The Stage Awards 2019 shortlist: International award
As with our other awards, this recognises excellence over the past 12 months. Any type of theatrical organisation or person (eg 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.
Award sponsored by Ambassador Theatre Group
Hijinx Theatre, Cardiff
The Welsh theatre company, whose productions always include learning-disabled actors, has enjoyed its biggest year so far in 2018.
Its international work saw Hijinx visit 67 cities in 16 countries, with the ongoing tour of hit show Meet Fred, and a groundbreaking collaboration in Africa. In February, it took four actors with Down’s syndrome to Lesotho to create a piece of inclusive theatre with local drama students. It was particularly important to bring the work there, as Lesotho is a place where disability is perceived as a curse, and babies with disabilities are often abandoned at orphanages. Touring a production with visibly learning-disabled actors was an extraordinary act and played to audiences of more than 2,000 people.
Meet Fred, Hijinx’s show about a potty-mouthed puppet, toured to countries across Europe and then headed to the US and China; it has now been translated into eight languages and performed more than 200 times. In bringing Meet Fred to China, the company held workshops and discussions with local learning-disability groups to show how its actor training academy model works. It hopes to roll out that model in the country, as well as in Lesotho.
A notable honour for Hijinx in 2018 was the invitation, by Welsh Arts International, to bring the show to the inaugural Welsh Performing Arts Festival in Dresden. It was one of just seven companies that were invited.
National Theatre Scotland, Glasgow
The National Theatre of Scotland has committed to touring work around the world and bringing international artists to Scotland throughout its 13-year existence. In 2018, it had a particularly ambitious programme, which paid off handsomely.
The company brought two international artists to Glasgow’s Take Me Somewhere festival, which included Tania El Khoury’s account of being born a Palestinian refugee in Syria. Two months later, its biennial Exchange Festival, aimed at 16-25 year olds devising theatre, brought 10 companies from around the UK and beyond to Inverness, including one from Chicago and another from Malta. During the year, NTS collaborated with seven international companies to create new work for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including First Snow/Premiere Neige, a collaboration with Quebec-based companies, which won a Fringe First. The programme also invited six radical performance companies to work with young people.
NTS was also busy sharing its own work with the rest of the world. This year it took a group of Scottish artists to collaborate in carnival arts for a performance project in Port of Spain in Trinidad. In terms of international touring, The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart went to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina while one-woman show Eve visited the Festival Internacional de Teatro, Palco e Rua de Belo Horizonte in Brazil.
New International Encounter, Cambridge and Oslo
The company, resident in Cambridge with an office in Oslo, was set up by British, Polish, Czech and Norwegian members in 2001. Since then it has performed in 34 countries across four continents.
It may be small, but NIE has consistently punched above its weight as a theatre producer creating work for young audiences around the world. It continues to present work in unusual spaces, with young people helping to shape its programme.
International projects this year included We Come from Far Far Away, an immersive show performed in a Mongolian yurt exploring refugee stories from across Europe. The work was a highlight at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival before heading to the Slovenian National Theatre.
The year also marked the company’s first Off-Broadway transfer. It’s three-week run of Beauty and the Beast at the New Victory Theater in New York was seen by 7,500.
The company’s international work is set to be enhanced over the next three years after it secured a €800,000 grant from Creative Europe for a theatre and participation project that will tour across the continent. In 2018, the company also developed a new project working with artists across Asia and with the Ricca Ricca festival in Japan for a new production of Don Quixote.