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Sonia Friedman: ‘Summer and Smoke’s Oliviers success proves West End should take more risks on emerging talent’

Sonia Friedman with the award for best revival for Summer and Smoke at this year’s Oliviers. Photo: Pamela Raith Sonia Friedman with the award for best revival for Summer and Smoke at this year’s Oliviers. Photo: Pamela Raith
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Sonia Friedman has urged producers to look beyond established artists and take more risks on emerging talent.

She was speaking at the Olivier Awards, where her productions of the West End transfer of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke and Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance won in multiple categories.

Summer and Smoke review at Duke of York’s Theatre, London – ‘Patsy Ferran’s extraordinary performance’

Friedman told The Stage it had been “a risk worth taking” to transfer the Almeida Theatre’s production of Summer and Smoke, directed by Rebecca Frecknall, to the West End.

“It’s [Rebecca’s] first West End transfer, first West End production, and I’m just so happy that she took a punt on me and I was able to take a punt on her. This is just the beginning of the most remarkable career for her,” Friedman said.

“It was a risk, but it was a risk worth taking because she’s a really extraordinary artist.”

Asked whether she would encourage producers to look beyond established names and take a risk on shows created by early-career artists, Friedman added: “Oh God yes, we should all be doing it. Without the [next generation] of great directors, we won’t have a future in our industry. We’ve got to support them and give them a mainstream profile as much as possible.”

Frecknall argued that it was also essential for artistic directors, as well as producers, to give a platform to emerging directors.

She told The Stage: “The thing that’s really key is that artistic directors give emerging directors their shot and they give them their show. I think that’s the hardest thing, and giving me that platform has completely changed my career overnight.”

She added: “Making that step from assisting and working on the fringe to someone who has an opportunity in a main house is the riskiest and hardest thing.”

The Inheritance review at Young Vic, London – ‘ambitious, moving and compelling’

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