The Stage 100, in association with Spektrix, is intended to reflect who are 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 both on theatre 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 to attempt to make it gender-balanced or ethnically diverse: we believe the list should aim to reflect how the theatre and performing arts industry is, not what it aims to be, or we would like it to be.
London Theatre Company / Bridge Theatre
The Bridge burst on to the scene in 2017 – a beautiful new commercial venue that promised to revolutionise London theatre with its fresh programming and even fresher madeleines.
Well, 2018 was the tricky second album: Hytner’s semi-immersive staging of Julius Caesar was an unalloyed triumph and Laura Linney was impressive in My Name Is Lucy Barton, but there were disappointments from Alan Bennett and Barney Norris, while Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter proved rather divisive. Maybe it has been a case of overly high expectations after their garlanded tenure at the NT, but the two Nicks have yet to fully hit the heights at their new gaff.
Programming in 2019 looks promising, though, and there are plans for a second theatre to open in King’s Cross as their empire expands.
Last year: 7
Productions include: Julius Caesar, Nightfall, My Name Is Lucy Barton, Allelujah!, A Very Very Very Dark Matter
Coming up in 2019: Alys, Always, Flatpack, The Black Cloud, Carmen Havana, new play by Nina Raine
Elliott and Harper Productions
Elliott’s re-imagining of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company with a female lead was the big musical event of the year.
While it hasn’t broken box office records (when has Sondheim ever?), it certainly did the business with critics who were unanimous in their praise for the West End revival. The director and producer’s company, Elliott and Harper Productions, looks set to become a major player in Theatreland.
This year there are plans for a mouth-watering revival of Death of a Salesman starring Sharon D Clarke, Arinze Kene and Wendell Pierce at the Young Vic. Like Hytner and Starr, their partnership started in the subsidised sector (and, like the Nicks, at the National Theatre) before moving into the commercial arena.
Last year: 39
Productions include: Angels in America (Broadway), Company
Coming up in 2019: Death of a Salesman
Lan has now left the building. The long-standing artistic director of the Young Vic departed in February but the impact he made both on that theatre and the wider theatre ecosystem is hard to overestimate.
His final programming at the Young Vic left us with some of the greatest productions of 2018: Fun Home, The Jungle and The Inheritance. The latter two both transferred to the West End with Lan as executive producer.
Last year, Lan was also – deservedly – recognised at the Olivier Awards for his contribution to theatre. We do not yet know what his plans are, but British theatre would be much poorer without the welcome strain of internationalism he has fostered during his time at the Young Vic.
Last year: 12
Productions include: The Brothers Size, Winter, The Inheritance, The Jungle (West End), Fun Home
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
Yet another remarkable year at Manchester’s in-the-round dynamo: the consistent quality that Frankcom has delivered since she took on the role of artistic director solo has been astonishing.
Highlights of 2018 included Kendall Feaver’s moving new play The Almighty Sometimes, a debut work by a young female playwright given a main stage to shine, and Frankcom directing her regular collaborator Maxine Peake in Beckett’s Happy Days, plus Don Warrington in an atmospheric Death of a Salesman.
Jade Anouka took on the title role in Queen Margaret, placing one of Shakespeare’s key female characters centre-stage, while two co-productions – Black Men Walking (with Eclipse) and Three Sisters (with RashDash) – illustrated the breadth of work on offer in Manchester. A powerhouse.
Last year: 15
Productions include: The Almighty Sometimes, Frankenstein, The Cherry Orchard, Happy Days, Queens of the Coal Age, Queen Margaret, Death of a Salesman, The Producers
Coming up in 2019: West Side Story, Hobson’s Choice
Young Vic, London
It may still be early days in Kwei-Armah’s reign at the Young Vic, but the signs are extremely encouraging.
Having started with a light, but entertaining musical version of Twelfth Night, 2018 ended with an absolute knockout production of The Convert starring Letitia Wright and Paapa Essiedu. This year, there’s the exciting prospect of Kwei-Armah working with Idris Elba on a multi-genre South Africa-themed production for the Manchester International Festival.
Back on the Cut, we’ll have Jesus Hopped the A Train, Death of a Salesman and Yael Farber directing Blood Wedding to look forward to.
Last year: 20
Productions include: Twelfth Night, The Convert
Coming up in 2019: Tree, Blood Wedding, Death of a Salesman, Jesus Hopped the A Train, Fairview
Trafalgar Entertainment Group
Ambassador Theatre Group’s co-founders have begun rebuilding their empire under the new banner of Trafalgar Entertainment.
With financial backing from Barings, they are serious players again with major firepower. As things stand, their only theatre is Trafalgar Studios, but they also operate Trafalgar Releasing (formerly Picturehouse Entertainment) and, in 2018, acquired market-leading stage school franchise Stagecoach.
They’ve also been busy on the production front: The King and I at the London Palladium was one of the musical hits of the year both on stage and in cinemas, and programming at the Trafalgar Studios has been impressive: with transfers of Misty from the Bush and Nine Night from the National.
Royal Shakespeare Company
Despite not having a permanent London home, the RSC still had a solid year both in Stratford and the capital. Highlights included Miss Littlewood and Imperium, the adaptation of Robert Harris’ Cicero trilogy, which transferred to the West End in 2018.
A horror-inspired Macbeth showed a willingness to break away from more traditional staging. The RSC is a staunch advocate of the arts in education. It has been consulting on redundancies as funding cuts bite.
Last year: 17
Productions include: Imperium (West End), Don Quixote (West End), Macbeth, Miss Littlewood
Coming up in 2019: As You Like It, Kunene and the King, The Taming of the Shrew, Measure for Measure, The Provoked Wife, Venice Preserved
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House completed its £50 million Open Up revamp in 2018, funded without a penny from the public purse. What previously felt like an exclusive club has become a true public space, with the theatre’s second auditorium, the Linbury, transformed.
On stage, highlights included the Royal Opera’s Ring Cycle and ballet works celebrating Kenneth MacMillan. Beard is chief executive, Pappano is music director, Mears director of opera, and O’Hare director of the Royal Ballet.
Last year: 46
Productions include: Ring Cycle (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, Gotterdammerung), Manon, Lessons in Love and Violence, La Bayadere, Hansel and Gretel
Coming up in 2019: La Forza Del Destino, The Queen of Spades, Billy Budd, new works by Wayne McGregor, Alastair Marriott and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
Royal Court, London
Following a year in which she stepped to the forefront of industry conversations about workplace behaviour, 2018 was a more subdued affair for Featherstone, but she continued to work hard behind the scenes to improve conditions for female theatremakers.
On stage, it was a mixed affair at the Royal Court, with what sometimes seemed like a scattergun approach to programming. She hit bullseye, though, with Ear for Eye, Debbie Tucker Green’s formally daring examination of black history, racial politics and protest. Girls and Boys also featured one of the year’s best performances, from Carey Mulligan.
There’s plenty to look forward to in the 2019 programme: the return of Cyprus Avenue, the London transfer of Selina Thompson’s Salt and a new play from Jack Thorne. Featherstone is ably supported by executive director Davies.
It has become a leading commercial producer of quality drama in the West End and beyond, with highlights of 2018 including Mary Stuart and Long Day’s Journey Into Night. It is also responsible for more populist fare such as Young Frankenstein and touring children’s shows.
Snape, who heads Fiery Angel with Eardley and Bath, also teamed up with opera and concert producer Raymond Gubbay to launch Fiery Entertainment, which assembled an all-star cast for a Guys and Dolls semi-staged concert at the Royal Albert Hall.