Theatre movers and shakers

Evening Standard publishes list of most influential Theatre and Arts players in London

The Evening Standard recently published its The One Thousand guide, listing the most influential people in the capital. As you would expect, theatre and the arts played a major part in the line-up with a number of West End players making the list of creative leaders whose influence extends much wider than just London. Big players in the West End include both established and new talent from acting, directing and producing work, to the chairmen and chief executives who manage the business.

The Evening Standard’s The One Thousand – Theatre and Dance section

Kevin Spacey – Old Vic, Actor and Artistic director

Now a full-time Londoner and only a part-time film star, Spacey has weathered some storms to prove himself an admirable steward of the Old Vic, even temporarily remodelling its auditorium and bringing Sam Mendes back to Britain with the transatlantic Bridge Project.

Nicholas Hytner – National Theatre, artistic director

A vocal figurehead for the performing arts as well as a shrewd programmer and interpreter of plays, the suave Hytner knows that controversy, Helen Mirren, Alan Bennett and even outdoor Polish theatre make his South Bank HQ a truly national institution.

Michael Grandage – Donmar Warehouse, Artistic Director

Brilliant director and promoter of serious drama, the Donmar’s preternaturally youthful boss brought Jude Law’s Hamlet to the West End and Rachel Weisz’s Blanche DuBois to his pocket Covent Garden powerhouse.

Lord Lloyd-Webber – Composer, theatre owner and producer

He and Sir Cameron Mackintosh have had a huge influence on London’s theatreland, as well as owning a fairly large chunk of it. While churning out hit productions, Lord Lloyd-Webber braved the critics to bring musical theatre to primetime TV. Has been fighting prostate cancer.

Lucy Prebble – Playwright

Having written her first drama at university, Prebble’s second professionally produced script Enron – about the collapse of the bombastic energy company – has been acclaimed one of the plays of 2009. Oh, and she also got Billie Piper wielding a whip in the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

Dominic Cooke – Royal Court Theatre, Artistic Director

“I like dissent,” says the affable, London-born Cooke, and he’s fostered it by putting Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, challenging German plays, angry work by Polly Stenham and a solo David Hare on his two stages. He’s kept the Court right on the cutting edge.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh – Impresario and theatre owner

The producer supremo who can’t fail. His theatrical ventures have out-grossed huge film successes such as Titanic and ET, and now little orphan Oliver is back in style. Has generously refurbished his theatres for future generations.

Sir David Hare – Playwright

The Labour Party, the Iraq War, the recession, and now the banking crisis in The Power of Yes … no subject is too big or too urgent for Britain’s leading political playwright. He also turns in the odd film adaptation and is married to fashion designer Nicole Farhi.

Sir Ian McKellen – Actor

Veteran classical actor at the top of his game, with Hollywood cachet in Lord of the Rings and X-Men. Has been back in the West End this year in Waiting For Godot. Is calling for producers to give more roles to older women.

Patrick Stewart – Actor

After many years in America with the Star Trek TV series, Stewart has returned to the West End, latterly making great use of his stage training in a Beckett double act with Ian McKellen. Says he has never been happier than now.

Sir Tom Stoppard – Playwright

The revival of Stoppard’s Arcadia confirmed it as a 20th Century classic, while Every Good Boy Deserves Favour reminded us he’s political and not just a clever clogs. And still the bouncing Czech manages to turn out film scripts and adaptations, with a major TV series due soon.

Dame Judi Dench – Actress

You can’t keep a good dame down and after appearing as de Sade’s mother-in-law in the West End Judi Dench will next year play Titania in Kingston for Sir Peter Hall, more than 50 years after she first essayed the part for him.

Vanessa Redgrave – Actress

What a trouper Redgrave is, making us glad there are still (some) roles for women over a certain age. The Oscar-winner has lost none of her political fire either. Mother of actresses Natasha, who sadly died in a skiing accident in Canada this year, and Joely.

Nica Burns – Nimax Theatres, chief executive

Whether running the five West End theatres she owns with Max Weitzenhoffer, organising comedy awards, or acting as President of the Society of London Theatre, Burns is London theatre’s great enthusiastic persuader: it was she who brought James McAvoy to the West End in Three Days of Rain.

Alan Bennett – playwright

The éminence grise of British theatre is still going strong 49 years after he hit the headlines with Beyond the Fringe. The History Boys introduced us to a generation of new leading men (James Corden, Dominic Maxwell), and his new drama The Habit of Art, starring Richard Griffiths and Alex Jennings, premiered at the National this autumn.

Rupert Goold – Headlong Theatre, artistic Director

It looked like Goold’s run of thrilling reworkings (Macbeth, Six Characters) had come to an end with a duff Time and the Conways but he bounced back with one of the plays of the year, Enron, and is tipped for a top job at a national company in the future.

Katie Mitchell – National Theatre, associate director

Mitchell is the most daringly experimental director of her generation, and the National’s own licensed maverick. Her adaptations of Woolf and Euripides have been emotionally demanding and technically sophisticated: it’ll be fascinating to see what she does with Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat this Christmas.

Simon Russell Beale – Actor

One of the best reasons to see Sam Mendes’s transatlantic Bridge project was to see SRB’s riveting performances as Leontes and Lopakhin in The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard. The greatest actor of his generation showed his versatility as John Le Carre’s George Smiley on radio.

Sonia Friedman – Producer

Friedman comes from a “ghastly von Trapp-style family” (her sister is singer Maria) and has established herself as London’s leading female producer, balancing straight theatre (Arcadia, Prick Up Your Ears, Othello) with superior entertainment (Legally Blonde, the Musical), always with a shrewd eye on what audiences want.

Jez Butterworth – Playwright

He was too distracted to write in the city, so started a new life as a pig farmer in the West Country, taking day trips to the capital. Jerusalem at the Royal Court sold out and transfers to The Apollo for a limited run next year.

Josie Rourke – Bush Theatre, Artistic Director

Three years into her reign the still absurdly youthful Rourke has maintained this tiny Shepherd’s Bush theatre as a home of innovative drama, scoring hits this year with Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Affinity and the dazzling war drama Stovepipe, staged in a nearby, disused shopping centre.

Mark Rylance – Actor

Superlative performer who never ceases to surprise, whether it’s by forsaking his RSC acting career to run Shakespeare’s Globe, indulging in on-screen sex in Intimacy, or turning himself from a hick teacher (Boeing Boeing) into a drug-dealing gypsy (Jerusalem). His latest, flamboyant turn is in Beckett’s Endgame.

Felix Barrett – Punchdrunk, artistic director

No one has done more to reinvent theatre as something that can happen anywhere – and thrillingly – than south London boy Barrett. His company Punchdrunk first made its mark with a multi-layered Faust in a Wapping warehouse, and most recently worked with the Old Vic on the atmospheric Tunnel 228 beneath Waterloo station.

Simon McBurney – Theatrical visionary

McBurney emerged as the creative leader of the collaborative physical theatre group Complicite and has led it in startling new intellectual directions, in the process becoming a director of international renown. Current projects include directing Beckett’s Endgame in the West End and developing the company’s first original film.

Marianne Elliott – Director

The rising power at the National Theatre, heiress to the legacy of Deborah Warner and Phyllida Lloyd, Elliott has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of a play, whether it’s Shaw’s St Joan, the hugely successful War Horse, or Shakespeare’s tricky All’s Well That Ends Well. Now working on her first musical, for the National, scored by Tori Amos.

Mehmet Ergen – Director, Leyla Nazli – Producer

The Istanbul-born Ergen and his producing sidekick Nazli have turned a former sewing machine factory in Dalston into a humming hub of creativity with stagings of seldom-seen classics and new work, not to mention East London’s own opera festival, Grimeborn.

Ken Stott – Actor

For years, Scottish-born Stott earned so little from acting he had to sell double-glazing on the side. Now he’s a bona fide theatre star, able to rivet an audience with the force of his personality. The best thing in Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, Stott was also a superlative Eddie Carbone in Miller’s A View From The Bridge.

Polly Stenham – Playwright

Blonde, spiky-haired Stenham is the poster girl for a new generation of playwrights and her debut That Face has proved remarkably durable – she’s off to New York next year to open it there. Still only 23, living in Highgate, she is adapting her second play Tusk Tusk for film.

David Babani – Menier Chocolate Factory, producer

In a few scant years the teddy-bearish Babani has built south London’s Menier Chocolate Factory into an off-West End gem. He recently basked in the glory of high-profile transfers of La Cage Aux Folles and A Little Night Music, and has attracted heavyweights like Trevor Nunn, Terry Johnson and Victoria Wood to his lair.

Rebecca Hall – Actor

Having quickly shrugged off talk of nepotism (her first roles were for her father, Sir Peter), willowy Hall, pictured below, won plaudits in Sam Mendes’s continent-spanning Bridge Project – and on the screen in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Older brother Edward is a theatre director too.

Lee Hall – Writer

Softly spoken, Newcastle-born Hall (who now lives in Islington with his wife, film director Beeban Kidron) created both the stage and screen versions of Billy Elliott and the affecting, thought-provoking Pitmen Painters. Also in demand as a screenwriter: a film about the RAF’s first working-class pilots in the Second World War is in the pipeline.

Nicolas Kent – Tricycle Theatre, Artistic Director

In his 25 years in charge, this Cambridge-educated son of a button-manufacturing businessman has ensured that Kilburn’s tiny Tricycle has punched well above its weight. He’s programmed seasons of black and Irish plays, pioneered the concept of documentary theatre and this year oversaw a huge season of work about Afghanistan called The Great Game.

Sir Trevor Nunn – Director

Ground-breaking director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, he also helped shape the modern musical with his productions of Cats, Les Mis and so on. He came back this year, after the disaster of Gone With the Wind, with Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, taking it from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End.

Dominic Dromgoole – Shakespeare’s Globe, artistic director

Far from Shakespearean in his views of the theatre – he describes the relationship between live performance and new technology as the “big story” for theatre, dance and opera. His Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labour’s Lost are to be screened in cinemas globally.

Dame Liz Forgan – Arts council England, chair

Ex-BBC radio boss oversees a budget worth £1.3 billion over the next three years, which will go to about 880 arts organisations from the Royal Opera House to the Southbank Centre and beyond. She also chairs The Guardian’s Scott Trust and her Left-wing views have upset some Tories.

David Lan – Young Vic, artistic director

A “major, radical decision” is how he describes the Young Vic’s decision to play the entire score of Annie Get Your Gun on four Wendl & Lung pianos in the recent production. He trained as an anthropologist specialising in Zimbabwean spirit mediums.

Matthew Byam Shaw – Producer

The former actor has produced a slate of new work and classical revivals in less than a decade – and has done well with Enron, which he is bringing to the West End in the new year and then, like another of his co-productions, Hamlet, on to Broadway.

Michael Frayn – playwright

Rumours that this most cerebral of writers might retire have proved premature following Afterlife at the National. Frayn’s work ranges from side-splittingly funny to deeply serious. Married to biographer Claire Tomalin.

Kwame Kwei-Armah – Playwright and actor

The first black Briton to have a play in the West End (only in 2004), proving there are still boundaries to be broken. Most recently he’s been part of the Tricycle’s Not Black and White season. Born in Hillingdon, now living in Barnet, he changed his name from Ian Roberts after tracing his family history.

Carrie Cracknell, Natalie Abrahami – Gate theatre, artistic directors

Cracknell created A Mobile Thriller which was staged in a moving car with the audience strapped in the back seat. Abrahami stripped away the bustles in directing Vanya at the Gate, London’s only producing theatre dedicated to international work.


Matthew Bourne – Choreographer and director

Easily Britain’s most popular director-choreographer, Bourne’s mix of clear story-telling and high production values ensure loyalty for his dance-dramas. His version of Swan Lake with male swans is a modern classic.

Alistair Spalding – Sadler’s Wells, Director

Feet remain comfortably under tables for Spalding, whose transformative direction of Sadler’s Wells and his commissioning clout mean paths are beaten to his door by both wannabe choreographers and political poo-bahs.

Steven McRae – The Royal Ballet, Principal dancer

Rightly promoted to principal in the Royal Ballet’s annual round of snakes-and-ladders, the scissor-legged Australian, pictured, wows all and sundry with his fine dancing and acting finesse, latterly in Mayerling at the Royal Opera House.

Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon, Akram Khan – choreographers and dance company owners

Hip those hoorays for three British dance makers who not only choreograph and perform but also run their own companies and have a say in other people’s. Style-wise they cover the waterfront: Wheeldon has classic allure; Khan has east-west cross-over; and McGregor has everything – innovation, ingenuity, and educational commitment.

Monica Mason – The Royal Ballet, Director

With more dancers, more cash and more repertory than everyone else, the Royal’s veteran dancer-turned-director retains all her influence. But only until 2012, when she retires – so successors are jostling.

See the full The One Thousand listing at the Evening Standard website

👤 📅13 November 2009

📷 Main photo: Evening Standard publishes list of most influential Theatre and Arts players in London

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