Paris theatre fires its British artistic director in row over money and management style

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Paris theatre fires its British artistic director in row over money and management style
Ruth Mackenzie. Photo: AFP

One of the French capital's most important theatres has fired its British artistic director Ruth Mackenzie due to managerial and financial concerns, the theatre and sources said.


Mackenzie confirmed she had been fired from the Theatre du Châtelet, but vehemently denied what she described as "false accusations" against her.

Mackenzie was appointed in 2017, just as the theatre prepared to close for nearly two and a half years for a €26.5-million refurbishment, and was given a mission to broaden the prestigious venue's appeal to include new audiences.

Speaking as the theatre reopened in November 2019, McKenzie told The Local that she was on a mission to shake things up and ensure that the theatre better reflected the diversity of Paris.

READ ALSO Meet the British woman on a mission to shake up French theatre


The theatre, one of the city's chief venues for classical music, opera, dance and also musicals, confirmed her departure in a short statement on Friday.

But a source said that the theatre's board had asked her to leave following complaints about her manner with staff and also handling of the finances of the theatre.

"There was a managerial problem with the staff and a financial problem due to an insufficient artistic season," said a source with knowledge of the issue who asked not to be named.

"An independent audit was conducted which has led to her departure.

"The (issue) had been brewing for a long time and it is the board of directors who asked Ms Mackenzie to leave," the source said.

Mackenzie confirmed to AFP she had been fired, saying she had received a letter on Thursday and her pay and email were cut with immediate effect.

"This was shocking, brutal and cruel... This was my dream job and somebody is hurling false accusations at me to justify their decision," she said. 

She acknowledged there had been an inquiry into her management style, with staff apparently complaining that she did not say bonjour enough, but it "found me not guilty of any dismissable offence" while recommending management training and improving her French. She said she had "immediately" accepted this.

Some staff were "not sympathetic to my artistic vision" to find a new public, she said, adding that she would challenge her dismissal legally.

Mackenzie is a hugely prominent figure in the European arts scene.

She is known for running the Cultural Olympiad for the 2012 London Olympic Games, the Scottish Opera, the Manchester International Festival, and the Holland Festival until her appointment to the Theatre du Châtelet.

Her brief reign was marred by controversy, particularly a decision to host the immersive Dau project by Russian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky, who faced accusations in the French press of exploiting his cast and having a guru-like hold over them.


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