Steve Tompkins, the Stirling Prize-winning architect behind the recently completed redevelopments of Battersea Arts Centre and Bristol Old Vic, has been named the most influential person in British theatre.
Tompkins, who runs architecture practice Haworth Tompkins, has claimed the number one spot in The Stage 100, in association with Spektrix, for “literally and physically transforming British theatre” through his buildings.
He leapt from 23rd place in 2018 to take the number one position, overtaking impresarios including Sonia Friedman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh, who came in second, third and fourth place respectively.
In 2018, Tompkins completed more than a decade’s work on Battersea Arts Centre, which included resurrecting its Grand Hall after it was partially destroyed in a fire on 2015.
BAC artistic director David Jubb said: “When Steve leads a project he invites everyone to be creative. In the 21st century we need our theatre buildings to cultivate conviviality, to give people agency and to encourage interaction – in other words to bring communities together to make change. Steve achieves all this because he is not only one of the most remarkable people you will every meet, he is also one of the kindest and loveliest.”
The year also marked the end of another decade-long project for Haworth Tompkins, this time to renovate Bristol Old Vic.
Tompkins won British architecture’s highest accolade, the Stirling Prize, in 2014 for his work on the new Liverpool Everyman building – the first theatre he had created from scratch.
His projects also include London’s Bridge Theatre and work on the National Theatre, the Young Vic, the Royal Court and the Bush. In 2019, he will begin work on a £45 million project to redevelop the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
The Stage’s editor, Alistair Smith, said Tompkins had been responsible “for a quiet revolution in the way that both artists and audiences experience theatre in the UK”.
“We will look back on his achievements in re-imagining theatre buildings, their functions and forms, as a defining aspect of early 21st-century British theatre.
“He is literally and figuratively transforming British theatre and his legacy will be experienced by millions of theatregoers for years to come,” Smith added.
Tompkins knocks Royal Court artistic director Vicky Featherstone off the top of the list. Featherstone, alongside the theatre’s executive producer Lucy Davies, is placed at 19 this year.
The number of entries featuring a woman make up more than half the list (54%) for the first time this year, increasing from 46% in 2018.
The number of top 20 entries featuring a woman has also risen from eight to 10. These include National Theatre executive director Lisa Burger, placed at number 5 with NT director Rufus Norris, the Royal Exchange’s artistic director Sarah Frankcom at 14 and the Nimax’s Nica Burns, placed alongside Max Weitzenhoffer at 7.
Director Marianne Elliott and producer Chris Harper – of Elliott and Harper Productions – are among the highest risers in the list. They jumped from 39 in 2018 to 12 in 2019 following their gender-swapped production of Company in the West End.
Others moving up the list include Parents and Carers in Performing Arts founders Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov, who moved from 88 to 52 after a year in which they launched a series of significant initiatives for the sector.
Leonard Blavatnik and Danny Cohen of Access Entertainment, which bought the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a rumoured £45 million last year, are the highest-placed new entry, at 9.
The highest-placed actor in the list is Ian McKellen, at 24. In the past 12 months McKellen has played King Lear in the West End and will this year set out on an 80-date solo tour in honour of his 80th birthday.