Sheffield Theatres, ATG Productions and an initiative to diversify theatre boards are among the winners of The Stage Awards 2020, presented in association with Integro Insurance Brokers Ltd.
Winning two categories, Sheffield Theatres was presented with the regional theatre of the year award and the first ever achievement in technical theatre award for its production of Life of Pi.
Artistic director Rob Hastie praised the “brilliant creative team” of Life of Pi and described the show as a “journey for us all”.
ATG Productions won producer of the year, praised for its Pinter at the Pinter season and the Ian McKellen on Stage tour, while the innovation award went to Artistic Directors of the Future for its campaign to diversify the theatre industry’s boardrooms.
Adam Speers, from ATG, said it had been “such a pleasure” to build a relationship with director Jamie Lloyd, and praised McKellen for his show “about what we all love – theatre”.
In a statement read out at the event by her mother, Artistic Directors of the Future founder Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway said the award recognised the work being done “behind the scenes” to create a fair and inclusive industry.
“ADF is small and mighty, but viciously ambitious,” she added.
London theatre of the year was awarded to Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, which underwent a £1 million refurbishment to make the venue more accessible while producing 14 shows across 2019, and London’s Bunker Theatre won fringe theatre of the year in recognition of its support for artists from under-represented backgrounds.
Chris Sonnex, artistic director of the Bunker, spoke of theatre’s importance in speaking up for those most in need, and added: “We as a community of artists have to come together to look after each other, and we need to be the opposition. Not only do we need to do this because it’s right, but if we don’t other theatres could close just like the Bunker. We have to keep doing what we’re doing, just louder and stronger.”
Other winners included Leeds Playhouse in the theatre building of the year category, following the venue’s £15.8 million redevelopment, and producer Selladoor Worldwide for the international award in recognition of the company’s global expansion.
David Hutchinson, chief executive of Selladoor, spoke of the importance of allowing creative to work across borders, on the day the UK leaves the EU.
The unsung hero award was won by front-of-house assistant at the Almeida Theatre Mary Joseph, who has worked at the venue for 25 years. She was praised for her sense of humour and popularity with customers, with artistic director Rupert Goold describing her as the “essence of the Almeida”. Joseph started working in the venue as a cleaner in 1995 and now works six days a week, mainly in the box-office kiosk.
Joseph said: “I am honoured. Thanks to the Almeida and my family. This award means the world to me.”
The Stage editor Alistair Smith said: “Our 2020 winners reflect how theatre across the UK is both thriving and evolving.
“They balance local sensibilities with national, even international, ambitions: from the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, whose collaboration on As You Like It saw the company work with community groups and the National Theatre, to Sheffield Theatres, whose output included the musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge – telling the story of Sheffield’s Park Hill Estate – and Life of Pi, a stage adaptation of a worldwide bestseller that will transfer to the West End this year.”
The Stage associate editor Lyn Gardner added: “It may be challenging times for British theatre, but this year’s winners of The Stage Awards reflect the boldness and creativity of the sector and its depth and breadth across the country.
“From the industry-changing innovation of Artistic Directors of the Future to the grassroots support offered to emerging artists at the Bunker, and the crucial part played in London’s ecology by the revitalised creativity and community engagement of a suburban London theatre such as the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. The 2020 winners are all beacons.”
The winners were decided by a judging panel comprising Smith, Gardner, news editor Matt Hemley, features editor Nick Clark, reviews editor Natasha Tripney, chief reporter Georgia Snow, joint lead critic of The Stage Tim Bano and Daily Mail entertainment columnist, Baz Bamigboye.