The Stage Awards 2017
Since 2011, The Stage Awards have reflected the industry’s best performing theatres and theatremakers. The open nomination process allows anyone to elect their favourite buildings, schools, companies and individuals, while an industry focus group steers the shortlist. The final cut is selected by a panel of senior editorial figures at The Stage and aims to celebrate the finest theatre achievements of the past year.
This year’s shortlist can be found below. Final winners unveiled at The Stage Awards, to be held at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on January 27, 2017.
The Stage Awards 2017 shortlist
Theatre is not short of awards ceremonies. But most focus on the stars, the West End glitz, the people whose names are already up in lights. When we launched The Stage Awards in 2011, we wanted a ceremony that recognised the full scope of British theatre.
Since then, our winners have included major national and international organisations such as the National Theatre and Sonia Friedman Productions, but also companies from across the British Isles, touring companies, fringe theatres located in back rooms above pubs, casting directors, stage managers, box office managers, a wardrobe manager… we believe in celebrating the whole of UK theatre.
Our open nomination process allows anyone to put forward their favourite buildings, schools, companies and individuals, while an industry focus group has helped steer the shortlist.
The shortlist is not decided by public vote, nor by the number of nominations we receive. The final cut is selected by a panel of senior editorial figures at The Stage and aims to celebrate the finest theatre achievements of the past year.
All nominees will be invited to The Stage New Year Party, at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London, on January 27, 2017, where the winners will be announced.
- Regional Theatre of the Year
- London Theatre of the Year
- Fringe Theatre of the Year
- Theatre Building of the Year
- Producer of the Year
- School of the Year
- International Award
- Sustainability Award
- Innovation Award
- Unsung Hero
Regional Theatre of the Year
The top theatre outside of the capital over the past 12 months. Theatres in the UK’s nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) are also eligible. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation.
Bristol Old Vic
The longest continuous-running theatre in the UK, the Bristol Old Vic marked its 250th anniversary in 2016 and neared the completion of a £12.5 million redevelopment that it says now makes it “one of the most modern and comfortable” theatres in the UK, with “state-of-the-art rehearsal rooms, a dramatically extended forestage and precision-engineered sightlines giving audiences an even more intimate theatrical experience”.
While improvements have been made behind the scenes and front of house, work on the stage continues to impress, with the venue this year producing – in the year that marked 400 years since Shakespeare’s death – a King Lear starring Timothy West alongside a cast that included students from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School that garnered a glowing review from The Stage.
In addition to this, the venue – under artistic director Tom Morris – has had hits with musical The Grinning Man, developed over almost five years, with 10 drafts and about 50 songs created in total. The theatre also enjoyed success with Sally Cookson’s productions of Jane Eyre and Peter Pan. Both had runs at the National Theatre following their stints in Bristol.
On top of that, the Bristol Old Vic’s literary department is setting up a new playwriting prize after being bequeathed £180,000. The money will enable the theatre to stage a new main house work. The judges were impressed by the theatre’s strong work, both on and off stage.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester
Situated in the heart of Essex, this venue punches consistently above its weight in terms of output, turnover and audiences.
Earlier this year, the venue staged the regional premiere of Clybourne Park, described by The Stage as a “tense and terrific staging”. The production was a bold choice for the theatre, which the judges noted has become a well-established regional venue, with intelligent programming and brave casting decisions.
Its commitment to diverse casting was demonstrated with its staging of both Private Lives and of Sweeney Todd, in a co-production with Derby Theatre. Both featured diverse casts, with Hugh Maynard becoming the first black actor to play Sweeney in the UK.
The judges were impressed with the venue’s nine annual Made in Colchester productions, the fact it has increased its turnover by more than a £1 million over the past three years and the 17% audience increase it has achieved in the last year. It has also developed a new fundraising scheme, launched in the House of Commons, to enable it to begin a major £8.7 million transformation of its Colchester home, which will see it benefit from new rehearsal rooms and spaces for more educational and outreach work.
A stellar year for Sheffield Theatres – outgoing artistic director Daniel Evans’ final at the helm – saw it win five categories at this year’s UK Theatre Awards, including the best musical award for both for Flowers for Mrs Harris and Show Boat.
The former demonstrated the venue’s commitment to smaller, less-commercial musical projects, while the latter – which went on to enjoy a West End run – showed how well the theatre interprets big, classic shows. Both were directed by Evans, who left the venue in 2016 having cemented its reputation as one of the go-to regional theatres, with a compelling programme of work that speaks to local audiences but has the potential to attract theatregoers from across the UK.
The venue also commissioned a play from Richard Bean about snooker, called The Nap. It’s not the most obvious subject for a play, but it demonstrates the theatre’s commitment to bold choices and taking risks, and was an appropriate theme for a venue that hosts the snooker World Championship.
Sheffield Theatres’ scheme Live for Five means people aged 16 to 25 can access the theatre’s shows for just £5. And new artistic director Robert Hastie has vowed to continue with this policy of making theatre that is accessible, as he introduces an initiative to give every student studying drama in the city a free ticket to shows in the Crucible.
The judges were impressed by Sheffield’s smart programming, which this year concluded with a crowd-pleasing Annie Get Your Gun starring Anna-Jane Casey.
About the sponsor
Evolution Productions is run by Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, who are very proud of their reputation for producing some of the best pantomimes in the country. Over the past 11 years, Evolution has built a reputation for superior, bespoke pantomimes with the emphasis on high quality production values, strong casting and genuinely funny scripts. In that time, the company has dramatically improved box office returns at every theatre it has worked with. In 2015/16, five of the seven theatres it produced at played to over 90% capacity (its show at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury played to 99% over six weeks).
London Theatre of the Year
The top theatre in the capital over the past 12 months. Any venue based in Greater London is eligible. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation.
Menier Chocolate Factory
The Menier’s track record as a breeding ground for high-quality West End transfers is remarkable, and this year has been no exception.
It began 2016 with Sheridan Smith’s Funny Girl, which broke box office records at the theatre and later transferred to the West End’s Savoy. The production made the headlines for many reasons, but the sheer quality of the piece and Smith’s performance spoke for itself. It tours the UK in 2017.
The Menier’s 2013 production of The Color Purple transferred to Broadway this year and won two Tony awards – for best musical revival and for British performer Cynthia Erivo as best actress in a musical leading role.
Other West End transfers in 2016 have included Florian Zeller’s The Truth, to the Wyndham’s, and Travesties, which will run at the Apollo Theatre from February.
Back in its Southwark home, the Menier staged a smart production of Into the Woods from US company Fiasco Theater, as well as an exquisitely realised revival of She Loves Me starring Scarlett Strallen, which has finished off the year on a musical high.
The Menier is a consistently strong performer, but 2016 has been a truly bumper year.
The Old Vic
It has been a impressive first full year for Matthew Warchus in his role as artistic director of the Old Vic, with a programme that has been packed with variety.
The Master Builder, with Ralph Fiennes’ commanding portrayal of Ibsen’s eponymous character, kicked off 2016 in fine form, with further strong performances in Warchus’ production of Pinter’s The Caretaker. Drew McOnie’s dance piece Jekyll and Hyde was an interesting marker for the theatre in terms of the range of work it stages, while the introduction of Old Vic Variety Nights on Sundays brought the spirit of music hall back to the Frank Matcham-designed theatre.
But it was the second part of the year that brought the most impressive work, with Tim Minchin’s much-anticipated sophomore musical Groundhog Day. An instant hit with critics and audiences alike, the show has already confirmed a Broadway transfer and was without doubt one of the year’s most exciting new musicals.
Hot on its heels came King Lear, bringing Glenda Jackson back to the stage after a 25-year hiatus in politics. It was undoubtedly one of the theatrical events of the year and a fitting way to top off such a strong season at the Old Vic, in which Warchus has really made his own stamp on this historic theatre.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Regent’s Park has been on flying form in 2016, staging some of the most talked about work of the year.
Its summer season opened with the truly charming Running Wild, staged in London after originating as a youth theatre production at Chichester Festival Theatre. A children’s show by nature, but, like War Horse, the combination of Michael Morpurgo’s story and impressive puppetry elevated the production to a universal hit. It was a natty piece of programming by artistic director Timothy Sheader, which was followed by the bold, thumping Henry V, starring Michelle Terry as the eponymous king.
It was almost impossible to imagine the theatre staging Shakespeare in this way before Sheader took over in 2007, and is testament to the shift in programming he has brought about at this unfunded seasonal venue. Its line-up included Pride and Prejudice, which will return for a tour next year.
However, without a doubt its crowning glory was Sheader’s superlative revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. A sold-out smash hit at the box office and lauded by critics, it placed Regent’s Park firmly at the heart of the London producing scene and topped a remarkable year for this unique venue.
About the sponsor
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Fringe Theatre of the Year
The top small-scale theatres across the UK that don’t receive core government funding. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation etc.
Hope Mill Theatre
In the short time since it was set up – it’s been open little more than a year – the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester has made a name for itself as a home for high-quality musical theatre, with The Stage associate editor Mark Shenton speculating that it has the potential to become the Menier Chocolate Factory of Manchester.
Launched in late 2015 by performers Joseph Houston and William Whelton, the theatre is a self-funded, ambitious and passion-driven project. The 120-seat venue is housed in a former industrial building in the Ancoats area of Manchester. Katy Lipson, of Aria Entertainment, is resident producer at the venue.
The theatre’s first in-house production was a statement of intent. James Baker directed a production of Jason Robert Brown’s Parade with a cast of 15. The theatre’s second in-house show, staged in November, was similarly bold – Jonathan O’Boyle’s production of counter-culture musical Hair was described by Shenton as “a natural high”.
The in-house programme for 2017 will feature three musicals, including a version of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women.
Performer Tracie Bennett was announced as patron in 2016 and the venue won the theatre and performance category at 2016’s Hospital Club awards.
In a short space of time, the Hope Mill has established itself as one of the UK’s key fringe theatres and an exciting new home for musical theatre.
Hope Theatre, London
Given its tiny size and relative youth, Islington’s Hope Theatre, a 50-seater located above the Hope and Anchor pub on Upper Street, has made a disproportionate impact on London’s fringe theatre scene.
It set out its stall from the start and was the first fringe venue to open with an agreement with the performers’ union Equity to pay a legal wage for all actors, stage managers and box office staff working at the theatre. It launched in November 2013 and Matthew Parker became artistic director in October 2014.
Since then he’s worked hard to push the Hope forwards as the “little theatre with big ideas”. The venue, which receives no public subsidy, programmes imaginatively, taking creative risks, with a focus on new writing and rarely seen work by major playwrights.
The Hope announced its first full season of in-house productions this year. These were Lucy Catherine’s Sea Life, a revival of Robert Harling’s play Steel Magnolias, and a rare staging of Bryony Lavery’s pastiche musical Her Aching Heart.
Representation and gender parity are also central to the ethos of the venue. Steel Magnolias featured six strong roles for women of a range of ages and Her Aching Heart featured a lesbian love story.
The theatre’s first in-house production, Snoo Wilson’s Lovesong of the Electric Bear, also directed by Parker, transferred to the Arts Theatre in late 2015, picking up two Offie awards this year.
New Diorama Theatre
The New Diorama does more than most fringe theatres to develop and support both emerging and established theatremakers. It has pioneered a number of new initiatives designed to help artists find their feet in the industry, addressing the practical and financial issues that young companies face.
Foremost amid several innovative schemes was Cash Flow Fund, an interest-free loan scheme for emerging theatre companies to help them deal with upfront costs that might otherwise prove prohibitive. Artistic director David Byrne describes this as a “cooperative bank for theatre companies” and, since its launch this year, around £50,000 has been loaned out as part of the scheme.
The theatre, based near London Euston station, is also addressing diversity in novel ways and, through a partnership with Diorama Arts Studios, is able to provide free rehearsal space for black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee-led theatre companies. This year it also announced a strand of artist development for those working in comedy, an area sometimes overlooked by development schemes.
In 2016, the 80-seat venue played host to the third Incoming festival of new work by emerging companies, produced by A Younger Theatre, and it continues to programme intelligently and creatively, with a series of well-received productions by companies including Rhum and Clay, Box of Tricks and Kandinsky. It won the 2016 Empty Space Peter Brook Award for “creating a vital hub for established and emerging theatre companies” and it announced a showcase of new work by emerging companies in Hull to run in early 2017 as part of Hull UK City of Culture.
About the sponsor
encoreinsure.com is an online theatre insurance facility specialising in fringe productions. We take the hassle out of insurance and can provide a competitively priced quote in minutes. You provide the show – we provide the cover. encoreinsure.com is your step by step, easy to follow, one-stop solution to your production insurance requirements. With access available to your account 24/7, everything can be processed at a time convenient to you. encoreinsure.com was created by the theatre department within Robertson Taylor W&P Longreach which has more than 30 years’ experience. We are very proud to be sponsoring the Fringe Theatre of the Year Award and wish all of the nominees the best of luck.
Theatre Building of the Year
Theatre venues or any physical structure or space hosting theatrical performance is eligible for this award. The building or space must have launched (or relaunched) within the past 12 months. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) innovation, design, facilities.
King’s Cross Theatre, London
This is the second nomination in as many years for the King’s Cross Theatre, which began life as a single tent in unused space near King’s Cross Station.
Created specifically for The Railway Children, which would later share the space with In the Heights, the first venue at King’s Cross is both a 1,000-seat space and a 500-seat space depending on the configuration.
Last year the judges commended the theatre for disrupting the traditional model for a commercial theatre in London, and for moving focus away from the West End. It has continued to do that, and more, in 2016, with two new additions to the area that have proved innovative and exciting, both in the programming and design.
The Donmar Warehouse decamped to King’s Cross for its all-female Shakespeare trilogy, while much-talked-about David Bowie musical Lazarus moved into a second new theatre space.
The life of this veritable theatre village is now coming to an end, however, as the land will shortly be reclaimed by Google for its new London offices. However, it’s not likely to be the end for the King’s Cross Theatre team, who have vowed to continue the project.
In its short life span, the King’s Cross Theatre has breathed new life into London theatre and its influence must not be understated – it has truly amplified the possibilities of how and where producers and venues can stage work.
Royal Court, Liverpool
As a not-for-profit producing theatre that does not receive any revenue funding, approaching a refurbishment project was challenging for Liverpool’s Royal Court.
Prior to its recent restoration, the grade II-listed building had not experienced any significant refurbishment since it was built in 1938, despite running as a full-time receiving house. It has so far completed two stages of the four-stage redevelopment, and is proving impressive already.
The refurbishment, which will cost £11.9 million in total, has so far seen the theatre gain a smart new foyer, improved seating and disabled access, as well as a new box office and stage door and a bar revamp.
The third stage, beginning in early 2017, will create a new, 150-seat basement venue that will operate independently to the main space, as well as remodelled dressing rooms and a reinstating of the theatre’s revolve stage. The final, fourth stage will create a rooftop bar and restaurant.
The two phases so far completed have done so without closing the theatre, which continued to run a full programme as works went on around it in stages. The Royal Court’s art deco design sits alongside contemporary touches in this impressive refurbishment that, alongside the redeveloped Liverpool Everyman, creates a theatre offering of which the city can be truly proud.
Tara Theatre, London
Tara Theatre reopened in 2016 following a refurbishment that remodelled and modernised the entire building. Tara was founded 40 years ago as a multicultural theatre company, and its revamped Earlsfield premises speaks to its identity as a company.
The building is described as the UK’s first dedicated home for multicultural theatre and boasts a 100-seat theatre space with flexible seating and an earth floor. The project has also given Tara a studio space, which can be used for rehearsals, small events and meetings.
The building has already won a slew of accolades for its architecture, by Aedas Arts Team, which fuses the old with the new, featuring antique Indian doors and state-of-the-art solar panel roofs. It also houses the company’s administrative offices, dressing rooms, a kitchen and a green room.
The feel is both lived-in and new, an intriguing mix of traditional and modern that fits the company’s story-led aesthetic that is producing important theatre with multiculturalism and diversity at its core. It is also a fine theatre destination, and the company is hoping the revised building will increase visitors to Tara and generate buzz around its work. Early accounts would suggest it’s working.
About the sponsor
Audience Systems is a UK seating specialist designing, manufacturing and installing traditional and retractable seating for hundreds of theatres, studios, arenas, schools and universities each year. The UK market leader in this specialist field, Audience Systems works closely with theatre managers, architects and consultants to produce designs that deliver stunning looks, simple operation and low lifetime cost. Recent projects include retractable seating for the University of Swansea Great Hall, a complete refit of Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s auditorium, retractable and balcony seating for Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and two major phases of replacement multipurpose seating at the O2 Arena.
Producer of the Year
Any producer or production-company – of any scale, subsidised or commercial – is eligible. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation etc.
Edward Snape’s Fiery Angel production company was behind one of the theatrical events of 2016: the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s West End season of work, which launched at the end of 2015 and ran throughout the past year.
The 13-month programme of work at the Garrick Theatre saw an outstanding, starry collection of performers (Branagh himself, Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Rob Brydon, Lily James and Adrian Lester among others) united with some impressive creative talent (Rob Ashford, Sean Foley, Christopher Oram) for an extended programme of lavishly produced drama in the heart of the West End.
Not everything proved a critical success, but there were some bona fide gems in there, including a superlative production of The Winter’s Tale and the light relief of The Painkiller. It is rare to see a season of curated commercial theatre in the West End, and it was a genuine pleasure to welcome back an actor of Branagh’s calibre to Theatreland for an extended period. Let’s hope the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company returns for a second outing in the not-too-distant future.
Away from the Branagh season, Fiery Angel is also (like fellow nominee Kenny Wax) a key commercial producer of family and children’s shows. The stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild was among its line-up in 2016 and was the fourth production it has created under its Children’s Touring Partnership banner.
Kenny Wax Productions
Kenny Wax has been the driving commercial force behind the unlikely success of Mischief Theatre, the group behind The Play That Goes Wrong. Having discovered the show on the fringe with co-producer Mark Bentley, he convinced Mischief to redraft their one-hour play into a full-length show and the rest, as they say, is history. It proved to be one of the surprise West End hits of 2014, going on to win an Olivier award in 2015.
The company’s second West End outing in 2015 was Peter Pan Goes Wrong and Wax made it a hat-trick of West End hits in 2016 with The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. Broadway beckons for The Play That Goes Wrong in early 2017 and there’s a BBC TV adaptation of Peter Pan this Christmas. It really has been one of the most extraordinary producing success stories of the past decade.
Meanwhile, Wax also boasts a full slate including a specialism in children’s shows such as The Gruffalo, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and, most recently, Mr Popper’s Penguins.
Sonia Friedman Productions
Sonia Friedman is a two-time winner of this category. She defended her title in some style in 2016, producing indisputably the biggest opening of the year: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Her masterstroke has been making it a genuine extension of the Potter narrative, with a new story, rather than a straightforward page-to-stage adaptation. The show has been a monster hit as well as a critical triumph and looks set to join the ranks of West End long-runners such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
That show alone would probably have been enough to secure her nomination on the shortlist, but – never one to rest on her laurels – Friedman has also been behind one of 2016’s biggest musical openings – the West End premiere of Dreamgirls – as well as Nice Fish starring Mark Rylance, Funny Girl with Sheridan Smith (in the West End and soon to tour), Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon, Bend It Like Beckham, the tour of King Charles III and the ongoing London production of The Book of Mormon.
One of the few producers to straddle musical theatre and plays and to boast as strong a reputation for artistic taste as commercial acumen, her output – both in volume and quality – is extraordinary.
About the sponsor
PRG XL Video is a multi-award-winning supplier of lighting, video and rigging systems to the events and entertainment industry in the UK. Our clients include theatre designers, show producers, touring companies, television and film production, and the producers of special events.The range of services offered by PRG XL Video covers everything from support at the creative design stage, to supply of video and lighting technology, and 24 hour support whilst a production is live. PRG XL Video is part of Production Resource Group, which operates in 15 countries globally, and enables us to support theatre productions on worldwide touring projects.
School of the Year
Stage schools, drama schools or any organisations offering performing arts education are eligible. This covers all age ranges and education levels from stage schools for young children to degree and post-graduate education. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) exam results, Ofsted reports, ISI reports, alumni success.
Musical Theatre Academy
London-based Musical Theatre Academy won in this category in 2012, with its fast-track musical theatre programme slicing a year off students’ training and getting them ‘industry ready’ in two years rather than three.
Since then, the academy has continued its work providing professional musical theatre training – with the judges noting its graduates now regularly feature in top professional productions – alongside a robust pastoral care package.
In 2016, however, the academy took an admirable step in tackling the issue of mental health among performers by creating the #time4change charter. A total of 112 organisations, including other drama schools, have already signed up. In outlining the actions that can be taken on a day-to-day basis to make mental health and well-being a priority, MTA is nailing its colours to the mast when it comes to one of the most under-discussed issues both within the industry and on a broader societal level. It has also pledged to help people access to the help and support they need when necessary. Fact sheets and explanations of causes and effects that may impact an individual’s mental health and well-being are set out as part of the charter as well as information of where help can be sought.
The judges felt that, aside from its growing influence within the training sector, MTA’s spearheading of such a vital project as #time4change warranted recognition.
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
As well as being Wales’ primary performing arts college – with the largest community of arts practitioners anywhere in Wales – the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama has established itself as a world-class conservatoire not only for music but also for drama and the performing arts.
It is a key player in the creative industries in Wales and its graduates include countless established performers. In addition, the presence of RWCMD graduates working in the industry as designers and technical staff underlines the significance and extent of the college’s training offering.
A regular high scorer in the Guardian’s University Guide, RWCMD this year set up a graduate showcase in New York, in which 12 graduates performed for agents and casting directors in the US in September. This forward-looking commitment was followed swiftly by a new £120,000-partnership with Arts Council of Wales, which introduced a new awards scheme, as well as helped to fund the college’s annual festival of new writing.
The college truly fills a UK-wide remit, and has tendrils in many different aspects of the industry. In a year in which it has set out its plans to look internationally to set up its students for their futures, the judges found its consistently strong impact on the industry an impressive feat.
Urdang has a strong reputation for its dance and musical theatre graduates, and with an increase of alumni being cast in major productions – In the Heights is notably populated with former students – it is certainly a drama school on the up.
Known for its propensity to produce excellent dancers, Urdang Academy consistently turns out industry-ready musical theatre performers and dancers, with the judges commenting on their modern approach to training. Its dedication to ensuring it trains a range of talent and commitment to diversity is also commendable at a time when this is a live issue for drama schools, and the industry at large.
Based in slick modern facilities in the Old Finsbury Town Hall, the school feels fresh and contemporary, and its output speaks for itself. It boasts 95% of graduates working in the industry, with individuals performing in countless West End shows.
Graduates have also gone on to work in some of the most exciting UK productions of 2016, including Strictly Ballroom at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Five Guys Named Moe at the Festival Square Theatre in Edinburgh and Leicester Curve’s Grease.
About the sponsor
TodayTix is a mobile app for on-demand theatre tickets with everything, from day-of discounted tickets to premium seats. By streamlining the experience, when you decide to see a show, you can now buy tickets in less than 30 seconds. Currently live in nine cities, including London, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. You aren’t just reaching audiences in your city – but providing a worldwide theatregoing experience. With our exclusive Front Row Lottery and digital day-seat Rush programmes, we give you access to the most exclusive shows, readily available via your mobile. Download the app for iOS and Android or visit todaytix.co.uk
As with our other awards, this recognises excellence over the past 12 months. Any type of theatrical organisation or person (e.g. theatre, producer, school) is eligible for this award. However, it specifically recognises work with an international element. This could be UK companies taking work abroad, international companies bringing work to the UK, or organisations or people operating entirely outside the UK. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success, innovation.
Big in Belgium
In the four years that this programme has been showcased at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Big in Belgium’s line-up has become recognised as a mark of quality in fringe programming for its thought-provoking, thrilling work.
Brought to Edinburgh as a collaboration between producer Richard Jordan and Theatre Royal Plymouth, Big in Belgium is a platform for Flemish theatre at the fringe, running at Summerhall. It has programmed some of the most exciting artists and companies coming out of Belgium, including Ontroerend Goed, Skagen and Atelier Bildraum, as the number and significance of international shows at the fringe continue to grow.
This year proved its most successful yet, with the Fringe First-winning Us/Them by Bronks Theatre. The production was a stand-out show and a critical and popular success, so it is unsurprising that it has been snapped up for a transfer to the National Theatre in 2017.
Graeae Theatre Company
The past year has given Graeae its busiest yet in terms of its international work, which has been taken to seven countries. Brazil, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Mexico, Japan and Pakistan have all played host to Graeae in 2016, with shows including The Garden, which was produced in partnership with Brazilian circus company Crescer e Viver.
It was seen by an estimated 4,000 people live in Rio de Janeiro, as well as around 64,000 when the show was streamed and hosted online. Artistic director Jenny Sealey also directed a new adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in Bangladesh to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The production featured Bangla sign language, English and Bengali captions and audio description. The production process also required the removal of an entire wall to enable a wheelchair ramp to be installed at Dhaka Theatre.
Other projects included two trips to Japan – a workshop residency for a disabled theatre company, and discussions with the teams that will host the 2020 Olympics to explore how accessibility can play a part in the ceremonies.
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures
Matthew Bourne’s company, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, has long been a regular feature across the UK, but in the past decade or so Bourne’s commitment to touring has strengthened further with his work being taken more frequently across the globe.
The universal appeal of Bourne’s work lends itself well to international touring, and 2016 has been a remarkable year for it. New Adventures’ Sleeping Beauty has undertaken a mammoth tour to Asia, visiting Seoul, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo and Shanghai and reaching an audience of more than 70,000. Not only this, but New Adventures has undergone a step-change in the way it engages with foreign audiences. Audience engagement was boosted on the Asian tour, and Re:Bourne – the company’s charitable arm – delivered workshops and masterclasses in each city. New strategic relationships were formed between New Adventures and companies in Asia, and the company has enhanced its profile in the region as well as flying the flag for British culture abroad.
In the year in which Bourne premiered his 12th full-length production, The Red Shoes, and in which he was knighted for his services to dance, it is all the more commendable that New Adventures continues to nurture its work in new territories and bring Bourne’s dance to new audiences.
About the sponsor
The Ambassador Theatre Group is an extraordinary global success story. Founded in 1992, Ambassador Theatre Group is now the world’s number one live theatre company with 45 venues in the UK, the United States (including three in New York), and Australia, plus a production company in Germany. As a prolific international award-winning producer, it creates work across the entertainment spectrum. Dynamism, creativity and quality are at the heart of everything the company produces. Ambassador Theatre Group is also the market leader in theatre ticketing services through ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre and Group Line. Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees of The Stage Awards 2017 from everyone at Ambassador Theatre Group.
Sustainability Award NEW
The Sustainability Award is a new category, recognising theatres or companies that have implemented significant environmental initiatives. Any theatre company or organisation working in the sector is eligible and it is judged on supporting evidence. The judges take scale into account and accept submissions from organisations large and small.
Created in 2013, the Handlebards take Shakespeare productions up and down the country, with cast, scenery and props taken to each location by push bike.
The company has two troupes of actors, one female and one male. Each cycles around the UK, bringing productions to audiences through the sheer power of their legs and their trusty bikes, while they have also visited countries including India, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar. This means the company can rightfully claim to stage “charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe”.So far, they have covered 7,432 miles on two wheels. Their work has already seen them awarded an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Sustainable Practice award in 2014.
This year, the male company took Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing, while the female company toured Romeo and Juliet and The Taming of the Shrew. The theatre company’s innovative approach to touring and its boundless enthusiasm, rain or shine, caught the judges’ eyes.
London Theatre Consortium
London Theatre Consortium is a group of 14 London venues, including the Almeida Theatre, the Donmar Warehouse and the Bush Theatre, that work together to share best practice and advocate for the sector.
One of its key projects has been around sustainability. Working with Julie’s Bicycle, LTC is aiming to reach a target set by the Mayor of London to reduce the carbon footprint of London theatres by 60% by 2025.
The consortium is on its way to achieving this, and a report into its first five years shows that it has reduced emissions by 15%, and saved £265,000 in energy bills. All staff working in the theatres that are part of the consortium are trained in how to work sustainably, and individual theatres within the consortium have done their bit to raise awareness, while many have brought the conversation on to the stage, through commissioned work, including Oil at the Almeida.
The judges were impressed by the scope of the consortium’s work and its dedication to making genuine improvements in this area.
Theatre company Tara Arts opened new premises this year – a £2.5 million remodelling of its Earlsfield home that had an impressive focus on sustainability. All front of house and ancillary lighting is LED and recycled materials have been used wherever possible.
The building has two ‘green’ roofs with 16 solar panels, which are predicted to supply about 40% of the building’s electricity requirements. Reclaimed materials are used throughout, including antique doors from India.
There is also an earth stage floor, while the seating is recycled from the Courtyard Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s former temporary home.
The judges agreed that the new building for Tara Arts showed what is possible when it comes to sustainable practices and felt that the building offers an example for other new-building projects.
About the sponsor
GDS is a UK Manufacturer with a diverse range of technology-based products and a sales distribution network spanning 32 countries. Based in Bristol , GDS specialises in lighting and control solutions and has six market-leading brands in its product portfolio. Celebrating its 12th year, GDS continues to innovate at the forefront of the entertainment, architectural, television and corporate markets. From ArcSystem, the original wireless Auditorium LED Lighting System to BluesSystem backstage working lights and from CueSystem cue lights to its Stage Mangers Desk, GDS creates innovative, flexible solutions that have found their way from Broadway to the Liverpool Everyman and from The Esplanade Singapore to the Savoy Theatre London.
Innovation Award NEW
The Innovation Award highlights the best new design, technical or creative developments in the performing arts in the past 12 months. Any theatre company or organisation working in the sector is eligible and it is judged on supporting evidence. The judges take scale into account and accept submissions from organisations large and small.
It’s not often that sound design takes centre stage, yet when Complicite decided to rewrite Petru Popescu’s Amazon Beaming for the theatre, it was – in the words of sound designer Gareth Fry – “not the sort of story you can put on in the typical fashion”.
In a year that saw the Royal Shakespeare Company put a holographic ‘actor’ on stage, heading to the Amazon to record binaural sound using a head-shaped microphone might seem relatively lo-fi, but the result was truly astonishing. Delivered to the audience via headphones, the installation of The Encounter required several kilometres of cable and custom hardware manufactured by a team of sound engineers and seamstresses. The unique staging allowed Complicite to innovate its way to a wider audience, too: since the delivery lent itself perfectly to live streaming, the company opted to broadcast the performance to the world – for free – over consecutive days.
Happily, that access did not prevent the company from taking its elaborate installation on an extensive UK and international tour in 2016, following its world premiere in Edinburgh in 2015. Despite the complexity of the show, there is not a whiff of gimmickry – The Encounter is that rarest of achievements: a fluent, seemingly effortless fusion of art and technology, without compromise.
Les Enfants Terribles/Emma Brunjes Productions
No partnership has done more to breathe new life into immersive theatre than that between Les Enfants Terribles and Emma Brunjes Productions. Following on from 2015’s Alice’s Adventures Underground, they returned to the Vaults, below London’s Waterloo rail terminus, with Dinner at the Twits in 2016, riffing on Roald Dahl’s gruesome couple with an imaginative dinner-theatre experience where monkey waiters served audience members bloodied hearts and aural scratchings – the food prepared by culinary artists Bompas and Parr.
But before that, Les Enfants and Brunjes took up residency at Madame Tussauds for a paired set of Sherlock Holmes-themed attractions. The Sherlock Holmes Experience used designer Samuel Wyer’s skills to recreate a Victorian London in a Baker Street basement for the waxwork museum, but it really came into its own as an immersive experience in the evenings, when The Game’s Afoot – “an interactive Sherlock Holmes mystery-solving show” – opened to ticket holders. Part game, part theatre show and part museum piece, it demonstrated once again the partnership’s joyful disregard for traditional ways of making theatre in form, space and business model.
Its approach to working with an established mainstream tourist brand, and ability to deliver beyond the expected brief, are to be particularly commended.
New Diorama Theatre
A “bank for theatre companies” – this was how artistic director David Byrne described the launch of New Diorama’s Cash Flow Fund, a pot of money raised through booking fees that offers interest-free loans of up to £4,000 to help small theatremakers with wages, accommodation and deposits for venues. And it was just one thread of a suite of innovative development initiatives.
The London fringe theatre also launched its Graduate Emerging Companies Programme, which offers free use of the venue for a young company – and allows the visiting show to keep 100% of box office receipts; its Female Leadership Fund aims to give financial help with training for women artistic directors; and New Diorama’s Bamer Project, in partnership with charity Diorama Arts Studios, offered up to 30 weeks of free rehearsal space to companies with black, Asian, minority ethnic or refugee leadership.
“We’ve had such a huge response over the last year to the innovations we’ve introduced for artist development and for reshaping the vision of what a small theatre – especially one without regular Arts Council funding – can achieve,” said Byrne, as he unveiled yet another development programme in mid-2016 (this time for sketch comedy talent).
In 2017, four emerging theatre companies from Hull have been invited to show their work at the venue, which shows no signs of letting up on its programme of innovative schemes.
About the sponsor
Charcoalblue is the most exciting and innovative theatre consultancy in the world today. Founded in 2004, it has grown to a team of more than 50 working across four international studios including London, Bristol, New York and Melbourne. Theatre and acoustic consultants of choice for the country’s leading architects and theatre companies, Charcoalblue’s portfolio ranges from world-famous companies like the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the Sydney Theatre Company, to cutting-edge outfits such as Siobhan Davies Dance and Graeae.
An individual or team who/which has gone above and beyond the call of duty in its work in the performing arts industry. Perhaps this could be someone working front of house or as an usher, or someone who has run a theatre club or society for years without public recognition. High profile figures who feature or have featured previously in The Stage 100 are unlikely to be considered.
The Unsung Hero will be announced at The Stage Awards 2017 on January 27.
About the sponsor
WL offers creative solutions and technical excellence. We operate in a range of markets including theatre, concert touring, corporate events, broadcast, themed attractions, education and trade. Since our formation in 1971, we have forged a reputation for supplying technical solutions including lighting, audio, video and rigging to various projects across the UK, Europe and worldwide. We pride ourselves on the knowledge, service and high standards that have earned us the trust of professionals across the entertainment spectrum. Most recent shows WL supplied were Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Aladdin, Groundhog Day and the Billy Elliot UK tour.
How we choose our shortlists and winners
Stage one In November, we held an open nominations process. Organisations were able to put themselves, or others, forward for consideration across all the categories. Hundreds of detailed nominations were received from organisations across the UK.
Stage two We asked 50 leading figures from the UK theatre industry, working across the commercial, independent and subsidised sectors, who they would nominate in each category. We also consulted senior figures from The Stage’s editorial team.
Stage three The final judging panel met to consider all the submissions and choose the final shortlist. The panel was chaired by The Stage’s print editor Alistair Smith and included online editor Paddy Smith, news editor Matthew Hemley, associate editor Mark Shenton and lead critic Natasha Tripney.
Nominations for next year’s awards open in November 2017.
The Stage is hugely proud of its association with Integro Insurance Brokers Ltd which helps to make The Stage Awards a special event
Integro Insurance brokers – incorporating Robertson Taylor W&P Longreach, Doodson, ACJ and Ellis Clowes – is an international insurance brokerage operating from offices spread across the UK and USA. Recognised as world leaders in our field, our major entertainment and sport practice specialises in designing insurance policies that meet the needs and special requirements of theatres and venues, bands and artists of all stature, film and TV production companies, sports governing bodies, teams and players.
We have provided insurance for more than 65% of the West End productions and advise approximately 130 theatres and venues in the UK. We provide advisory and risk management services to prestigious West End and Broadway theatre productions, national and international stage production companies and theatres, and many fringe venues throughout the UK. Our clients include: theatres, arts and multimedia venues, producers and production companies, dance companies, management companies, equipment hire companies, management consultants, event management, and production and set builders.
Our team of experts meets the insurance needs of those engaged right across the entertainment industry – we are always happy to provide a quotation and advice, or if you would like more information visit www.integrogroup.com
Integro Insurance Brokers is extremely proud to be sponsoring The Stage Awards for a fourth year and would like to wish the nominees in each category of the awards the very best of luck.