International Women's Day - a Celebration of Women in London Theatre
To celebrate International Women's Day we take a look at some of the London theatre industry's top women to celebrate their success and contribution towards theatre of all kinds. From commercial hits in the profit sector to running challenging venues in the non-profit, women are at the heart of the theatre industry and provide countless reasons to be celebrated.
With the news of the Olivier Award nominations earlier this week also came the news that producer Sonia Friedman was celebrating a whopping 31 nominations for her production company across a wide variety of different categories:
“I am bowled-over that our work has been recognised with 31 Olivier Award nominations and would like to congratulate everyone SFP has worked with across the year including all of the wonderfully talented writers, actresses, actors, directors, composers, musicians, designers, co-producers and investors as well as my extraordinary and dedicated team at SFP ALL of whom have been integral in making this 2016/2017 season another year of remarkable and record-breaking theatre.”
After topping The Stage's 100 list earlier this year Friedman continues to go from hit to hit, aided by a particularly strong 2016 which saw the opening of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre and Dreamgirls in the West End. No stranger to championing new productions this year brings with it the West End transfers of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour from the National Theatre along with Jez Butterworth's new play The Ferryman to the Gielgud. There's no denying Friedman is a phenomenal producer with an eye for a hit.
As chief executive of Nimax Theatres Nica Burns is one of the most recognisable names in the West End. With a string of hit venues across London Burns welcomed in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to the Palace Theatre which will no doubt prove to be a long-runner for the company and the West End as a whole. Having hosted the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company for almost 18 months at the Garrick Theatre, Burns is preparing to welcome director Dominic Dromgoole for a season at the Vaudeville Theatre called 'Classic Spring' which will see proscenium playwrights such as Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw performed in the venues in which they were intended. Appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to theatre, Burns is one of the top women working in the industry and at the forefront of the West End as a whole.
Rourke has been Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse since 2012 and continues to take the venue in new and challenging directions, pushing the boundaries of performance in terms of space and content. This past year welcomed an impressive feat of achievement as the Donmar took over the King's Cross Theatre with a fantastic season of all-female Shakespeare productions that included immersive and exciting new stagings of The Tempest, Henry IV and Julius Caeser which were all met with critical acclaim. Rourke recently took two Donmar productions to New York, directing James Graham's Privacy and Les Liaisons dangereuses and flying the flag for the central London venue that continues to champion new work and strong, relatable seasons. Two plays from the past year Elegy and One Night in Miami have recently been nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Play, and the Donmar's 2017 season explores politics and power with a new play, a revival and a brand new verbatim musical that's set to get people talking.
One of the biggest theatre news stories of 2016 followed Rice's departure from The Globe Theatre after just two seasons as Artistic Director. After a confident and exciting season that included a new production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and a re-imagining of Cymbeline, Rice and the Board of Shakespeare's Globe parted ways citing its return to 'original practises' including authentic lighting and sound. The way in which it was handled raised eyebrows across the industry, but Rice also announced her second and final season was to be the 'Summer of Love' season which kicks off at the open-air venue next month. There's much to look forward to including a bold new production of Twelfth Night – and one thing's for sure, Rice will certainly be remembered for her vision and artistry – we can't wait to see what's next!
Featherstone has been artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre since 2013 and continues to push the Sloane Square venue to the forefront of British and international theatre. This past year has seen an impressive season of new plays including Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone which returned to the venue following an international tour and a strong outing from Lucy Kirkwood, The Children and the UK premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks' Father Comes Home From the Wars Parts I, II and III. As a director her celebrated production of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is preparing to return to London in the commercial West End following runs in Scotland and the National Theatre and the Royal Court itself recently announced an exciting season that includes the sell-out return of Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman. Excellent programming from one of London's most hard-working Artistic Directors.
The director of hit shows such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and War Horse announced last year that she was stepping down as Associate Director of the National Theatre, following her upcoming revival of Angels in America which begins performances next month. The two-part production has already sold out and is one of the most anticipated shows of the entire year that will no doubt shine with Elliot's visionary treatment. It was also announced that Elliot had teamed up with theatre producer Chris Harper to create Elliot Harper Productions which will transition into the commercial sector with a string of new productions including Simon Stephens' Heisenberg, Oedipus to Antigone and the first gender-reversed production of Stephen Sondheim's 1970 musical Company. There's much to look forward to for Elliot and we certainly can't wait to see her weave her magic once again at the National Theatre and in the West End.
As current Artistic Director of the The Tricycle Theatre in North London Rubasingham made her mark with her inaugural production of Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti, which went on to win both the Evening Standard Award and a Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play, before transferring to the West End's Garrick Theatre last year. This was followed up by Moira Buffini’s Handbagged which won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre and transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre where it was nominated for a further Olivier Award the following year. Awarded the MBE in the 2017 New Year Honours List, Rubasingham continues to push the Tricycle Theatre to new heights whilst also working as a director outside the venue with two productions at the National Theatre, Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Motherfucker with the Hat and Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino taking pride of place at the Lyttelton Theatre.