Nominees include Selladoor, Milo Rau and London’s Coronet Theatre
As with our other awards, this recognises excellence over the past 12 months. Any 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 outside of the UK. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success and innovation.
Award sponsored by Ambassador Theatre Group
It has been an exceptional 2019 for London’s Coronet Theatre – formerly the Print Room – in showcasing international talent, this year bringing in cutting-edge theatremakers from Europe to Asia.
Headed by founder and artistic director Anda Winters, the self-funded Grade II-listed venue prides itself on a risk-taking programme and “showing international work that would not normally be seen in this country”.
It has established a particularly strong connection with Norway, with the country’s embassy funding work – the UK premiere of Shadows by Jon Fosse – on its stage.
The embassy hailed the venue for bringing “an important piece of Norwegian culture to the London scene and promoted its appreciation among British audiences”.
The Coronet also partnered with the Norwegian Ibsen Company on The Lady from the Sea, a show performed in English and Norwegian with a cast made up of performers from both countries. Of the audiences, 65% were first-time visitors to the Coronet. The Stage’s review praised the “beautifully conceived bilingual update” of Ibsen’s work, adding it had a “mesmeric central performance”.
Other international artists to perform at the venue in 2019 included the return of cult choreographer Saburo Teshigawara in the UK premiere of his show The Idiot; Another Look at Memory, supported by the Institut Francais du Royaume-Uni, as part of France Dance UK; and Youth Without God, Christopher Hampton’s play based on the novel by Ödön von Horváth.
Swiss director Milo Rau has been described as the darling of European theatre, its enfant terrible, a radical, a maverick, and the most controversial theatremaker working today.
UK audiences got a proper look at this extraordinary creative’s work for themselves as he brought La Reprise: Histoire(s) du Theatre (I) to the Royal Lyceum as part of the Edinburgh International Festival 2019.
Presented by NT Gent, the Belgian theatre Rau runs, the show was about a homophobic killing in Liège that questioned audiences’ attitudes to violence. The Stage hailed it as “extraordinarily powerful” and “deeply uncomfortable”. Michael Billington said it was the kind of show “that justifies an international festival”.
Since coming to prominence in 2009 with a play about communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, violence and controversy have run through Rau’s work from Five Easy Pieces to The 120 Days of Sodom and Lam Gods.
Beyond the work, Rau’s commitment to shaking up theatre, and particularly the European city/state theatre system, remains strong. His theatre company, International Institute of Political Murder, has drawn up the Ghent Manifesto, which all its productions must adhere to in creating the theatre of the future. The rules include banning literal adaptations of classics on stage, every year there must be a performance or rehearsal in a war zone, at least two different languages must be spoken in every production and each performance must include two non-professional actors.
This year Selladoor Worldwide has staged a total of 12 productions, six of which had international tour dates across three continents: Asia, Australasia and Europe.
There were European premieres for Amélie and Little Miss Sunshine. Flashdance the Musical returned to Asia in 2019, and Madagascar the Musical toured internationally. The company opened offices in Bangkok in 2018, and from that base this year Selladoor Asia Pacific produced its first local language production: Little Shop of Horrors.
The company’s global expansion continued in 2019. It added Selladoor Spain in Madrid to the existing offices in New York, Shanghai and Bangkok, an astute choice for its European operations and a launchpad into the Latin American market. Chief executive David Hutchinson said it would enable Selladoor to tour British productions to Spanish-speaking territories and create work in Spain that could tour to existing areas the company operates in.
It was also set up as part of the company’s Brexit contingency plans. “We have to protect our ability to efficiently and smoothly manage the exchange of productions between the UK and Europe among all this political uncertainty,” he said.
Its Spanish-language version of Flashdance, which sold out an eight-week run in Barcelona this year, opens in Madrid in January and the company is talking about bringing the show to Mexico and Argentina. For a company that was founded only a decade ago, its international expansion has been truly remarkable.