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Sonia Friedman named producer of the year in The Stage Awards 2019

Sonia Friedman, who has won producer of the year at The Stage Awards 2019. Photo: Alex Brenner
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child producer Sonia Friedman and a scheme to improve access to drama schools supported by Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke are among the winners of The Stage Awards 2019, presented in association with Integro Insurance Brokers Ltd.

Friedman won producer of the year for the fourth time in five years for works including the West End transfers of The Inheritance and The Jungle as well as the Broadway transfers of The Ferryman and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Friedman said: “I don’t really know who to thank, as there are so many people. We have produced 14 or 15 shows this year – the point being we do a lot, and work with a lot. I feel so blessed to be able to work with the people I work with, and even more blessed to know I have a lot more to come and to give.”

She added: “We are going through tough times, this industry. I hope we can all hold together, particularly in the West End. It feels as though we heading into unknown territory with Brexit. But I believe great art will always thrive and audiences will always follow it.”

The school of the year category was won by Open Door, an initiative based in London and the East Midlands which helps young people from low income households prepare for drama school auditions, which is part-funded by Clarke.

Open Door – the free audition scheme opening doors to top drama schools

Other winners include the Bush Theatre, which won London theatre of the year, with judges praising the diversity of the theatre’s programming, which included Arinze Kene’s Misty.

The newly opened Barn Theatre in Cirencester won fringe theatre of the year for work including The Rise and Fall of the Little Voice, while Nottingham Playhouse was awarded regional theatre of the year.

Adam Penford, artistic director at Nottingham Playhouse, said it had been a “thrilling year”.

“We have put on some big projects, so thank you to the staff at the Playhouse who have worked really hard. The creatives we have collaborated with and our audiences and supporters,” he said.

Mark Shenton, associate editor of The Stage and judging panel member, said: “At a time when regional theatre is facing serious challenges, the resurgence of the Nottingham Playhouse under new artistic director Adam Penford is particular reason to rejoice.

“The arrival of the brand-new Barn Theatre in Cirencester, a town previously unserved by a producing theatre, is also a sign of new regional vitality.”

Theatre building of the year was won by Battersea Arts Centre, following the reopening of the Grand Hall after a fire devastated the venue in 2015. The renovation of the building following the fire was designed by architects Haworth Tompkins – Steve Tompkins of the firm was named the most influential figure in the performing arts in The Stage 100 2019.

BAC is back: How Battersea Arts Centre rose from the ashes of a devastating fire to renew its mission

Cardiff-based company Hijinx Theatre won the international award for touring work – it visited 67 cities in 16 countries last year and set up a project to take four actors with Down’s Syndrome to Lesotho to create work with local drama students.

London’s New Diorama Theatre won the innovation award for its programming model, the Lyric Hammersmith in London won the sustainability award and Pat Nelder from Theatr Clwyd, Mold, received the Unsung Hero award for his work at the venue since 1977 in various roles.

Sian Alexander, executive director at the Lyric Hammersmith, said she had worked with the other nominees in the sustainability category, including the National Theatre and Julie’s Bicycle.

“It goes to show how collaborative the industry is,” she said, warning that climate change “is the biggest challenge we are facing globally”.

“Scientists tell us we have 10 to 12 years to sort this out. If we don’t fix this problem then all the rest of it becomes slightly less relevant. The arts and artists have a key role to play in that. We are communicators, exemplars and path finders, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the whole industry in this area,” she said.

Natasha Tripney, reviews editor of The Stage and judging panel member, said: “It’s a pleasure to recognise the theatres that are changing the shape of the industry both via the work they programme, the people they work with and the level of support they are able to offer theatremakers, both in London, at the Bush Theatre and the New Diorama, and around the UK.

“New initiatives such as Open Door are making it possible for talented young people to overcome financial barriers into the industry. Hijinx is touring inclusive theatre internationally, changing preconceptions. These are developments worth celebrating.”

Read the full list of winners here

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