The Stage 100 2013: numbers 11 to 20

Sonia Friedman. Photo: Richard Pohle
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11th: Sonia Friedman

Sonia Friedman Productions

Last year: 13th

Highest ever: 7th

Following the unexpected commercial success of Jerusalem was always going to be a tricky task, but Sonia Friedman was up to it and in 2012 turned a Shakespeare double bill into one of the West End’s hottest tickets. Mark Rylance was, again, the big draw, taking on the roles of Richard III and Olivia in Twelfth Night, alongside Stephen Fry’s Malvolio. But, Friedman’s output during the year also extended two excellent Alan Ayckbourn revivals (A Chorus of Disapproval and Absent Friends), a touring musical (Legally Blonde) and a star-led revival of Neil Simon’s Sunshine Boys with Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths. This year, The Book of Mormon musical, an impressive looking revival of Pinter’s Old Times are already in the offing. Sonia Friedman’s name has become a consistent badge of quality on a theatre production.


Bill Kenwright. Photo: Jon Hall/Sky Arts

12th Bill Kenwright

Bill Kenwright Limited

Last year: 12th

Highest ever: 6th

Prolific doesn’t even begin to cover it. The volume of output from Kenwright towers is second to none and there are times when it seems as though BKL is keeping the entire touring circuit going single-handedly. But  Kenwright’s work is by no means confined to the regions, he has had ten shows in the West End at various times during 2012: including Blood Brothers, The Wizard of Oz, Three Days in May, Soul Sister, Dreamcoats and Petticoats and Cabaret. One name that will be conspicuous by its absence from that list in 2013 is Blood Brothers, which bade farewell to the Phoenix Theatre after a stint that saw it become the West End’s third longest running musical. Out on the road, Joseph, Blood Brothers and Dreamcoats are all stalwarts, while they have been joined by Starlight Express and countless others - BKL had 11 productions and two co-productions out on tour during the year.


Nick Thomas

13th: Nick Thomas

Qdos Entertainment

Last year: 10th

Highest ever: 7th

Nick Thomas started his career in entertainment as a puppeteer and he now pulls the strings (sorry) of one of theatre’s most significant commercial enterprises, with a turnover estimated to be around the £60 million mark in 2012/13. Qdos is both one of UK theatre’s most significant producers – 24 pantomimes this Christmas – and regional theatre’s second largest venue operator through its subsidiary HQ Theatres. Having added G Live and Watford Colosseum to its portfolio in 2011, the company (of which Thomas is founder and chairman) secured a management contract on the Lyceum in Crewe during 2012, with the deal coming into effect this month. Meanwhile, its talent division represents some of the biggest names in light entertainment. One would expect its venue division to grow in the coming years, as more and more councils look for commercial operators to run their local theatres.


Dominic Dromgoole. Photo: Bronwen Sharp

14th Dominic Dromgoole and Neil Constable

Shakespeare’s Globe


Shakespeare’s Globe enjoyed a watershed year in 2012. Once derided as a kind of theatrical Disneyworld when it was launched in 1997, the venue has consistently proved its doubters wrong with the artistic quality of its work improving year on year. But in 2012, it took its output to a new level with its inspired and ambitious Globe to Globe season that saw 37 international theatre companies perform all Shakespeare’s plays across six weeks this summer. Then there’s the small matter of the Mark Rylance double bill which went on to transfer to the West End and the company’s hugely successful tour of Anne Boleyn, produced with English Touring Theatre. Meanwhile, there’s plenty look forward to with the creation of the indoor Sam Wanamker Theatre due to turn the venue into a year-round operation. And, let’s not forget, The Globe is doing all this with absolutely no core funding from Arts Council England. An almost inconceivable achievement.


David Lan. Photo: Simon Annand

15th: David Lan

Young Vic

Last year: 16th

Highest ever: 15th

The Young Vic has been quietly performing at the top of its game for quite some time now and 2012 was no exception. The London venue has long enjoyed a reputation as the UK’s directors’ theatre and last year saw some bold re-imagining of classics, starting off with Ian Rickson’s Hamlet and including Joe Hill-Gibbins’ The Changeling, Carrie Cracknell’s A Doll’s House and Benedict Andrews’ Three Sisters. But the Young Vic’s programme has not focussed exclusively on director-led revivals, with the venue also giving a home to more experimental work such as Sound & Fury’s immersive soundscape Going Dark and Peter Brook’s The Suit. Its artistic director David Lan has proved a canny programmer and a leading light in attempts to improve collaboration between theatres in the capital.


Tony Hall. Photo: Johan Persson

16th: Tony Hall

Royal Opera House

Last year: 15th

Highest ever: 15th

When Tony Hall took over the running of the Royal Opera House in 2001, he found an organisation in a state of disarray which he has since helped transform into a widely respected and admired national institution. When he was given the tasked of overseeing the Cultural Olympiad in 2009, he was faced with a similar job. In March, he leaves Covent Garden to take over as director general of the embattled BBC. A pattern begins to emerge. Hall is a well-liked, affable and an extremely able manager and political operator and should be a success at the Corporation, where he also worked prior to joining ROH. He leaves behind an organisation that is far more open, accessible and financially robust than the one he inherited. Highlights of 2012 included a revival of its Ring Cycle.


Julian Bird. Photo: Stephanie Methven

17th: Julian Bird

Society of London Theatre/
Theatrical Management Association

Last year: 18th

Highest ever: 17th

Julian Bird has cemented his place in the top 20 this year by continuing his fine work in the dual role of chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and the Theatrical Management Association. We don’t usually list heads of trade bodies in The Stage 100, but Bird qualifies as producer of the two organisations’ awards ceremonies – the Olivier Awards and Theatre Awards UK. Both have been utterly transformed under his stewardship and now serve as the shop windows that the theatre industry deserves. Both ceremonies upped their games again in 2012, while news that the Oliviers look set to be screened on ITV in 2013 should see their stock rising even higher. The impact that this extra exposure has for the industry at large should not be underestimated.


Daniel Evans

18th: Daniel Evans/Dan Bates

Sheffield Theatres


Along with Chichester, Sheffield Theatres has been the most successful of our regional theatres over the last few years. Since the Crucible reopened in 2010 with Daniel Evans at the helm, it has quickly re-established itself as one of UK theatre’s key producing venues. In 2012, it secured its first London transfer of Evans’ tenure with its revival of Democracy moving to the Old Vic. One suspects it won’t be the last show to make the journey down the M1 – indeed, you wouldn’t bet against its Christmas production of My Fair Lady, starring Dominic West, following suit. Other highlights of the year included a season dedicated to Michael Frayn, Evans’ own staging of Macbeth and a rare restaging of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey and a first revival of The Village Bike by Penelope Skinner. In the Lyceum, meanwhile, Sheffield Theatres operates one of regional theatre’s principal receiving houses.


Josie Rourke. Photo: John Hunter

19th: Josie Rourke

Donmar Warehouse

Last year: 17th

Highest ever: 17th

Michael Grandage was always going to be a tough act to follow at the Donmar. Josie Rourke’s first season has marked a clear departure from her predecessor – most notably in the theatre’s attempts via its Barclays Front Row ticketing scheme to shift the venue away from what had almost become a subscription model. It has been a bold move, as has some of the programming. The year ended on a divisive, but exciting note, with Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female staging of Julius Caesar splitting critics, while other highlights included Rourke’s own staging of The Recruiting Officer. The forthcoming season looks promising with revivals of Trelawny of the Wells and The Weir already programmed. Meanwhile, the theatre’s initiative for graduates of its resident assistant director programme has continued to impress at the Trafalgar Studios.


Mark Rylance. Photo: Rebecca Reid

20th: Mark Rylance


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The greatest actor of his generation? Mark Rylance has proved that it is possible to be a huge theatre box office draw without a TV or film profile. Following on from Jerusalem in 2011, which saw people queuing round the block to watch Rylance’s blockbusting turn, he has proved that it was by no means a one-off with the Shakespearean double-bill of Twelfth Night and Richard III, which – having transferred from Shakespeare’s Globe – has again become one of the West End’s most in-demand tickets. While Stephen Fry has provided some of the pulling power, the undoubted main attraction is Rylance as Richard III and Olivia. This year, he will be exhibiting his talents from off stage, when he directs Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic with Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones as Beatrice and Benedick. A mouth-watering prospect.