Miss Saigon revival sweeps WhatsOnStage Awards

Britain Miss Saigon

Miss Saigon‘s revival has been awarded nine prizes at the WhatsOnStage Awards (credit: AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Following its return to the West End 25 years after its London premiere, Miss Saigon came away as the big winner of the WhatsOnStage Awards, sweeping the board with nine prizes. The cast of the Sir Cameron Mackintosh hit stole the category for acting in a musical with awards for best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress.

Another of the evening’s top winners was also a revival: Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus, which scored a hat-trick with best play revival, best lighting design from Mark Henderson and best supporting actor in a play for Mark Gatiss.

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Billie Piper was named best actress in a play for the National Theatre’s Great Britain (Credit: Johan Persson)

Coriolanus lead Tom Hiddleston was beaten to the prize for best actor in a play by David Tennant for his performance in the RSC’s Richard II. Tennant’s former Doctor Who co-star Billie Piper fought off tough competition from Gillian Anderson and Imelda Staunton to be named best actress in a play for her turn as Paige Britain in the National Theatre’s phone-hacking play Great Britain.

West End newcomers Shakespeare in Love and Memphis the Musical were both recognised presented with best new play and best new musical respectively.

The 15th annual WhatsOnStage Awards, voted for by the public, took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The full list of WhatsOnStage Award winners can be found below:

Best actor in a play: David Tennant, Richard II
Best actress in a play: Billie Piper, Great Britain
Best actor in a musical: Jon Jon Briones, Miss Saigon
Best actress in a musical: Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon
Best supporting actor in a musical: Kwang-Ho Hong, Miss Saigon
Best supporting actress in a musical: Rachelle Ann Go, Miss Saigon
Best musical revival: Miss Saigon
Best direction: Laurence Connor, Miss Saigon
Best choreography: Bob Avian & Geoffrey Garratt, Miss Saigon
Best set design: Totie Driver & Matt Kinley, Miss Saigon
Best supporting actor in a play: Mark Gatiss, Coriolanus
Best play revival: Coriolanus
Best lighting design: Mark Henderson, Coriolanus
Best supporting actress in a play: Vanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best new play: Shakespeare in Love
Best new musical: Memphis the Musical
Best off-West End production: Sweeney Todd, Twickenham Theatre
Best regional production: Oliver!, Sheffield Crucible
Best takeover in a role: Kerry Ellis, Wicked
Best West End Show: Miss Saigon

www.whatsonstage.com

TD attends relaxed performance of MATILDA THE MUSICAL

Attendees of Matilda The Musical's relaxed performance

Attendees of Matilda The Musical’s relaxed performance

By Ruth McPherson

On 15 June, the Royal Shakespeare Company presented the inaugural ‘relaxed’ performance of Matilda The Musical at Cambridge Theatre, building on the programme of relaxed performances that the RSC has been running in Stratford-upon-Avon since 2013, when it was among the first to adopt and promote the concept. The National Autistic Society worked closely with the RSC on this special performance offering full access to the theatre for people with autism and learning disabilities.

The performance provided a relaxed environment, with elements of the production adapted to reduce anxiety or stress. Lighting and sound levels were adjusted to soften their impact and there was a relaxed attitude to noise and moving around the auditorium during the performance.  Designated ‘chill-out’ areas were provided outside the auditorium with soft seating and activities for people to use if being in the auditorium became overwhelming for them. All audience members were also sent a visual story to help them familiarise themselves with the plot, characters and the setting before they arrived at the theatre.

Tickets for the show were offered at the reduced rate of £20 and it was a sell-out performance. Catherine Mallyon, executive director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said ‘Relaxed performances are a fantastic way of offering a warm and inclusive welcome to those families, giving them the chance to experience high quality, live theatre, often for the first time. We are delighted to be part of the growing number of theatres across the UK helping to make relaxed performances a standard feature of British theatre-going.’

The cast of Matilda The Musical. (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

The cast of Matilda The Musical (Credit: Manuel Harlan)

Several other major London shows have also presented successful ‘relaxed’ performances recently, including The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Romeo and Juliet, The Elephantom, Mamma Mia! and The Lion King.  The National Theatre has recently announced that they will be putting on a relaxed performance of War Horse in September.

RSC launch playwriting competition with Tanika Gupta

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has launched a playwriting competition with British playwright Tanika Gupta.

Gupta’s newest work has been a writing collaboration with the RSC. The Empress, set to have its stage debut in April 2013, was written by the Sugar Mummies author and commissioned and developed by the RSC.

The playwriting competition, in its second year, invites applicants to write a 500-word scene. Gupta has written a line of dialogue which applicants must incorporate into their scene: ‘Finally, you will pay for what you did to me.’

Entries will be judged by Gupta, along with a panel of RSC judges, who will be looking for a fresh new voice, skills in dramatic writing, originality, inventive use of language and rhythm.

The winning entrant will receive an experience day at the RSC. The deadline for entries is 30 November 2012, with the winner of first prize announced by 20 December.

Applicants can submit their work by email (nshepherd@cross.com) or by post (N Shepherd, A.T.Cross Ltd, Unit 14 Windmill Trading Estate, Thistle Road, Luton, LU1 3XJ).

For more information visit www.rsc.org.uk/about-us/updates/write-a-scene-with-tanika-gupta.aspx

Council permit funding for Plymouth Theatre Royal redevelopment project

Plans for a £7million redevelopment of Plymouth Theatre Royal have been given the go ahead. Plymouth City Council approved a £2million three-year funding guarantee. The Theatre Royal has applied for a £5million grant from Arts Council England (ACE) to help fund the changes. The theatre itself will also have to raise £2million for the project to get underway.

Plymouth Theatre Royal is ranked by ACE, after the RSC and the National Theatre, as having the third highest economic impact out of the 541 theatres in the UK. The theatre is considered to be the largest and best-attended regional theatre in the country.

The redevelopment project will provide the Theatre Royal with a new box office, shop and café, as well as improving energy efficiency by 40% by re-cladding the theatre’s front. The upgrade will also add a new studio space for the theatre’s outreach programme, working with young people and the local community.

Chief executive Adrian Vinken said: ‘Our aim is to modernise and make major improvements to the Theatre Royal to ensure it remains Plymouth’s cultural centre of excellence for the next 50 years. Our ability to realise this vision will depend on whether we are able to raise the necessary scale of funding.’

For more information, visit www.theatreroyal.com.

Tim Crouch to direct RSC young people’s King Lear

Paul Copley, most recognisable recently for his portrayal of Mason in Downton Abbey, is to make his Royal Shakespeare Company debut this autumn/winter to take the title role in Tim Crouch’s new 75 minute stripped down version of King Lear. Touring schools and theatres from 11 September to 1 December 2012, the production will visit Southampton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Truro, Hull, York, Birmingham and The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, as well as making a brief visit to the states to play in Ohio and New York.

In keeping with previous RSC Young Persons’ Shakespeare (YPS) productions, this version of Lear aims to be accessible to younger audiences. A royal family gathers for Christmas and the father broadcasts his seasonal message. He’s giving up work and dividing his kingdom. With this misjudged act, the natural order is turned upside down and the scene is set for a story of family break-up, homelessness and heartbreak.

Tim Crouch said: ‘With the RSC’s Young People’s Shakespeare, the audience is the focus; they guide my hand with the edit and our work in rehearsal. It’s a privilege for me to repay their influence with one of the greatest plays ever written.’

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Shakespeare: staging the world – exhibition review

Star Rating
****
A great connection between context and text. For KS5+ students or for teachers looking to explore the world of Shakespeare that much more.

Shakespeare: staging the world is not your usual Shakespeare exhibition – it is not the Bard’s own work which is at the fore, the exhibition instead focuses on the world which surrounded Shakespeare and how that shaped the content of his plays. The accompanying catalogue says: ‘Shakespeare’s audiences learned at the playhouse what was happening abroad – or what they imagined to be happening abroad.’

The exhibition leads you through the various parts of the world which shaped many of Shakespeare’s plays. London is shown as it would have been during Shakespeare’s era – maps demonstrate the growing use of the Thames, which gave London greater connections to the rest of the world – significant to the influences on Shakespeare’s writing.

Modern elements breathe life into the exhibition. The RSC have filmed a number of short extracts from plays such as As You Like It and Henry V which are projected onto the walls amongst the items on show. This, if nothing else, truly connects the historical context to Shakespeare’s words. It also adds a somewhat more dynamic design element to the experience.

Items on display help to contextualise some of the significant moments in his writing. The political unease found in Macbeth is said to reflect the impact of Guy Fawkes gun powder plot on the country. The witches casting a spell to concoct a storm at sea is said to reflect James I’s fear that he would drown in a shipwreck at the work of the devil. Macbeth clearly engages much of the political paranoia that existed at the time.

The exhibition would be most useful for KS5+ students, specifically those studying Shakespeare’s plays performed in their original performance conditions. There is great contextual evidence for Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar and the many of his works based on monarchs of the country. Making that connection between Shakespeare’s work and what was happening at the time will help to open up students understanding on a whole new level – and may give them a different view point on his plays.

The general consensus on the popularity of Shakespeare is that it stems from his ability to be ‘all things to all men’ through his use of universal themes. Shakespeare: staging the world confirms that assertion, as it displays how in tune Shakespeare was with the world around him and that his plays reflected the contemporary issues affecting the world at the time.

Open until 25 November 2012. To book tickets visit: www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/shakespeare_staging_the_world.aspx

International Student Drama Festival 2012

University of Warwick students perform The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui at the NSDF 2011 (c) NSDF

This week has seen the first International Student Drama Festival (ISDF) take place in Sheffield. The National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) took the decision to make this year’s event global, so to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad (see Teaching Drama Summer 1 for our article on the NSDF ‘Going Global‘).

The 9-day festival began on 22 June with an address from Tim Etchells, Forced Entertainment’s artistic director. The company, based in Sheffield, was established in 1984 by Exeter university graduates – something which would inspire many of the student attendees.

Etchells spoke of his concern for the government’s current attitude toward the funding of artists and theatre: ‘We are – in case you hadn’t noticed – living in a space of economic downturn […] a space which offers us the dismantling and out sourcing of state functions (health, education, arts) and in general cuts and with cuts a steady insistence on the importance of private sponsorship a situation in which, little by little sponsors help to define the shape of public institutions.’

Etchells also said how ISDF was an ‘amazing opportunity to show and to meet and to invent’. He offered advice to students, recommending that they should, ‘steal things, from everyone and anyone. Take one thing from everything you love and then hide, mix and rework it all in what you do. Take one thing and make it yours.’

As well as Etchells, there have been a number of visiting artists in attendance at the international festival. Hull Truck Theatre Company’s John Godber is acting as a judge for this year’s panel. Other big names from the theatre industry in the UK have included the RSC, LAMDA, Mountview, Old Vic Tunnels, Masterclass, Out of Joint, Forced Entertainment and many other organisations and individuals who have been running 270 workshops that have been put on for visitors.

There has also been a selection of visiting global artists such as Vietnam Youth Theatre, Australian company Circa, Ashtar Theatre from Palestine and theatre companies from Russia, Iran and Iceland.

The ISDF has seen 20 performances from students from around the UK, as well as many international performances from theatre companies originating from the US, Israel, Japan, Australia and Zimbabwe.

Shota Rustaveli Theatre Company, from Georgia, USA, were described as, ‘a highlight of this year’s ISDF programme’ by The Stage, with their performance of Our Town. Another highly commended performance came from With Wings Theatre Company, a group of former students from Giggleswick, Yorkshire. Their production of If Room Enough, an adaptation of The Tempest, has been referred to as the ‘hottest ticket in town’. There are plans to take the production to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.

Director of theatre at the University of Sheffield (one of the festival’s partners) Professor Steve Nicholson said: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity for students to broaden their theatre experience and maybe even challenge some expectations. It’s almost like having the best of the Edinburgh Fringe on our doorstep and shows once again that Sheffield is one of the most exciting cities in the UK if you want to see and study live performance.’

The ISDF will finish on 30 June.

www.nsdf.org.uk

Remains discovered from theatre where Shakespeare’s original plays were performed

(c) Museum of London Archaeology

Remains from the venue in which Romeo & Juliet is thought to have been first performed have been unearthed in East London. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) came across The Curtain Theatre’s gallery walls and playhouse yard when redeveloping the site in Shoreditch.

The Curtain Theatre is thought to be one of oldest theatre spaces in London. It first opened in 1577 and became home to the Lord Chamberlain’s men – Shakespeare’s company – for two years, until the opening of the Globe Theatre. The Curtain fell into disuse and was dismantled in the 17th century, leaving its exact whereabouts unclear, until now.

Chris Thomas, lead archaeologist on MOLA’s redevelopment of the area, said: ‘This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearean theatres. On other Tudor theatres we’ve found quantities of little pottery money boxes, which the punters put the price of admission into on the way in, which were then smashed at the back of the theatre to get the takings – I’m sure some from the Curtain are still there, just waiting for us to find them.’

The Curtain hosted two significant premieres of Shakespeare’s work – Romeo & Juliet and Henry V. The theatre itself is referred to in the prologue to the latter: ‘Can this Cock-Pit hold within this Wooden O, the very Caskes that did affright the Ayre at Agincourt?’

RSC artistic director, Michael Boyd said of the discovery: ‘I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare’s early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.’

Olivier Awards 2012 – The nominations


Teaching Drama 
was invited to The Mayfair Hotel by The Olivier Awards to hear them reveal this year’s nominees. 2011 winners, Nancy Carroll and Roger Allam, were in attendance to announce this year’s shortlist.

The RSC’s Matilda The Musical is this year’s frontrunner having secured ten nominations in categories for sound design, lighting, costume, set and choreography. Bertie Carvel, who has been starring as Miss Trunchbull, has been nominated for best actor in a musical and the Matildas were also nominated for best actress in a musical.

Ghost The Musical received five nods for categories in design and for best new musical. Singin’ In The Rain also came away with nods for best actress in a musical for Scarlett Strallen and best musical revival, where it will have to beat out Crazy for you, South Pacific and The Wizard of Oz. 

James Cordon was nominated for best actor for The National’s One Man, Two Guvnors. He will have to battle it out for the title against big screen stars, Jonny Lee Miller for Frankenstein and Jude Law for Anna Christie. Celia Imrie, from Noises Off , has been nominated for best actress along with Kristin Scott Thomas for her role in Betrayal.  

The Olivier Awards will take place on Sunday 15 April at the Royal Opera House. The ceremony will be available to watch through the BBC’s red button service and also broadcast on BBC Radio 2. The Olivier Awards have also organised a Covent Garden Piazza event. The public will be able to see performances from some of London’s shows and watch the ceremony unfold live on a big screen relay.

To watch the nominations, visit the webcast here.
For more information visit www.olivierawards.com

Arts Council and BBC create new online arts channel

Arts Council England (ACE) in partnership with the BBC are to launch a new online arts channel called The Space. The channel will contain work from theatres across the UK. The project will run from 1 May until the end of October 2012.

The Space is described by ACE as ‘an experimental digital arts media service and commissioning programme that could help to transform the way people connect with, and experience, arts and culture.’

53 applicants were successful in applying to create original commissions for The Space. Some of the notable entries include Pilot Theatre Company, Blast Theory and Bristol Old Vic. Two entries which will capture this summer’s Shakespearean festivities are The Globe, who will be documenting their Globe to Globe festival and the Royal Shakespeare Company, who are creating World Shakespeare Festival TV to capture the highlights from this summer’s performances.

Chief executive of ACE, Alan Davey said: ‘The Space is one of our most significant interventions of recent years and I’m delighted to be able to announce such exciting and imaginative contributions from artists and organisations. It will inspire a great generosity of spirit among the participating organisations, with each of them committed to documenting and sharing the journey they all are taking together.’

The Space will be accessible across four different platforms; PCs, internet connected televisions, smart phones and tablets. The resources will also be made available through video on demand on Freeview.

The project has been developed to coincide with the London 2012 festival and the many celebrations happening around the UK this year, including the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.  Roly Keating from the BBC said: ‘We believe we can make something really special happen to celebrate 2012’s unique summer of arts.’

To find out more about the participating applicants visit the Arts Council website. The Space (www.thespace.org) will launch in May.