Sheffield Theatres, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Bunker Theatre have been named theatres of the year at The Stage Awards 2020 today.
The Sheffield group, which comprises the Crucible, Lyceum and Studio, was named Regional Theatre of the Year for an “extraordinary” season of work in 2019 including Standing at the Sky’s Edge and Life of Pi.
Life of Pi, which transfers to London’s West End later this year, also won the new award of Achievement in Technical Theatre. It was praised for its state-of-the-art projections, which put audiences into the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and for creating a 44-pound tiger puppet.
The Bunker Theatre at London Bridge was named Fringe Theatre of the Year only two months before it has to close at the end of March due to redevelopment plans for the wider site. The award recognised its commitment to giving talent from under-represented backgrounds a home, including the refugee-led company Borderline’s show, Welcome to the UK.
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch in east London was named London Theatre of the Year after a £1 million facelift that has made it more accessible. Despite the work, it still managed to produce 14 shows in 2019, including the large-scale Public Acts community project with the National Theatre.
The title of Producer of the Year went to ATG Productions because of two “remarkable” projects: its critically acclaimed Pinter at the Pinter Season, featuring 20 one-act plays plus Betrayal, and Ian McKellen On Stage which saw the actor take his one-man show to 86 theatres across the UK before an 80-date run in the West End.
The Innovation Award went to Artistic Directors of the Future which is helping to diversify leaders across the theatre industry. Its board-shadowing initiative, which launched in Yorkshire in early 2019 and expanded to London, has enabled participants to sit in at leading theatre companies including Complicité, English Touring Theatre and Punchdrunk.
Leeds Playhouse was awarded Theatre Building of the Year after its £15.8 million redevelopment, including a strikingly designed exterior and vastly improved access facilities.
Selladoor Productions won the International Award for taking the global market by storm, with 12 productions overseas last year including European premieres for Amélie and Little Miss Sunshine. It also added Madrid to its exiting offices in New York, Shanghai and Bangkok.
The Unsung Hero award went to front-of-house assistant Mary Joseph at London’s Almeida Theatre. She started working as a cleaner in 1995 but now works six days a week, mainly in the box office kiosk. Having worked at the theatre for a quarter of a century, she was described by its artistic director Rupert Goold as the “essence of the Almeida”.
The Stage Awards are decided by a judging panel after extensive consultation with leading figures in the theatre industry and a public nomination process. The winners were announced today (January 31) at a ceremony at the Royal Opera House, London.
The Stage’s associate editor, Lyn Gardner, said: “It may be challenging times for British theatre, but this year’s winners of The Stage Awards reflect the boldness and creativity of the sector and its depth and breadth across the country. From the industry-changing innovation of Artistic Directors of the Future to the grassroots support offered to emerging artists at the Bunker, and the crucial part played in London’s ecology by the revitalised creativity and community engagement of a suburban London theatre like the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, the 2020 winners are all beacons. They all demonstrate theatre’s ever-evolving ability to adapt and reinvent itself to the benefit of 21st-century artists and audiences.”
The Stage editor Alistair Smith said: “Our 2020 winners reflect how theatre across the UK is both thriving and evolving. They balance local sensibilities with national, even international, ambitions: from the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, whose collaboration on As You Like It saw it work with community groups and the National Theatre, to Sheffield Theatres, whose output included the musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge – telling the story of Sheffield’s Park Hill Estate – and Life of Pi, a stage adaptation of a worldwide bestseller that will transfer to the West End this year.
“Meanwhile, our producer of the year, ATG Productions, was behind Ian McKellen on Stage which visited theatres of all sizes across the whole of the British Isles including theatres in Orkney, Jersey, Derry and Aberystwyth.”
Stage Awards 2020 – Winners in full
Regional Theatre of the Year (sponsored by Berkley London)
London Theatre of the Year (sponsored by LMA)
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
Fringe Theatre of the Year (sponsored by encoreinsure.com)
The Bunker Theatre, London
Theatre Building of the Year (sponsored by TAIT)
Producer of the Year (sponsored by PRG)
International Award (sponsored by Ambassador Theatre Group)
Innovation Award (sponsored by Charcoalblue)
Artistic Directors of the Future
Achievement in Technical Theatre (sponsored by ETC)
Sheffield Theatres for Life of Pi
Unsung Hero (sponsored by ETC)
Mary Joseph, Almeida Theatre