7th: Michael Grandage and James Bierman
The Michael Grandage Company
Last year: 7th
Highest ever: 2nd
When Michael Grandage left the Donmar in 2011, the big question was how he would follow his critically acclaimed tenure at the Covent Garden venue. Would he run another theatre? Would he follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Sam Mendes and explore a career in film? The answer, it emerged, was that he would set up his own production company and launch a 15-month season in the West End at the Noel Coward Theatre. That season has only just got under way, but the early signs are very promising indeed.
Privates on Parade, starring the sublime Simon Russell Beale, received ecstatic notices and the remainder of the season looks very exciting indeed: A Midsummer Night’s Dream with David Walliams and Sheridan Smith; Peter and Alice, a new play by John Logan with Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench; The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe; and Henry V with Jude Law. All are directed by Grandage, with Bierman serving as the company’s executive producer.
Meanwhile, it’s not just the artistic programming that is exciting: the company’s offer of 100,000 tickets at £10 across the season has sent a shot across the bows of the rest of the commercial West End.
8th: Nica Burns and
Last year: 11th
Highest ever: 5th
Nimax Theatre’s purchase of the Palace from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group (for an undisclosed sum) has helped propel Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer back into the top ten. The Palace, currently home to Singin’ in the Rain, marks the group’s first musical house (to complement their five smaller playhouses) and helps push them into the premier league of theatre owners, with one of the West End’s most in-demand venues.
The pair have, of course, long been among the premier league of West End play producers and, during 2012, they offered two high class revivals – Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O Neil and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Both were co-produced with Kim Poster, with the former proving a particular highlight of the year. This year, Burns and Weitzenhoffer will also serve as co-producers on the Old Vic’s planned staging of Sweet Bird of Youth.
One would expect them to continue to expand their theatre portfolio: a 350-seat in-the-round venue is already planned for after 2017 and Burns has said she’s on the look out for other sites.
9th: Jonathan Church and
Chichester Festival Theatre
Last year: 6th
Highest ever: 6th
Jonathan Church and Alan Finch have been unlucky to slip down the list this year – a move which has had more to do with the performance of others, than their own. For 2012 has been yet another outstanding year for Chichester Festival Theatre.
Seven CFT co-productions transferred to the West End during 2012: Bingo, Singin’ in the Rain, Sweeney Todd, South Downs and the Browning Version, Kiss Me Kate, Goodnight Mister Tom and the return of Yes, Prime Minister.
Its 50th anniversary summer season in Chichester included a heavy-weight line up including Congreve’s The Way of the World, Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, Shaw’s Heartbreak House and a superb revival of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, with Henry Goodman in the title role.
Meanwhile, Chichester won in two categories at the Theatre Awards UK for work produced at its south coast base and Sweeney Todd won best musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. The venue also secured £12 million from Arts Council England towards its scheme to rebuild the 50-year old Festival Theatre. During 2012, the venue also launched a new pop-up space in Chichester, Theatre on the Fly, which staged three acclaimed productions by CFT’s graduate directors, Blue Remembered Hills, Playhouse Creatures and Fred’s Diner.
Next year, there are plans to pitch a 1,400-seat tent alongside the theatre for a revival of Barnum.
10th: Dominic Cooke
Royal Court Theatre, London
Last year: 9th
Highest ever: 2nd
Stepping down this April, after a superb seven-year tenure, Dominic Cooke will be an extremely hard act to follow. His regime has been characterised by artistic excellence mixed with commercial nous. Last year saw the Court transfer three of its greatest hits from 2011 and early 2012 – Posh, Jumpy and Constellations – into the commercial West End, in producing partnership with ATG.
The venture has been an undoubted triumph, with Constellations deservedly picking up best new play at the Evening Standard Awards and the whole season faring well at the box office.
Back in Sloane Square, highlights have included Jez Butterworth’s follow up to Jerusalem, The River starring Dominic West, NSFW by Lucy Kirkwood and Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information.
Cooke will bow out this year by directing Clybourne Park writer Bruce Norris’ latest The Low Road, before Vicky Featherstone, fresh from the National Theatre of Scotland, takes over the reins. While Cooke’s immediate plans are to freelance, it would be no great surprise if he followed his former executive director Kate Horton to the National Theatre, when it comes time for Nicholas Hytner to move on, as he has proved himself both a superb director in his own right and a very able programmer.