This week The Stage newspaper published its annual Stage100, a list of those seen as the most influential people in theatre this year. The list is compiled by a panel of judges but, this year, their list has caused some comment with its focus on London and the West End in particular. Lyn Gardner in The Guardian says:
“Inevitably this list has a London bias because of the Stage’s emphasis on the West End, but you do seriously wonder if there weren’t a regional section how many non-metropolitan artistic directors and producers would get a look-in”
While the Stage100 does feature the odd entry from the regions, it’s a limited number and East Anglia seem strangely absent, odd when you look at the amount of work being created in the region. So should East Anglia have had more representation in the Stage 100?
No panel here, and a slightly unscientific process, but here are a selection (in no particular order) of ten of those who perhaps deserve to be included in a more geographically diverse list that incorporates the movers and shakers in Eastern region’s arts.
Steven Atkinson – Artistic Director, HighTide
Halesworth, a small rural market town in North Suffolk would not normally be the first place to spring to mind when thinking of a testbed for new theatre. Over the last five years, the HighTide festival has seen work developed that has gone on to the West End and beyond. The annual festival in Halesworth draws theatrical names from across the country and under the direction of Steven Atkinson now holds a key place in the UK theatre scene.
Assis Carrerio – Artistic Director & Chief Executive, Dance East
Perhaps best described as a force of nature, Assis Carrerio has fought hard for the recognition of Dance across East Anglia and has spearheaded the creation of the Jerwood DanceHouse on Ipswich Waterfront.
Joanna Carrick – Artistic Director, Red Rose Chain Film & Theatre Company
Passionate about creating accessible productions that reach as wide an audience as possible, Red Rose Chain’s Joanna Carrick writes and directs many of the company’s work. From staging a play about Anne Boleyn and her brother in a Mongolian Yurt tent to an annual open-air production in the middle of Rendlesham Forest, Carrick’s work has introduced thousands of people to theatre.
Patricia Whymark – Common Ground Theatre Company
Audiences across East Anglia will instantly recognise Pat Whymark’s music, having supplied the musical accompaniment to countless plays and musicals as well as the scripts for many others. Pat (together with partner Julian Harries) is also passionate about nurturing the next generation of theatre practitioners and with their Common Ground Theatre Company combine music, drama and physical theatre to create visually stunning and inventive performances.
Alex Byrne – Artistic Director, New International Encounters
A theatre company with a base in both Cambridge and Oslo sounds a logistical nightmare but New International Encounters don’t see geographic borders as a barrier to work but a positive creative tool. Artistic Director Alex Byrne is passionate about storytelling and creativity, leading an inventive company that isn’t afraid to take risks on the route to giving their audiences a unique theatrical experience.
Peter Wilson – Chief Executive Theatre Royal Norwich
As well as being a successful producer, Peter Wilson heads up the Theatre Royal in Norwich, one of the most successful touring venues in the country. From major musicals to drama productions, in tough economic times the Theatre Royal has operated with a financial surplus in 17 of the last 19 years. Wilson has led refurbishments and modernisations at a venue that offers a leading programme yet still manages to keep its lowest ticket price at just £6.50.
Ivan Cutting – Artistic Director Eastern Angles
A couple of years ago, East Angles was staring closure in the face after the threatened withdrawal of key funding. After a spirited campaign the company redrew its borders and, as it enters its 30th anniversary year, is leading the way in producing new writing in East Anglia. Led by founder Ivan Cutting, the company presents an impressive amount of work – from touring their Spring show to over 50 village halls, schools and theatres across the region, nurturing new writing, acting and directorial talent – all the while reflecting East Anglian communities.
Joe Murphy – Artistic Director Nabokov
Dedicated to producing new work that relates to audiences, Nabokov nurtures new talent to create work across the country. From touring work to Edinburgh and even currently represented in New York – Nabokov’s work, led by Artistic Director Joe Murphy is creating a strong new British theatrical voice.
Tania Harrison – Arts Curator Latitude Festival
The UK music festival isn’t normally associated with theatre but then Suffolk’s Latitude Festival has always billed itself as ‘more than a music festival’. Tania Harrison, Arts Curator for the festival has established a strong record of integrating theatre and arts into the festival. The sight of a packed theatre tent at midnight testament to the eclectic programming that offers festival goers a mix of up and coming artists alongside established names such as Sadler’s Wells, Soho Theatre and the Lyric Hammersmith.
Amit Lahav – Artistic Director, Gecko Theatre
In just 10 years, Gecko has redefined the shape of physical theatre – touring four award-winning production to over 20 countries. Highly visual but always with a strong dramatic thread, Amit Lahav’s productions have gained critical acclaim wherever presented and each new work pushes the boundaries of physical theatre further.