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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The Tiger Who Came to Tea – Performance review

by Rachel Creaser
Star rating
****
A perfect first theatre visit.

Tea time with the tiger (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Tea time with the tiger (Credit: Alastair Muir)

David Wood’s stage adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic children’s book is visiting the West End this summer. In 2012, the show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family.

The production, for children aged three upwards, has been carefully crafted to help make the young audience’s journey through the story as interesting and stimulating as possible.

Many theatrical conventions and devices are introduced in the play: the show opens with the cheerful ‘Hi, Hello’ song, where the actors welcome the audience to the performance and thank them for coming along. They then explain that they are here to tell a story, which will be about a girl called Sophie and her mother – it is at this point when they begin to adopt the role of their character in front of the audience. The gesture and characterisation throughout the performance is strong, providing an interesting and animated visual picture. The passing of time on this day where the story takes place is marked by clearly and is a recurring motif with a sing-song ‘tick, tock, tick, tock’.

While the narrative of the play is quite simple – a small girl’s unremarkable day at home with her mother, interspersed with visits from the postman and the milkman, is turned upside down by a visit from a well-mannered and very hungry tiger – it very clearly functions as a well-structured piece of theatre, with considered lyrics, movements, mimes, characterisations, costumes and everything else in between.

(Credit: Jane Hobson)

(Credit: Jane Hobson)

The story is brought to life by the characters, but the set, costumes and props work as fantastic accompaniments, looking as if they have come from the pen of an illustrator.

Among the use of common theatrical devices (mime, movement etc), the show also offers perhaps the most exciting theatrical element of all – magic. Food suddenly disappearing from plates, a bag which was empty becoming full without an obvious slight of hand – these are moments that children will remember and treasure as they recall their first theatre experiences.

This is a warm, friendly and fun show which is perfectly pitched for its age range. The Tiger Who Came to Tea would be a great introduction to some of the conventions of theatre, as well as its most important quality – its magic.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea runs at the Lyric Theatre at Shaftesbury Avenue in London until 7 September 2014. The show will also have a Christmas season at Birmingham Town Hall this December. For more information, visit www.thetigerwhocametotealive.com.

TheatreCraft 2011: Beyond the stage

TheatreCraft: Beyond the stage is an event that offers workshops, one-to-one career advice and an exhibition, informing visitors about the many opportunities in off-stage theatre careers.

This year’s event was held at the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera. The day was launched in the auditorium with an impressive backdrop design in place. Visitors were welcomed by designer William Dudley, a 14-time Olivier award nominee, winning seven for his work on plays such as Hitchcock Blonde.

Dudley described his first encounter with theatre design as ‘love at first sight’. He was impressed with the number of students in attendance and encouraged visitors to consider a career in backstage arts, explaining: ‘It’s never boring – it’s a very strange and exciting thing that can take you round the world.’

There was a good selection of workshops on offer, covering a variation of careers, such as stage management, fundraising, development, costume design and even becoming a critic. Teaching Drama attended ‘working with young people’ – an hour long workshop led by Talawa Theatre Company’s participation and education officer, Gail Babb.

It was largely a discussion–based workshop which allowed each participant to introduce themselves and mention any relevant experience they had working with young people. Babb offered us advice on how to find work experience placements, getting the right kind of CRB check and what to consider when approaching an institution with a workshop.

The workshop wasn’t made up of recommended exercises to use with young people – instead it offered a very realistic and knowledgeable insight into working with young people and the hard work and persistence it takes to start working in theatre.

TheatreCraft also houses just under 30 different organisations in its exhibition. Big names like the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and The Stage had stalls, offering visitors the opportunity to liaise with some of the most important companies in the theatre industry.

TheatreCraft is ideal for students looking to go into higher education. There was a strong presence of educational institutions at the marketplace, including representatives from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, East 15 and Regents College London: School of Film, Media and Performance. This gave students the chance to look at some of the more specialised courses available in backstage theatre.

The event also has some relevance for younger students. The RSC, Mousetrap and Ambassador Theatre Group were offering discounted tickets and workshops. The RSC were promoting their scheme The Key, which provides greater access to 16-25 year olds by offering £5 tickets and discounted student coach trips.

Most of the material on offer is relevant to students, rather than teachers – with low price theatre tickets for the under 25’s. However, theatre companies such as Mousetrap run the Teachers Preview Club, a membership offering teachers individual or group tickets at a discounted price.

With impressive names in attendance, speaking so enthusiastically about their careers, TheatreCraft is a great place to become inspired – for your students, or for yourself. Recommended for slightly older students but is still a great chance for younger students to start thinking about the future and gain a realistic idea of what it is like to really work in theatre from some of the most knowledgeable people in the industry.

To find out more about the companies that attended the exhibition visit www.TheatreCraft.org