Get our free email newsletter with just one click

The Stage 100 2016 (60-41)

by -

60 Simon Stephens

Simon Stephens. Photo: Joel Fildes
Simon Stephens. Photo: Joel Fildes

While his mega-successful adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time continues to pull in the crowds in the West End, Stephens also had a busy year outside Theatreland, with productions at the Almeida (Carmen Disrupted), the Young Vic (Song from Far Away) and Manchester’s Home (The Funfair). His adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was also a hit on Broadway, where it won the Tony award for best play. A prolific and versatile playwright. Last year: 88

59 Edward Snape

Edward Snape. Photo: Shaun Webb
Edward Snape. Photo: Shaun Webb

Snape, through his production company Fiery Angel, was behind one of the most eagerly awaited theatre events of 2015 – Kenneth Branagh’s season of plays at the Garrick. The season kicked off with The Winter’s Tale, a box office hit both at the theatre and in cinemas, when it was broadcast live. A specialist in work for young audiences, in 2015 Fiery Angel was also behind a revival of Goodnight Mister Tom in the West End, To Kill a Mockingbird at the Barbican and Peppa Pig. It also co-produced Ben Hur at the Tricycle in London. Last year: 78

58 Martin McDonagh

Martin McDonagh. Photo:Helen Murray
Martin McDonagh. Photo:Helen Murray

McDonagh returned to the stage in triumphant style in 2015 with the world premiere of the darkly comic Hangmen. A hit for the Royal Court, it transferred to Wyndham’s, where it opened to rave reviews. McDonagh created an event piece of theatre – a must-see – cementing his reputation as one of the UK’s most exciting playwrights. He may not be prolific, but he has plenty of style. And he has promised a revival of The Pillowman in 2016, which will no doubt be another highlight of the theatrical calendar. New entry

Martin McDonagh: ‘I would be homeless without the National and Royal Court’

57 Simon McBurney

Simon McBurney. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock
Simon McBurney. Photo: Featureflash/Shutterstock

In 2015, Complicite premiered its new work, The Encounter, as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was, by some way, the most critically acclaimed show of the festival. A solo performance from McBurney, it was praised by The Independent as “masterful storytelling from a man and a company who are incapable of remaining within known theatrical boundaries”, and the production featured in many critics’ best shows of the year. The Encounter comes to the Barbican in London this year. New entry

56 David Greig

David Greig. Photo: Katrin Ribbe
David Greig. Photo: Katrin Ribbe

Greig’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory continues to do big business at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, while his production of The Lorax, in which he lovingly recreated Dr Seuss’ book on stage, was a hit for the Old Vic. A respected playwright, Greig was also appointed the new artistic director of the Lyceum in Edinburgh in 2015, a move that was hailed by the Scottish theatre sector. He was also a key figure behind the Welcome to the Fringe event for Palestinian artists at the Edinburgh Fringe. New entry

55 Fergus Linehan

Fergus Linehan. Photo: Eoin Carey
Fergus Linehan. Photo: Eoin Carey

Edinburgh International Festival
It’s been two years since Linehan was named director of the Edinburgh International Festival, but 2015 marked the first event under his tenure. His first season saw Complicite’s The Encounter, a co-production with the Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre of Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark (in a new adaptation by David Greig), and the European premiere of Robert Lepage’s 887, as well as Ivo van Hove’s Antigone starring Juliette Binoche. The festival posted record ticket sales of £3.8 million. Linehan previously said he wanted to revolutionise the event. It seems he’s well on his way. New entry

54 Alex Beard

Alex Beard. Photo: Helen Maybanks
Alex Beard. Photo: Helen Maybanks

Royal Opera House
The year wasn’t without controversy for the Royal Opera House, of which Beard is chief executive. The venue came under fire for a graphic rape scene in its production of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Audiences booed. That aside, the venue presented new works from popular artists including Enda Walsh and Donnacha Dennehy, as well as Hofesh Shechter and John Fulljames’ Orphee Et Eurydice, alongside revivals of classics such as Carmen and newer works. ROH also unveiled its new costume store in Thurrock and was granted permission for a £27m refurbishment. It also launched a new degree course in costume construction. Last year: 43

53 Caryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill. Photo: Marc Brenner
Caryl Churchill. Photo: Marc Brenner

Described as the “most sought-after ticket of the Manchester International Festival”, a revival of Churchill’s The Skriker was a critical success, with The Stage lead critic Natasha Tripney calling it “big, bold, ambitious, visually and linguistically rich”. Churchill’s new play, Here We Go, received its world premiere at the National Theatre this year, and she has also been commissioned to write Escaped Alone for the Royal Court, a play that promises roles for older actresses. She continues to push the boundaries of theatrical form. Last year: 24

52 James Grieve and George Perrin

George Perrin. Photo: Geraint Lewis
George Perrin. Photo: Geraint Lewis
James Grieve. Photo: Geraint Lewis
James Grieve. Photo: Geraint Lewis

Paines Plough
The joint winner of The Stage award for Theatre Building of the Year in 2015, Paines Plough’s travelling Roundabout venue has done the rounds with appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe, Brighton Festival, London’s South Bank and Latitude. But those were just the landmarks in a 2015 season that took in 74 locations “from Cornwall to the Orkney Islands”. Under artistic directors Grieve and Perrin, the company was also awarded a grant for more than £750,000 to create a network of new writing festivals around the UK. Its 2015 season featured 12 productions. Last year: 30

51 Maxine Peake

Maxine Peake. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Maxine Peake. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Peake is as loved for her stage work as she is for her numerous TV performances. In 2015 she starred in The Skriker, by Caryl Churchill, and was described as “magnetic” by Guardian critic Michael Billington. She also featured in How to Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court – and was again credited with bringing “magnetism” to her role by the same critic. Peake is also a respected activist within the sector. New entry

50 Richard Eyre

Richard Eyre. Photo: David McNeil
Richard Eyre. Photo: David McNeil

It’s been a busy year for Eyre, whose Mr Foote’s Other Leg transferred from the Hampstead Theatre to Theatre Royal Haymarket, the venue the titular Foote helped to build. Eyre also staged Ibsen’s Little Eyolf at the Almeida and directed the TV adaptation of The Dresser, the centrepiece of the BBC’s On Stage season, starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins. His book – What Do I Know? People, Politics and the Arts – was nominated for the Sheridan Morley Prize. In 2016, he will direct Lesley Manville and Jeremy Irons in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. New entry

49 Jenny Sealey

Jenny Sealey. Photo: Cetti Roberts
Jenny Sealey. Photo: Cetti Roberts

Graeae returned to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, 12 years after the UK’s foremost disabled-led theatre company was last represented at the event. The Solid Life of Sugar Water, a co-production with Theatre Royal Plymouth directed by Sealey’s associate director, was universally critically acclaimed and will now undertake a national tour in the spring. In May, the company was awarded an Arts Council England grant for £2.3 million to fund the first three years of its Ramps on the Moon touring project. Sealey is an outspoken advocate for disability arts. New entry

Interview with Jenny Sealey

48 Michael McCabe

Michael McCabe
Michael McCabe

McCabe is the executive producer of Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, a show that is now the 19th longest-running production in the West End’s history, as well as the musical’s UK tour. This year, he also announced a new production company with Joshua Andrews. The new venture, Andrews McCabe Productions, already has five shows in development. It will stage shows both nationally and internationally, and also provide general management services. His new company will work on musicals, plays and revivals, and will no doubt be one to watch out for in 2016. Last year: 42

47 Purni Morrell

Purnie Morell. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Purnie Morell. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Unicorn Theatre, London
The Unicorn Theatre, which celebrated 10 years at its current London address in 2015, continues to programme an exhilarating array of theatre for younger audiences under the stewardship of Morrell, who has helped transform work for children during her tenure, which began in 2011. Highlights from the theatre in 2015 included Baddies: The Musical, directed by Morrell, while the venue will premiere a new work by Timberlake Wertenbaker in 2016. Whether it will be enough to reverse a worrying downward trend in school group attendances remains to be seen. Last year: 48

46 Vicky Featherstone

Vicky Featherstone. Photo: Mark Hamilton
Vicky Featherstone. Photo: Mark Hamilton

Royal Court, London
Although Featherstone’s tenure at the Royal Court is yet to find an even keel, she has been tireless in her support of women and parents in the arts, and has launched an initiative at the Chelsea venue to support youth theatre that will be piloted this year. Zinnie Harris’ How to Hold Your Breath was among her 2015 highlights, while the Court’s 60th anniversary season, beginning this month, will include new work from Caryl Churchill and Alistair McDowall. Away from the Court, she also directed the remarkable Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. Last year: 63

45 Julian Bird

Julian Bird. Photo: Pamela Raith
Julian Bird. Photo: Pamela Raith

Society of London Theatre
The chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre oversees two of the benchmarks of British theatrical silverware: the Oliviers and the UK Theatre Awards. As the West End comes under fire for ever-increasing ticket prices (Elf and The Book of Mormon both breached the £200 barrier in 2015), it is encouraging to see initiatives such as SOLT’s free tickets for children through Kids Week, spearheaded by Emma de Souza and now lasting for a month, and Get Into London Theatre, which prices West End tickets from £10, continue to flourish. Last year: 37

44 Rachel Tackley

Rachel Tackley
Rachel Tackley

English Touring Theatre
Tackley remains the director of English Touring Theatre, which has five tours planned for 2016 and several projects in development – no mean feat considering the budget for Arts Council England’s strategic touring programme is to be cut by nearly a quarter (£10 million) over the next three years. The company has also brought Jeremy Woodhouse aboard as associate producer in 2015 (from Theatre503) and appointed actor Stephen Mangan as a patron. Tackley steps down from her other role, at UK Theatre, where she is president, in 2016. Last year: 53

43 Thomas Schumacher

Thomas Schumacher
Thomas Schumacher

Disney Theatrical Productions
Can Aladdin mimic the success of Disney’s The Lion King in the West End? That will be the hope of Disney Theatrical Productions’ president, who is bringing the stage adaptation of the 1992 blockbuster film to the Prince Edward Theatre in May. Not that 2015 was quiet – Schumacher co-produced a tour of Mary Poppins with Cameron Mackintosh, while The Lion King remains the highest-grossing musical of all time. Shakespeare in Love opens in Canada in 2016. Last year: 68

42 Matthew Bourne

Matthew Bourne. Photo: Hugo Gendinning
Matthew Bourne. Photo: Hugo Gendinning

Bourne collected The Stage award for outstanding contribution to British theatre at the UK Theatre Awards, in a year when his company, New Adventures, revived The Car Man to great acclaim. The company also revived the choreographer’s Sleeping Beauty for a UK tour, which will be followed by an international run in 2016. His charity, Re:Bourne – which aims to nurture emerging dancers and choreographers – added Darcey Bussell, diver Tom Daley and David Walliams as patrons in 2015. Last year: 75

Interview with Matthew Bourne

41 Adam Kenwright

Adam Kenwright. Photo: Craig Sugden
Adam Kenwright. Photo: Craig Sugden

In 2015, AKA established itself as the West End’s biggest marketing agency, representing many of the year’s most-hyped shows, including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. In December, ATG owner Providence bought a controlling stake in the company, which also has offices in New York and Sydney. Kenwright remains at the helm as chief executive and chairman, and the company continues to operate as a third-party marketing agency, but there are fears a closed shop may freeze out independent operators further down the line. Last year: 84

Interview with Adam Kenwright

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)

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.