The Stage 100 2018: Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone tops ‘most influential’ list
Vicky Featherstone has been named the most influential person in British theatre, taking the number one spot in The Stage 100.
The artistic director of London’s Royal Court has leapt from last year’s placing of 39th in the annual list, reflecting her “brave” and “enlightened” leadership in the face of allegations around harassment and abuses of power in the theatre industry.
The Stage 100 is now in its 22nd year and focuses on achievements in the past 12 months, as well as overall standing within the industry.
In taking the number one position, Featherstone knocks commercial producer Sonia Friedman off the top of the list to third place. Friedman, whose West End shows include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and The Book of Mormon, became only the second solo woman to lead The Stage 100 in 2017, after Janet Holmes a Court in 1998. Featherstone now becomes the third.
Following the sexual harassment allegations in the theatre industry – prompted by the revelations surrounding movie mogul Harvey Weinstein – Featherstone was among the first to respond, organising a day of action at the Royal Court called No Grey Area, and subsequently publishing a code of behaviour for the industry.
Featherstone said it was “a total shock and honour to be recognised by The Stage for our work around No Grey Area, especially among this list of theatre heroines and heroes”.
“I share this with the fearless and passionate team and board at the Royal Court. But mostly, it is affirmation to the brave women and men who spoke out about their experiences that they are being taken seriously and proof that my theatre colleagues, with the power to do so, are listening and that we can achieve fundamental change. As an industry, we are once more leading the way,” she said.
Onstage successes at the Royal Court in the past year include Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman – now running in the West End and co-produced by Friedman and Neal Street Productions – and Alice Birch’s Anatomy of a Suicide.
The Stage editor Alistair Smith said compiling the list had been particularly difficult “at a time when theatre is still coming to terms with abuses of power within the entertainment industry”.
“In that context, a number of figures challenging the status quo feature within the full list, but none has been more prominent than Vicky Featherstone. Through her bold and swift action in the wake of allegations in the US against Harvey Weinstein, she ensured that British theatre took the opportunity to face up to its own historic and ongoing challenges around workplace harassment,” he said.
Theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh and Cameron Mackintosh Ltd managing director Nicholas Allott are named in second place, following a year in which Mackintosh refurbished the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre for the arrival of Hamilton, of which he is UK producer.
Women make up 35% of the individuals featured in the list this year, up from 34% in 2017. However, the number of top 20 entries featuring women has fallen from 10 to eight.
Aside from Featherstone, new entries in the top 10 include Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner (7), whose 900-seat London theatre the Bridge opened in October, producer Michael Harrison (8), and playwright James Graham (10), who enjoyed three West End openings in 2017.
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is the highest-placed new entry at number nine.
Other actors included are Amber Riley (62) and Andrew Scott (72) – both new entries – as well as Michelle Terry, who moves from 90 to 60 as she prepares to take the reins of Shakespeare’s Globe from Emma Rice (30, with Neil Constable) in April.
New entries include Hull City of Culture boss Martin Green (14) and theatre architect Steve Tompkins (23), as well as incoming Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah (20) and theatremaker Selina Thompson (96), who are two of the 10 black, Asian and minority ethnic entries in the list.
Others include Nadia Fall (83), who recently became artistic director of London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East, and Barber Shop Chronicles writer Inua Ellams (85).