Theatre figures recognised in 2015 New Year honours list

Kristin Scott Thomas, pictured Electra (Credit: Johan Persson)

The 2015 New Year honours list has recognised a range of individuals holding performing, artistic and administrative roles in the theatre and stage sector.

Actress Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred in The Old Vic’s Electra last year, has been made a dame for her services to drama. Stage and screen actors Sheridan Smith and James Corden have both been awarded OBEs. Actress and writer Meera Syal, most recently seen performing in the National Theatre’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, has been awarded a CBE for services to drama and literature.

Paul Kerryson (Credit: Paul Adams)

Leicester Theatre Trust’s Paul Kerryson (Credit: Paul Adams)

Artistic director of Leicester Theatre Trust Paul Kerryson, also outgoing artistic director of Leicester’s Curve, has been awarded an MBE for his services to theatre in Leicester. Also being honoured with an MBE is Graeme Phillips, Liverpool’s Unity Theatre artistic director who is stepping down from the role after more than three decades; he is being recognised for his services to the arts in Liverpool. Founder and artistic director of Northern Broadsides Barrie Rutter has also been awarded for his services to drama with an OBE.

P11_ES_DEVLIN_INTELLIGENT_LIFE_473_V2Retreat_1 David Ellis

Stage designer Es Devlin (Credit: David Ellis)

Design talents of the theatre world have also been acknowledged in this year’s honours: stage designer Es Devlin – whose recent work includes I Can’t Sing! at the Palladium, American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre and the 2014 Olivier Award-winning Chimerica – has been presented with an OBE for services to stage and set design; and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s associate designer Tom Piper has been awarded an MBE for services to theatre, and as well as for services to First World War commemorations, for his part in the poppies installation at the Tower of London.

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Almeida Theatre takes Our Town performances and project into London schools

The Almeida Theatre is taking the full production of one of its latest shows, Our Town, into two London secondary schools this November, reaching 500 students.

Our Town 1-715 Laura Elsworthy, David Walmsley and Jessica Lester by Marc Brenner

Laura Elsworthy, David Walmsley and Jessica Lester in Our Town (Credit: Marc Brenner)

The cast of the current run at the Almeida will perform at Dormers Wells High School in Ealing on 10 November and Cleeve Park School in Bexley on 17 November for students. Neither of the London boroughs housing the schools, Ealing and Bexley, has a professional theatre. Students attending performances will take part in pre-show workshops.

The performances will make up part of a wider six-week programme entitled ‘Your Town’, which will involve students telling stories of their own towns of Southall and Sidcup through exploring the idea of community and creating video content.

Almeida’s artistic director Rupert Goold said of the project: ‘The work that Almeida Projects does with schools and young people is enormously inspiring, and I am so glad that we are able to continue to find exciting ways to bring our work to more young people across London.’

For more information on the ‘Your Town’ project, visit www.almeida.co.uk/education/schools-and-education/your-town.

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Over 1,000 young people attend TheatreCraft 2014

Vicky Featherstone with TheatreCraft volunteers (Credit: Helen Murray)

Vicky Featherstone with TheatreCraft volunteers (Credit: Helen Murray)

Teaching Drama visited TheatreCraft, the backstage theatre careers fair, on 17 October. The one-day event, aimed at young people aged 16-25, had more than 1,000 visitors in attendance at the Royal Opera House.

The event was opened with a speech from the Royal Court’s artistic director Vicky Featherstone. She said it was ‘such an honour’ to address the visitors to TheatreCraft. She described it as ‘an amazing moment’ that young people had gathered to pursue and research careers in backstage theatre.

Featherstone said in her opening speech: ‘I truly believe theatre in its wider sense has something in it for absolutely everyone and TheatreCraft will allow you to explore this. There are so many possibilities. Today is an amazing opportunity to come together and learn about your future. Theatre is all about people and their shared experiences. British theatre needs you.’

The day itself offered participants the chance to take part in over 70 workshops on offer in everything from theatre marketing to wig making. Over 50 exhibitors were on hand to talk to in the marketplace, highlighting education and industry opportunities throughout the country in the backstage sector. There were also 39 industry experts available for one-to-one advice sessions.

If you missed out on this year’s event, keep up to date with developments for 2015’s TheatreCraft on their website, www.theatrecraft.org.

Matthew Warchus to succeed Spacey at The Old Vic

The Old Vic appoints a new artistic director (Credit: Jim Linwood)

The Old Vic appoints a new artistic director (Credit: Jim Linwood)

The Old Vic has announced that Matthew Warchus will succeed Kevin Spacey when steps down as the theatre’s artistic director in autumn 2015.

Warchus is currently working as The Old Vic’s artistic associate. In 2008 he directed outgoing artistic director Spacey and Jeff Goldblum in Speed-the-Plow. He has worked on over 70 productions in London and Broadway including Matilda the Musical.

Nick Clarry, chairman of The Old Vic Theatre Trust said of Warchus’s appointment: ‘We are delighted to have appointed an artistic director with the talent and track record of Matthew Warchus. This is a key appointment for The Old Vic, building on the many achievements of Kevin Spacey since 2004.

‘We believe that the next few years will be a very exciting time. Our goals are to continue to develop our artistic programme under Matthew’s leadership, to continue with our outreach work, to establish an endowment fund, and then to redevelop our historic building after the bicentenary in 2018.’

Kevin Spacey said he ‘couldn’t be happier’ with Warchus’s appointment. ‘Matthew is a thoughtful, intuitive and highly creative director and he has rightly been applauded for his work, in particular the quality and diversity of his portfolio. I know he loves our theatre and I am delighted for our staff, our audiences and for our acting and production communities that he will be its next guardian.’

Matthew Warchus said: ‘I am excited and honoured to be following Kevin’s galvanising tenure at this wonderful building. He has re-established The Old Vic as a globally important theatre and I look forward to continuing to develop it as a hub of invigorating creativity.’

Winners of 2014 Off West End Awards revealed

The winners of the 2014 Off West End Awards, known as The Offies, have been announced. This year’s ceremony took place on 2 March and was hosted by Unicorn Theatre.

The offiesSouthwark Playhouse’s musical production Titanic came away as this year’s big winner with four prizes: best lighting designer, best choreographer, best costume designer and best musical production. Phoebe Waller-Bridge also had an impressive evening as she was awarded for best female performance and named most promising new playwright for her one-woman show Fleabag at Soho Theatre.

The award for best production for young people was shared by the ceremony’s host Unicorn Theatre for their production of Cinderella, which was co-produced with Travelling Light and The Tobacco, and Polka Theatre, who won for children’s theatre company Cahoots NI’s production Egg.

According to Off West End’s website, The Offies ‘help raise the profile and status of independent theatres in London by giving them greater power to promote their work individually and collectively and to reward the new talent that they nurture and that is essential to the future of our theatre industry.’

In a first, following this year’s awards the winners as part of their prize will receive advice from a industry experts in taking the next steps in their career. Industry figures taking part this year include the Young Vic’s artistic director David Lan, forthcoming National Theatre director Rufus Norris, and producer Sonia Friedman.

The full list of Off West End Award winners for 2014:

Best female performance
Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag at Soho Theatre

Best male performance
Jamie Samuel for Jumpers for Goalposts at the Bush Theatre

Best new play
The Match Box by Frank McGuinness at the Tricycle Theatre

Most promising new playwright
Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag at Soho Theatre

Best director
Michael Strassen for Billy at the Union Theatre

Best producer
Sasha Regan at the Union Theatre

Best artistic director
David Byrne at the New Diorama Theatre

Best lighting designer
Howard Hudson for Titanic (Southwark Playhouse) and Lizzie Siddal (Arcola Theatre)

Best sound designer
Ben and Max Ringham for Ring at Battersea Arts Centre

Best set designer
Oliver Townsend for Grounded at the Gate Theatre

Best costume designer
David Woodhead for Lizzie Siddal at the Arcola Theatre and Titanic at Southwark Playhouse

Best choreographer
Cressida Carre for Titanic at Southwark Playhouse

Best ensemble
Simple8 for Moby Dick and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (both Arcola Theatre)

Best production
Grounded at the Gate Theatre

Best musical production
Titanic at Southwark Playhouse

Best new musical
Glasgow Girls at Theatre Royal Stratford East

Best opera production
Puppet Opera Triple Bill by Third Hand at the Rosemary Branch

Best production for young people
Cinderella at the Unicorn Theatre co-produced with Travelling Light and The Tobacco Factory; Egg by Cahoots NI at Polka Theatre

Best TBC production (for shows that do not fall within other categories)
Tomorrow’s Parties by Forced Entertainment at Battersea Arts Centre

Special panel award
The Yard

For more information, visit www.offwestend.com/index.php/pages/the_offies.

Theatre Centre – Staging in schools: CPD masterclass – workshop review

 (Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

Star rating
***

An interesting session considering engagement with space. 

I attended a masterclass at Greenwich Theatre run by Theatre Centre, who are currently touring Roy Williams’ Advice For The Young At Heart.

The session, looking at staging performances in schools, was led by the company’s artistic director Natalie Wilson. For this workshop, in particular, it was really interesting to have Wilson leading. As the artistic director she has to think constantly about the bigger picture – which is exactly what the session was trying to broach: how does a play work on all levels? You may have the words of a fantastic playwright to work with, but if the way in which you’re staging a performance  doesn’t reach out and connect with your audience, it can become a lost cause.

This masterclass isn’t directly linked to the content of Advice For The Young At Heart, which attendees get to watch post workshop. I think the idea behind this is to allow participants see the work of the last two hours put into practice by the company – however, that evening’s show took place in a professional theatre, not the school halls and canteens in which teachers find themselves putting on performances, and which often play host to Theatre Centre productions.

The content covered was quite basic: we looked at forms of staging –  in-the-round, traverse and end on. Several participants in my group were trying to push the boundaries of our given ‘end on’ setting to stage our piece with a more creative use of space. But it was good to bring it to a simple form: considering how your use of space can engage students is important.

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

(Credit: Marigold Hughes for Theatre Centre)

The exercises that formed the masterclass worked well in demonstrating the diversity in performance created when using the stage space differently. However, I personally think a slightly more lengthy, slightly less practical session from Wilson would have benefited participants more. She had produced and presented a graph model explaining the influences between narrative, performer, audience and staging, and how they affect one another. It was really interesting,  and well explained by Wilson, but I would have found it more effective perhaps to have a case study of one of Theatre Centre’s own shows during the session to demonstrate how they consider alternative spaces and audiences when they tour.

To find out more about Theatre Centre’s CPD sessions and touring performances, visit www.theatre-centre.co.uk.

Brenton, Churchill and Wertenbaker to feature in young writers scheme for Theatre503

Paul Nov 2011Paul Robinson has revealed his first season at Theatre503 as sole artistic director. He had previously shared the role with Tim
Roseman, when they were jointly appointed in 2006.

The theatre is launching a number of new initiatives and programmes, Playwright Presents will see respected writers Caryl Churchill, Timberlake Wertenbaker and Howard Brenton present rehearsed readings of works from young, unestablished playwrights.

Timberlake Wertenbaker said: ‘I’m extremely happy to be part of this great project supporting young playwrights. It’s always invigorating to hear new voices in the theatre and I’m very much looking forward to working with my protégée. I’m sure I’ll learn as much from her as she will from me.’

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RCS launch UK’s first deaf theatre skills course

The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) has launched a new series of workshops for the deaf with Solar Bear Theatre Company. The RCS held a pilot course earlier this year.

Gerry Ramage, artistic director of Solar Bear, described Deaf Theatre Skills at the RCS as a, ‘new and ground-breaking programme.’ He said the new course, ‘takes us a step closer to create Britain’s first acting degree for deaf actors.’

Seven Scottish students have been awarded with Diamond Jubilee scholarships to study the 32-week programme. Diamond Jubilee scholar, Bea Websterfrom, said: ‘I enjoyed the summer course so much, it was a fantastic opportunity to work among deaf peers and be taught by tutors in a more visual way. I really can’t wait for forthcoming classes and what it will bring me. I feel more confident in my acting skills as a result.’

The course is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, offering conservatoire-level training to young deaf actors. The training will provide students with a more formal way to enter the acting industry.

Vice principal of RCS, Maggie Kinloch, said: ‘Together with Solar Bear’s Deaf Youth Theatre (DYT) we are launching this unrivalled conservatoire-style training programme for talented young deaf actors. Our shared passion for this work means that together we can make a difference to the diversity of Scotland’s community of actors, thereby enriching the talent pool.’

For more information visit http://rcs.ac.uk/shortcourses/dramaadults/weeklyclasses/deaftheatre.html

Attenborough to leave Almeida Theatre

After 11 years in the role, Michael Attenborough has announced that he is to step down as artistic director at the Almeida Theatre.

Attenborough described his time at the theatre as having been, ‘consistently thrilling and rewarding.’  He made the decision to leave in Spring 2013 in order to dedicate more time to other ventures, he said: ‘After running theatres for the past 32 years, I now want to concentrate solely on my directing.’

During his time at the Almeida, Attenborough has directed productions of Measure for Measure, The Mercy Seat and King Lear, which runs at the Almeida until November. He also established Almeida Projects – a creative theatre programme for young people which claims to offer ‘10,000 opportunities for young people to participate in projects led by experienced industry professionals’.

Attenborough’s programming over the past decade has seen 32 premieres of new works, which have, on average, attracted 38% new attendees to each production. He was instrumental in securing the financial security of the Almeida, after inheriting a deficit on his arrival as artistic director. By securing long-term sponsors, Attenborough has brought the Almeida out of debt.

Christopher Rodrigues, chair of the Almeida Theatre board said: ‘It has been a privilege for all of us to work with Michael. He has taken the Almeida from strength to strength locally, nationally and internationally by presenting a truly diverse programme of work of which we are all immeasurably proud.

‘Michael has established the Almeida as a powerhouse of British theatre and secured its financial condition. We count ourselves immensely fortunate to have benefited from his leadership for over a decade and wish him every success in his future directorial career.’

Attenborough said of his departure: ‘I would like to place on record my immense gratitude to the superb staff at the Almeida, all of whom have played an integral part in everything we have achieved. Whoever succeeds me will find themselves blessed with a wonderful and unique theatre space, a hugely loyal audience and a board and staff that are second to none.’

www.almeida.co.uk

Final season from Michael Boyd announced at the RSC

Boyd’s last season at the RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s last season under artistic director Michael Boyd has been announced. Boyd said that: ‘I’m very proud to be programming my last season in our new space with many of the theatre artists who have contributed to its success in the last year.’

The Winter’s Tale directed by Lucy Bailey will open the RSC’s 2013 season in January, with plans to take the performance on tour throughout the UK. Following this, a company of actors will perform in repertoire Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well and As You Like It.

The Swan Theatre will open its season  with the world premier of Tanika Gupta’s new play The Empress. The play, to be directed by Emma Rice, tells the story of the relationship between Queen Victoria and an Indian manservant. As with the main space, the opening performance will be followed by a company of actors performing three plays; Titus Andronicus, A Mad World My Masters and a new play from writer-in-residence, Mark Ravenhill.

Michael Boyd upon announcing the new season reflected on the successes the RSC has experienced in the past year: ‘Our transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre has really got into its stride this year, setting the pattern for how we celebrate Shakespeare’s work. We’ve created a space that is perfectly balanced on the tightrope between the Renaissance and now, and truly brings the actors closer to the audience. The last 12 months, in which we’ve celebrated the RSC’s 50th birthday in Stratford, opened the most awarded West End musical in history and launched the World Shakespeare Festival right across the UK, point to the healthiest possible future for theatre’

Boyd will leave his post in September to be replaced by Gregory Doran.