is the perfect person to take our theatre forward.  Eleanor is tasked with building on the extraordinary work of James Williams over the last two decades.  James has greatly enhanced the Theatre's profile during his tenure both in connection with the programming decisions that were made as well as through the redevelopment of the building. We are pleased that we will have a continuing relationship with James and wish him the best of luck in the future. 

Eleanor Lang said:  “I am absolutely thrilled to have been chosen to lead the largest independent theatre in the West End. I am excited to begin working with the brilliant team at the Shaftesbury Theatre. I am delighted to have the continued support of James Williams, who has worked tirelessly for the company for the past 2 decades, making the Shaftesbury Theatre fit for the next century, and I hope to build on his considerable legacy.”

James Williams said:  “Eleanor is the perfect person to lead The Shaftesbury Theatre.  She has experience of leading companies like the Theatre Royal Stratford East and Cheek by Jowl, and will take on what I believe Is the most distinctive and original theatre in the West End.  I depart knowing that Eleanor will continue to get the unparalleled support that I have received from Donald Taffner Jr, as she takes on the Company and Theatre which has been such a massive part of my life over the past 20 years.”

Eleanor Lang is currently the Executive Director and co-CEO of Stratford East, which during her time there has produced productions including The Big Life, Beautiful Thing, King Hedley II, Equus, Tambo & Bones and the Olivier award winning Noye's Fludde. Previously she was the Executive Director of Cheek by Jowl and of Free Word, an international centre for literature, literacy and free speech. Prior to Free Word she was General Manager at the Bush Theatre and at Y Touring Theatre Company. She has also worked at Battersea Arts Centre, The Donmar Warehouse and as a freelance producer. She has been on the Board of Tonic Theatre and Rose Bruford College. She is currently a Trustee of Sheffield Theatres, and a Board member of Coin Street Community Builders and UK Theatre.

After training at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama as a Stage Manager, James Williams commenced his career at The Liverpool Playhouse. He worked extensively in regional and touring theatre as a Stage and Production Manager, including a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1988 he was appointed Executive Director of Cambridge Theatre Company, later named Method & Madness, moving it from Cambridge in 1993 when he created its new home in Waterloo, now occupied by English Touring Theatre.  He ran Method & Madness with the director Mike Alfreds until 1998 when he became Executive Director of Hampstead Theatre. He was instrumental in the design, funding and building of the new Hampstead Theatre whilst also acting as a Director of Hampstead Theatre Productions presenting their successful shows in the West End. 

In 2004 he joined the Theatre of Comedy Company as its Chief Executive.  His eclectic range of productions have not only included musicals, but also dance and magic. Many productions won significant awards whilst at the Theatre.  The building renovations have been extensive.  From the full-scale exterior renovation and restoration of the facades in 2010, through the innovative and multi-awarding winning Flytower, to the current Dramatic Transformation programme and Camden's award-winning creation of the newly landscaped Princes Circus.  All have been carried out with minimum closure and the commitment and enthusiasm of both Donald Taffner Jnr and the entire staff team at the Shaftesbury Theatre.   

An active member of the Society of London Theatre, James has also served as a Council member of UK Theatre, formally the TMA.  He founded the audio description company, Vocaleyes, and was its Director and subsequently Chairman. Between 1997 and 2023 he was a director of Stage One and he has been part of teams for the Theatres Trust assessing the redevelopment of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Kings Theatre, Edinburgh.  Locally, he has been a director of the Central District Alliance, formally Inmidtown, the Business Improvement District for Holborn, St Giles and Bloomsbury, and a member of the Camden Business Board.


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