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Letters of the week

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So, where were the big-hitters?

I fear too much mulled wine has been consumed at Stage HQ this year as I am sorry to say I thought the annual Stage 100 (January 3) was disappointing.

In the performers category, where was David Tennant, whose performance of Richard II was an acclaimed sell-out hit both in Stratford-upon-Avon and London, or Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston, enjoying similar successes in Henry V at the Noel Coward Theatre and Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse respectively? Neither were Hattie Morahan or Rosalie Craig included. Both are Evening Standard award winners for their respective performances in A Dolls House and The Light Princess.

In the writers category, you list Tori Amos for her composition of the latter production but fail to include her lyricist and book writer Samuel Adamson. Neither do you include Richard Bean, whose play One Man, Two Guvnors has enjoyed massive, continued success in the West End and on tour. Alan Bennett was also excluded – his plays are constantly performed and his new play, People, was a hit at the National and on tour. So too was Terry Johnson, who alongside Alan Ayckbourn continues to remain a major directing and writing force in the UK and around the world.

In the directors section, amazingly you do not list Lyndsey Turner, director of the hit play Chimerica; John Tiffany, director of both Once and Let the Right One In, or Sean Foley, who seems to be directing every hit comedy in town at the moment. Instead, you have included some directors with far fewer – or one-off – credits.

In London theatres, you do not include Soho Theatre, the Gate or the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, all of which presented exemplary seasons of work last year.

In producers, you list Mark Goucher as producer of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, when this was produced with Mark Rubinstein, whose idea it was in the first place. Similarly omitted were Lee Menzies and Richard Easton, jointly credited lead producers of Top Hat with Kenny Wax, who did make the list. Elsewhere, Richard Jordan and Robert Fox – two of our leading producers of new work at home and abroad – were also both left out.

I also fail to understand how you make the decision to list some creative team members but not others.

As Les Miserables is such a long-running, hit musical, should it not be a given that its composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg are listed in the writers and composers section? This should also be the case with Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked; Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, composers of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, writers of The Book of Mormon; and Elton John and Tim Rice, composers of The Lion King and individually also of Billy Elliot and From Here to Eternity – which Rice also produced.

Neither do you include Trevor Nunn or John Caird, the directors of Les Miserables; Harold Prince, director of Phantom of the Opera; Julie Taymor, director of The Lion King; Joe Mantello, director of Wicked; or Casey Nicholaw, director of The Book of Mormon. All these are the West End’s highest-grossing shows, and clearly the individuals who created them are at the top of their game. It is their vision that has made these shows such hits and their bank balances buoyant, and arguably they are therefore some of the most successful industry names in their respective fields, yet none was included.

I also observed this year that you have put Americans in the list, such as Scott Rudin and Thomas Schumacher, when previously The Stage 100 has almost always proudly defined itself as being a British industry list. If this policy has changed, then it is incorrect to list Michael McCabe in your top 20, as while he is the executive producer of Wicked, the lead producers are US-based David Stone and Marc Platt, who should have been the correct names included.

Finally, in your excellent Stage Awards I fail to understand how you can include the New Wolsey and Marlowe theatre in the regional theatre of the year award category, but then do not name them in the actual Stage 100 regional section. Should it not automatically have meant their inclusion in this category? After all, you do still include Sheffield Theatres, the other venue shortlisted for the regional award, within the Stage 100 list.

I have followed and often relied upon The Stage 100 as an annual and valuable resource, but this year the list feels randomly chosen.

Rupert Bennett-Walker
Lauderdale Tower
London EC2

* Editor’s note: We welcome reader contributions on this matter, but we have always listed US figures in The Stage 100, when appropriate, for their work in the UK. Thomas Schumacher, for example, has repeatedly appeared in the list before.

Birmingham Stage merits mention

I wrote last year of what I felt was an omission from The Stage 100 list and do so again, particularly as that omission continues, this year extending to your Stage Awards schedule. The Birmingham Stage Company, without any public funding, continues to be an important and very welcome part of many regional tour programmes, plus others in the Middle East, Australia and the Pacific Rim. Christmas seasons in Birmingham and Derby add to the schedule, but it is not just the regions who see BSC’s productions – it also has a production currently running at London’s Garrick.

At this time of year, many performers across the country are reported locally as saying that pantomime provides many children with their first theatre visit. Birmingham Stage can justifiably claim to be taking on this important role throughout the year, having become an important and regular part of the education world’s annual schedule. The company’s productions are always current and linked to the school curriculum – an important factor in achieving school audiences in these difficult times.

May I also get in a mention for Minor Entertainment, which has reinvented theatre for the very young with its tour of In the Night Garden, an immersive experience which has the children completely mesmerised.

Roger Edwards
Email address supplied


Blakemore tome one of the best

I have just read your Christmas edition and was surprised and disappointed not to see Michael Blakemore’s book Stage Blood included in Michael Quinn’s review of the year’s theatre books (December 19, page 14).

Blakemore’s account of his experiences at the National Theatre, first under Laurence Olivier and then with Peter Hall, makes riveting and essential reading for any understanding of what really happened in the early days of our most prestigious subsidised theatre. Besides, Blakemore writes like an angel, and you won’t find any better description of what it’s like to direct and mount a major production than here.

With his earlier Arguments with England, Stage Blood makes Blakemore one of the finest chroniclers of the theatre and contemporary culture in our times, and his absence from Quinn’s article is all the more amazing given that it opens with a reference to the NT’s 50th anniversary and a review of Philip Ziegler’s Olivier.

Colin Lovelace
Rue de Labertranne
64600 Anglet

* Editor’s Note: Michael Blakemore’s Stage Blood had in fact been covered earlier, in an extended feature by Nick Smurthwaite.

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