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The Stage 100 2016 (20-11)

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20 Sarah Frankcom

Sarah Frankcom. Photo: Jonathan Keenan
Sarah Frankcom. Photo: Jonathan Keenan

Manchester Royal Exchange
Last year marked Frankcom’s first full year as sole artistic director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange and saw the theatre’s reinvigoration continue apace. It created 13 productions, as well as transforming its 2014 production of Hamlet, starring Maxine Peake, into a film, which was broadcast to more than 300 cinemas across the UK. Peake returned to the theatre for Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker; meanwhile it staged Anna Jordan’s Bruntwood Prize-winning Yen, and closed the year with Matthew Xia’s revival of Into the Woods, among a generally excellent programme. Frankcom is fast re-establishing the Exchange as one of the UK’s most exciting and vibrant producing theatres.

Last year: 51st
Productions include: The Skriker, Yen, Into the Woods, The Crucible, The Rolling Stone
Coming up in 2016: Wit, King Lear, The Night Watch

19 Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon

Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon. Photo: Helen Maybanks
Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Playful Productions
Formed in 2010 by this trio, Playful Productions has built itself into one of the UK theatre’s leading production companies and almost unquestionably its leading general manager. It general-manages many of the West End’s biggest musicals (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Kinky Boots, Wicked) and is also a leading producer, particularly of plays. Its 2015 stable included American Buffalo starring John Goodman and Damian Lewis, The Audience (with Helen Mirren in the US and Kristin Scott Thomas in the UK) and Hangmen’s transfer from the Royal Court.

Last year: 22nd
Productions include: Wolf Hall, The Audience, American Buffalo, Hangmen, Shrek on tour, Mack and Mabel on tour
Coming up in 2016: Hangmen continues, Shrek tour continues, No Man’s Land with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen

18 Toni Racklin

Toni Racklin. Photo: Eliza Power
Toni Racklin. Photo: Eliza Power

Barbican Centre
London’s leading home for international theatre was also the base for some of the year’s biggest homegrown productions in 2015. Having re-established relations with the Royal Shakespeare Company, it hosted its productions of Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V, but its biggest show was the non-RSC, Sonia Friedman-produced Hamlet, with Benedict Cumberbatch. Alongside that stellar fare, there was a cornucopia of global theatre delights, including Waiting for Godot from Sydney Theatre Company.

Last year: 20th
Productions include: Hamlet, RSC’s King and Country, Sydney Theatre Company’s Waiting for Godot, Antigone with Juliet Binoche
Coming up in 2016: Complicite’s The Encounter, Table Top Shakespeare, Kings of War, Schaubuhne Berlin’s The Forbidden Zone, Robert Lepage’s Needles and Opium

17 Bill Kenwright

Bill Kenwright . Photo: Mike Egerton
Bill Kenwright . Photo: Mike Egerton

Despite the fact that Kenwright himself has been battling ill health during 2015, his production company Bill Kenwright Ltd continues to be one of UK theatre’s most significant producers, especially on the touring circuit. His tours of shows like Jesus Christ Superstar, Blood Brothers, Joseph and Evita are the lifeblood of many receiving houses’ theatre programmes and he supplements these musical theatre favourites with tribute shows and popular plays. A bit quieter than usual in the West End last year, but War of the Worlds comes to the Dominion soon.

Last year: 11th
Productions include: Twelve Angry Men, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Shawshank RedemptionBlood Brothers
Coming up in 2016: War of the Worlds transfers to the Dominion, a raft of touring shows

16 Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunton. Photo: Johan Persson
Imelda Staunton. Photo: Johan Persson

Three-time Olivier award winner Imelda Staunton will almost certainly make it four this year, following her widely acclaimed performance as Rose in Gypsy. It was, quite simply, the musical theatre performance of the year, made even more impressive by the fact that Staunton was performing all eight shows a week, in what is an incredibly demanding role. We do not have enough superlatives to do her justice. Expect a full-scale riot at the Royal Opera House if she doesn’t win best actress in a musical at the Oliviers in April.

Interview with Imelda Staunton

Last year: 70th
Productions include: Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Good People
Coming up in 2016: Having a well-deserved break, we hope. Mind you, not for too long, please.

15 Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Johan Persson
Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: Johan Persson

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican Centre was undoubtedly the theatrical event of 2015, with the actor’s fans camping out to watch the Sherlock star in the flesh (and take photos of him to keep for later). While the production may not have lived up to the hype, Cumberbatch’s ability to shift tickets is currently unmatched in terms of singular star power. He also boasts a genuine theatrical pedigree and we must hope that he isn’t lost completely to TV and film, where he is equally in demand. He also used his star power to raise money for those affected by the refugee crisis with bucket collections after every Hamlet performance.

Last year: New entry
Productions include: Hamlet, Frankenstein, After the DanceHedda Gabler
Coming up in 2016: No theatre announced

14 Daniel Evans and Dan Bates

Dan Bates. Photo: Stephanie Methven
Dan Bates. Photo: Stephanie Methven
Daniel Evans. Photo: Jacqui Bellamy
Daniel Evans. Photo: Jacqui Bellamy

Sheffield Theatres
Faced with a funding landscape that has hardly been kind to regional theatre, Evans and Bates have achieved remarkable things since Evans’ surprise appointment in 2009. He will certainly leave the theatre in a better state than he found it when he departs to join Chichester later this year. Highlights of the 2015 season included Evans’ superlative staging of the musical Show Boat, the hugely ambitious Sarah Kane season and Camelot: The Shining City, a co-production with Slung Low which saw the remarkable immersive show spilling out from the Crucible theatre into the streets of Sheffield. A two-time winner of The Stage Awards regional theatre of the year during his tenure, Evans will be a hard act to follow, but in Bates, Sheffield has one of UK theatre’s best chief executives.

Last year: 16th
Productions include: Show Boat, Sarah Kane season, The Effect, Pride and Prejudice, Camelot: The Shining City
Coming up in 2016: Waiting for Godot, The Nap by Richard Bean, Flowers for Mrs Harris, A Raisin in the Sun, Contractions

13 Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham

Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham. Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Donmar Warehouse
An impressive year at the Donmar was bookended by two blockbuster productions, both directed by Rourke – the musical City of Angels (which picked up the 2015 Olivier for best musical revival) and a new  production of Christopher Hampton’s stage adaptation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. In between, there was more adventurous fare: Simon Russell Beale in Temple, Christopher Shinn’s Teddy Ferrara and The Vote, a new political play by James Graham and a bold experiment with form, which was broadcast live on More4 on the night of the general election. Meanwhile, one of 2014’s hits, My Night With Reg, transferred to the West End and the Donmar’s all-female production of Henry IV transferred to New York.

Last year: 14th
Productions include: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, City of Angels, Temple, My Night With Reg
Coming up in 2016: Welcome Home, Captain Fox, Elegy, Faith Healer

12 Rufus Norris, Lisa Burger and Ben Power

Ben Power. Photo: Bill Knight
Ben Power. Photo: Bill Knight
Lisa Burger. Photo: Matt Humphrey
Lisa Burger. Photo: Matt Humphrey
Rufus Norris. Photo: Paul Plews
Rufus Norris. Photo: Paul Plews

National Theatre
It’s been something of a bumpy ride for Norris since he took over as director of the National Theatre. Tessa Ross quit as chief executive of the flagship company in April, after less than six months in post. Burger stepped up to fill the gap and Norris has also been ably supported by the increasingly influential deputy artistic director Power, but it hasn’t been the start he would have been hoping for.

While Everyman showed verve and much promise and there were some flashes of real quality across 2015, with productions such as the superb People, Places and Things and The Motherf**ker With the Hat, there have also been some genuine disappointments, such as Norris’ own production of  Wonder.land, Damon Albarn’s new musical.

Norris has pedigree and we’re sure there’s more and better to come, but it does still feel like the new era at the National has yet to fully take flight. On the other hand, the building itself is now looking as good as it ever has, following the completion of the NT Future project, and the Temporary Theatre has been an unalloyed success.

Last year: 25th
Productions include: Everyman, Husbands and Sons, Wonder.land,  People, Places and Things, As You Like ItJane Eyre
Coming up in 2016: Cleansed by Sarah Kane, The Threepenny Opera in a new adaptation by Simon Stephens, The Deep Blue Sea, The Flick, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

11 Dominic Dromgoole and Neil Constable

Neil Constable. Photo: Eliza Power
Neil Constable. Photo: Eliza Power
Dominic Dromgoole. Photo: Shakespeare's Globe
Dominic Dromgoole. Photo: Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe
We recognised Shakespeare’s Globe for its international work at The Stage Awards in early 2015: its two-year global tour of Hamlet (still ongoing) is a monumental achievement. But it is at its home base on the South Bank where the Globe has really excelled. Since opening the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2014, the venue has become a year-round operation and it was the candle-lit production of Farinelli and the King (starring former Globe artistic director Mark Rylance) which proved to be one of 2015’s big hits, first at the Wanamaker and then in the West End.

Another of the Globe’s new works, Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, enjoyed an acclaimed run in the open-air during the summer and will transfer to the West End’s Apollo Theatre in 2016, with Gemma Arterton taking over the title role from Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Work from Simon Godwin, Blanche McIntyre and Jonathan Munby also impressed.

It is worth remarking that while the Globe is not-for-profit, it operates without subsidy. Dromgoole will be succeeded by Emma Rice this year, an appointment which (like Dromgoole’s a decade ago) came out of left field. Interesting times ahead.

Last year: 7th
Productions include: Farinelli and the King, Nell Gwynn, The Oresteia, Measure for Measure, Richard II
Coming up in 2016: Nell Gwynn in the West End, 37 short films to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest

100-81 80-61 60-41 40-21 20-11 10-6 5-1

How we chose The Stage 100

We introduced a slightly different methodology for deciding the final 100 this year. It included three stages.

Stage one
We invited 50 leading figures from the theatre and performing arts industry to submit anonymously the five people they would place from numbers one to five in the list, plus one other name they believed should feature in the list and why. The 50 people were drawn from different areas of the industry and a variety of professions within it.

Stage two
We invited senior editorial contributors to The Stage to submit their suggestions for the final list.

Stage three
A final judging panel (comprising print editor Alistair Smith, online editor Paddy Smith, news editor Matthew Hemley, associate editor Mark Shenton and reviews editor Natasha Tripney) considered all the names submitted in stages one and two, added their own submissions and decided on the final list.

The Stage 100 is intended to reflect the 100 most influential people working in the theatre and performing arts industry. It is considered from the point of view of The Stage as a trade publication and so focuses on theatre both as a business and an art form. Inclusion within the list and ranking is weighted towards achievements in the past 12 months, but also takes into account continuous achievement. We also aim to have a list that – as much as is possible and plausible – reflects the astonishing breadth of the theatre industry. However, we do not weight the list in an attempt to make it gender-balanced or ethnically diverse: we believe the list should aim to reflect the way the theatre and performing arts industry is, not what it aims to be, or what we would like it to be.


The Stage 100 in full

2015 entry in parentheses

Numbers 100 to 81

100. Danny Lee Wynter (new)
99. Kate McGrath and Louise Blackwood (new)
98. Jess Thom (new)
97. Rachel O’Riordan (new)
96. Tom Scutt (new)
95. Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt (new)
94. Rachel Edwards (new)
93. Equity, BECTU, MU and SDUK (72)
92. Paul Miller (100)
91. Madani Younis (40)
90. Lyndsey Turner (new)
89. James Dacre and Martin Sutherland (92)
88. Deborah Pearson, Andy Field and Ira Brand (new)
87. Danny Moar and Laurence Boswell (67)
86. Chris Goode (new)
85. Ed Bartlam and Charlie Wood (new)
84. Howard Goodall (new)
83. Denise Gough (new)
82. Michael Billington and Lyn Gardner (83)
81. Drew McOnie (new)

Numbers 80 to 61

80. Janie Dee (new)
79. Christopher Haydon (new)
78. James Graham (95)
77. Noma Dumezweni (new)
76. Marianne Elliott (79)
75. Hofesh Shecter (new)
74. James Brining and Robin Hawkes (new)
73. Jonathan Kent (new)
72. Jeremy Herrin and Henny Finch (66)
71. David Hare (44)
70. Beverley Knight (new)
69. Tamara Rojo (new)
68. Edward Hall and Greg Ripley-Duggan (34)
67. Sean Holmes (90)
66. John Stalker (new)
65. Mark Goucher (41)
64. Mike Bartlett (74)
63. Tristan Baker (new)
62. Nikolai Foster and Chris Stafford (new)
61. Simon Russell Beale (38)

Numbers 60 to 41

60. Simon Stephens (88)
59. Edward Snape (78)
58. Martin McDonagh (new)
57. Simon McBurney (new)
56. David Greig (new)
55. Fergus Linehan (new)
54. Alex Beard (43)
53. Caryl Churchill (new)
52. James Grieve and George Perrin (30)
51. Maxine Peake (new)
50. Richard Eyre (new)
49. Jenny Sealey (new)
48. Michael McCabe (42)
47. Purni Morrell (48)
46. Vicky Featherstone (63)
45. Julian Bird (37)
44. Rachel Tackley (53)
43. Thomas Schumacher (68)
42. Matthew Bourne (75)
41. Adam Kenwright (84)

Numbers 40 to 21

40. Laurie Sansom (26)
39. John E McGrath (26)
38. Indhu Rubasingham (56)
37. Kenny Wax (71)
36. Robert Icke (96)
35. Gemma Bodinetz and Deborah Aydon (19)
34. Matthew Warchus (new)
33. Caro Newling (24)
32. Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr (4)
31. David Babani (31)
30. Sheridan Smith (new)
29. Mark Rylance (new)
28. Alistair Spalding (33)
27. Steve Tomkins and Graham Haworth (10)
26. Nick Thomas (15)
25. Jamie Lloyd (18)
24. Michael Grandage (28)
23. Kenneth Branagh (new)
22. David Ian (45)
21. Michael Harrison (23)

Numbers 20 to 11

20. Sarah Frankcom (51)
19. Matthew Byam Shaw, Nia Janis, Nick Salmon (22)
18. Toni Racklin (20)
17. Bill Kenwright (11)
16. Imelda Staunton (70)
15. Benedict Cumberbatch (new)
14. Daniel Evans and Dan Bates (16)
13. Josie Rourke and Kate Pakenham (14)
12. Rufus Norris, Lisa Berger and Ben Power (25)
11. Dominic Dromgoole and Neil Constable (7)

Numbers 10 to 6

10. Rupert Goold (13)
9. Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer (12)
8. Jonathan Church and Alan Finch (8)
7. Gregory Doran, Catherine Mallyon, Erica Whyman (9)
6. David Lan and Lucy Woollatt (6)

Top five

5. Peter Bazalgette and Darren Henley (new)
4. Andrew Lloyd Webber (5)
3. Cameron Mackintosh and Nick Allott (2)
2. Sonia Friedman (3)
1. Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire (1)

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