Voting for the WhatsOnStage Awards closes January 21st

Its nearly closing time for public voting for the annual WhatsOnStage Awards!

This is an opportunity for you to make your selection from the shortlists which were created from public nominations at the end of last year. And these are the only awards which are voted for exclusively by the theatregoing public.

So take a wander over to their website which you can find here, and cast your votes .

The awards ceremony will be held on 27th February.


Winners announced of the Black British Theatre Awards 2021

The winners of the 2021 Black British Theatre Awards were announced on Sunday 21st November at a reception at Old Finsbury Town Hall, London.

Hosted by Cynthia Erivo (Wicked) and Danny Sapani (Black Panther), the event welcomed guest presenters including Miriam-Teak Lee (Hamilton), Jason Pennycooke (Moulin Rouge!), Dawn Hope (Follies), Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp (Interim CEO at Eclipse Theatre Company), Mzz Kimberley/Kim Tatum (Straight White Men), Matthew Xia (Blue/Orange), Brenda Emmanus (arts, culture, entertainment correspondent), Nadine Benjamin, Layton Williams (Everyone’s Talking About Jamie) and Ahmet Ahmet (director of Get Into Theatre).

Those with multiple wins were Miranda Cromwell’s production of and breathe… at the Almeida with four awards, and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet also won four awards.

The winner for each category is highlighted in bold type in the list below.

CREATIVES GROUP
BEST DIRECTOR AWARD FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Anthony Simpson-Pike, Lava, Bush Theatre
Miranda Cromwell, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
Tinuke Craig,The Color Purple – at Home, Curve, in association with Birmingham Hippodrome

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTOR
Femi Temowo, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
Ian Oakley, From Here, Chiswick Playhouse
Nadine Lee, Bagdad Cafe, The Old Vic

BEST PRODUCER AWARD
and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
Chris Steward and Shanay Holmes, West End Musical Celebration at Palace Theatre
Tanisha Spring, A Killer Party

BEST CHOREOGRAPHER AWARD
Dannielle ‘Rhimes’ Lecointe, The Sun, The Moon and The Stars, Theatre Royal Stratford East
Ingrid Mackinnon, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Sarah Golding, Cruise, Duchess Theatre

BEST DANCE PERFORMANCE IN A DANCE PRODUCTION AWARD
Joseph Sissens, The Statement, The Royal Ballet

BEST DANCE PRODUCTION AWARD
And Still We Dance!, Afro Dance Xplosion
Far From the Norm, BLKDOG
‘Like Water’, Ballet Black

BEST USE OF INNOVATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Chris Steward and Shanay Holmes, West End Musical Celebration at Palace Theatre
Ryan Carter, The Secret Society of Leading Ladies, Barn Theatre

RECOGNITION GROUP (BODY OF WORK)
LIGHT AND SOUND RECOGNITION AWARD
Tony Gayle

COSTUME DESIGN RECOGNITION AWARD
Jodie-Simone Howe

BOOK AND LYRICS RECOGNITION AWARD
Annabel Mutale Reed
Benedict Lombe
Yomi Sode

MUSICAL DIRECTOR RECOGNITION AWARD
Ian Oakley
Sean Green

CASTING DIRECTOR RECOGNITION AWARD
Chandra Ruegg
Isabella Odoffin

ACHIEVEMENTS GROUP
LGBTQ CHAMPION AWARD
Alex Thomas-Smith
Jay Perry
Nicole Raquel Dennis

BEST TEACHER OF PERFORMING ARTS AS A SUBJECT AWARD
Ashley Campbell, British Theatre Academy
Hakeem Onibudo, Impact Dance
Kamara Gray, Artistry Youth Dance

BEST RECENT GRADUATE AWARD
Georgina Onuorah, Arts Educational Schools
Kayla Carter, Royal Academy of Music
Natasha May-Thomas, Urdang Academy

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Derek Griffiths MBE

PLAYS GROUP
BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
David Jonsson, and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
Michael Balogun, Death of England, National Theatre
Omari Douglas, Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Isabel Adomakoh Young, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo, Lava, Bush Theatre
Tia Bannon, seven methods of killing kylie jenner, Royal Court Theatre

BEST SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Andrew French, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Ola Ayofe, After Life, National Theatre
Stephen K Amos, My Night With Reg, Turbine Theatre

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
Anoushka Lucas, After Life, National Theatre
Aretha Ayeh, Romeo and Juliet, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Rosalind Eleazar, Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

BEST PRODUCTION PLAY
and breathe…, Almeida Theatre
J’Ouvert, Harold Pinter Theatre
Lava, Bush Theatre

MUSICALS GROUP

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Ivano Turco, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Gillian Lynne Theatre
Liam Tamne, The Prince Of Egypt, Dominion Theatre
Tyrone Huntley, Jesus Christ Superstar, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Lucy St Louis, The Phantom of the Opera, Her Majesty’s Theatre
Marisha Wallace, Hairspray The Musical, London Coliseum
Shanay Holmes, Disenchanted

BEST SUPPORTING MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Ashley Samuels, Hairspray the Musical, London Coliseum
Caleb Roberts, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Gillian Lynne Theatre
John Pfumojena, Carousel, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL AWARD
Gloria Onitiri, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Gillian Lynne Theatre
Natasha May-Thomas, Carousel, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Tanisha Spring, The Prince Of Egypt, Dominion Theatre

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION AWARD
The Color Purple – at Home, Curve, in association with Birmingham Hippodrome
The Last Five Years, Minack Theatre
West End Musical Celebration, Palace Theatre


Theatres Trust funding supports new approaches to recovery for theatres at risk

The Theatres Trust has announced the four theatres who will receive support funding in the third year of their Capacity Building Programme.

The programme is designed to support theatres on our Theatres at Risk Register to commission expert advice and acquire the skills and knowledge to push forward capital projects to help save their theatres. Alongside the grant, each theatre will receive support from the Theatres Trust’s advice team.

The four theatres receiving a share of the £45,000 fund are:

Brighton Hippodrome, £8,000
Grade II* listed Brighton Hippodrome is the UK’s most architecturally significant circus theatre – the finest surviving example of its type in the country. It has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when the list began, and is also on the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register. Brighton Hippodrome CIC will receive a grant for fundraising scoping and testing, forming part of a wider fundraising strategy for the Hippodrome to enable the group to make a strong case for its future as a theatre.

Doncaster Grand, £11,500
An ornate Grade II listed Victorian theatre with strong community support, Doncaster Grand has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since the list started in 2006. Doncaster Council has been awarded a Theatres at Risk Capacity Building grant to part-fund a viability study for the theatre. The study will be led by the local authority with involvement from the Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre and the building owner, Frenchgate Limited Partnership.

King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy, £7,000
Originally opened as the King’s Theatre in 1904, it later became a cinema, remaining Kirkcaldy’s main picture house until its closure in 2000. The building remained empty, suffering from a lack of maintenance, leading to it being added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2016. It was then bought by King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy in 2016, who plan to restore the building to create Fife’s largest performing arts venue. The Theatre at Risk Capacity Building Programme will support King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy Limited to commission a community feasibility study for the theatre. This will provide a comprehensive understanding of the audience and market demand based on detailed market analysis and feedback from the local community.

Ramsbottom Co-op Hall, £19,000
This was only added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2021 and recently awarded Grade II listed status following a Theatres Trust submission, Ramsbottom Co-op Hall is a rare early surviving example of a Cooperative Hall. It was originally used for variety entertainment of the kind commonly associated with music halls as well as community meetings. The recently formed Ramsbottom Co-op Hall Heritage Trust Ltd will receive funding and support to commission a market appraisal and a building valuation survey, vital first steps in the project to return the building to community performance use.

Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser at Theatres Trust, said “We believe every theatre on our Theatres at Risk list has the potential to be returned for use by their communities, providing performance venues of types currently lacking in their local areas and bringing much needed footfall to beleaguered high streets. We are pleased to support these theatres as we know from experience that these early stages can make a crucial difference to the progress of theatre revitalisation projects.”

Theatres Trust have expressed their gratitude to The Pilgrim Trust and Swire Charitable Trust for funding the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme.

I am sure we all wish these buildings every success with their road back to performance.


2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winner announced

Winning writer Erika Dickerson-Despenza (photo from SSB Prize website)

The 2021 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize has been awarded to U.S. playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza for her play about the Flint, Michigan water crisis, CULLAD WATTAH.

In a rare move which shows the strength of this year’s field of writers, Kimber Lee’s THE WATER PALACE and Ife Olujobi’s JORDANS each were awarded a $10,000 Special Commendation. Each finalist receives $5,000.

Awarded annually since 1977, The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize is the largest and oldest international prize honouring Women+ playwrights. On April 7, a livestream of the award ceremony honoured Dickerson-Despenza and the other nine finalists. Award-winning star of stage and screen, and one of this year’s Blackburn Prize Judges, Paapa Essiedu, announced the winning play, which comes with an award of $25,000 and a signed and numbered print by artist Willem de Kooning.

The Willem de Kooning print which is a part of the annual prize

The highly-respected women+-only playwriting prize’s 2021 shortlist was complied from over 160 international submissions.

The shortlist comprised (in alphabetical author order)

Glace Chase (Aus/US) – TRIPLE X

Erika Dickerson-Despenza (US) – CULLUD WATTAH

Miranda Rose Hall (US) – A PLAY FOR THE LIVING IN THE TIME OF EXTINCTION

Dawn King (UK) – THE TRIALS

Kimber Lee (US) – THE WATER PALACE

Janice Okoh (UK) – THE GIFT

Ife Olujobi (US) – JORDANS

Frances Poet (UK) – MAGGIE MAY

Jiehae Park (US) – THE AVES

Beth Steel (UK) – THE HOUSE OF SHADES

Having not seen the winning play yet , I must say that I was very impressed the brilliant Janice Okoh play THE GIFT which describes itself as “an outrageous play about imperialism, cross-racial adoption, cultural appropriation…and tea” Okoh’s play captures painfully and eloquently the past and present scars of British colonial racism. You can read my four-star review of the play here .

The show’s UK tour was sadly cut short due to the Covid shutdown, but it must return to ensure a wider audience has the chance to experience this unforgettable and important play.

Previous Susan Smith Blackburn Prize winners include Jackie Sibblies Drury for FAIRVIEW in 2019, which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize (see my review of the Young Vic production here), and Lucy Prebble’s A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON won the Award in 2020.

The judges were director Natalie Abrahami, director Lileana Blain-Cruz, designer Bunny Christie, actor Paapa Essiedu, actor Jason Butler Harner and director Seema Sueko.

To learn more about the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, visit their website by clicking here

Congratulations to all the shortlisted writers, commended writers and the winner.


For those who may like to know more about the play and its author, these following excepts are from the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize website

ERIKA DICKERSON-DESPENZA is a Blk, queer feminist poet-playwright and cultural-memory worker from Chicago, Illinois. She is a 2020 Grist 50 Fixer and was a National Arts & Culture Delegate for the U.S. Water Alliance’s One Water Summit 2019. Awards: Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award (2020), Thom Thomas Award (2020), Lilly Award (2020), Barrie and Bernice Stavis Award (2020), Steinberg Playwright Award (2020), Princess Grace Playwriting Award (2019, for cullud wattah). Residencies & Fellowships: Tow Playwright-in-Residence at The Public Theater (2019-2020), New York Stage and Film Fellow-in-Residence (2019), New Harmony Project Writer-in Residence (2019), Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow (2018-2019), The Lark Van Lier New Voices Fellow (2018). Communities: BYP100 Squad Member, Ars Nova Play Group (2019-2021), Youngblood Collective (EST). Commissions: The Public Theater, Studio Theatre & Williamstown Theatre Festival. Productions: cullud wattah (2019 Kilroys List) originally slated at The Public Theater, 2020 and Victory Gardens Theater, 2021. Currently, Erika is developing a 10-play Katrina Cycle, including shadow/land and [hieroglyph] (San Francisco Playhouse, 2021; 2019 Kilroys List), focused on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and its state-sanctioned, man-made disaster rippling in & beyond New Orleans.

ABOUT CULLUD WATTAH

Dickerson-Despenza’s self-described “Afro-surrealist” play was set for a 2020 premiere at The Public Theater, when the pandemic shut down theatres around the world.  The play embraces three generations of Black women living through the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

“I wrote cullud wattah to explore the politics of disgust, shame and refusal by highlighting the rupture of government intervention at the intersection of capitalism and environmental racism…I wrote this play specifically for black women on the margins of the margins. Poor and working class black women, single mothers, elders and widows, black women in recovery, and queer black girls.”

– Erika Dickerson-Despenza

Full of tenderness and humor, the play paints a searing portrait of a family of Black women as they navigate their way through horrific catastrophe. As described by the Public Theater, “cullud wattah blends form and bends time, diving deep into the poisonous choices of the outside world, the contamination within, and how we make the best choices for our families’ future when there are no real, present options.”

cullud wattah was developed during the Lark Play Development Center’s 2018 Van Lier New Voices Fellowship tenure (John Clinton Eisner, Artistic Director) and received its first staged reading in October 2018 at Jackalope Theatre in Chicago (Gus Menary, Artistic Director; Nora Leahy, Managing Director). cullud wattah received a Public Studio workshop production March 7 – 10, 2019 at The Public Theater, where it was scheduled to have its world premiere in July 2020 (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director; Patrick Willingham, Executive Director) but is indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Local Stars Celebrated with Hearts For The Arts 2021 Awards

Valentine’s Day, 14th February, was the very appropriate date chosen for the announcement of the winners of the UK’s annual Hearts For The Arts awards.

2021 WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Hearts for the Arts are the annual awards ran by the National Campaign for the Arts recognising the UK’s unsung Local Authority arts heroes.

The awards are judged by high-profile figures in the arts and sciences. This year’s judges were: Le Gateau Chocolat, Helen Czerski, Mariella Frostrup, Paul Hartnoll, Adrian Lester CBE, Francesca Martinez, Petra Roberts and National Campaign for the Arts Chair Samuel West.

An online multi-arts festival, a radio programme celebrating descendants of the Windrush generation, and efforts to counter digital poverty in Wandsworth have all been recognised by this year’s awards.

Awards will be presented by Samuel West and selected guest judges at the Hearts for the Arts digital Awards Ceremony hosted by the Local Government Association on Wednesday 3rd March.

Nominations were received from across the UK for each of the three award categories. Despite the incredible hardships faced by Local Authorities in 2020, this year’s awards have seen the NCA receive a record-breaking number of nominations, as local communities turned to the arts for solace, strength and connectivity during the pandemic.

So many strong nominations were received in the Best Arts Category, that three winners have been chosen:

And the winners are:

Best Arts Project: N17 (Haringey Council). A radio programme created in partnership by students of Harris Academy Tottenham, Kick it Out, Threads Radio, Haringey Council, RoughHouse Theatre and playwright, Dougie Blaxland.

Best Arts Project: Create & Learn PlayKits (London Borough of Wandsworth Arts Service). Wandsworth creative organisations worked together with Wandsworth Council to make and distribute over 3000 kits of creative materials and activities to children aged 6-10 years old in most need.

Best Arts Project: Arts E-Live (Mole Valley District Council). A community arts festival of over 50 events in the fields of music, theatre, poetry, creative writing, children’s events, street art, craft, filmmaking and dance.

Best Arts Champion – Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker: Andy Dawson (Inspire Youth Arts). In his role as Service Manager, Andy has strategically planned and secured funds to deliver fantastic creative journeys for young people across Nottinghamshire.

Best Arts Champion – Councillor: Councillor Janet Emsley (Rochdale Borough Council) for her consistent and energetic support of the arts in Rochdale.

The National Campaign for the Arts (NCA) presents the Hearts for The Arts Awards each year. The awards are delivered by the NCA in partnership with Culture Counts; the Local Government AssociationThriveUK TheatreVoluntary Arts WalesWales Council for Voluntary Action.

To read more about Hearts For The Arts, click here

My heartiest congratulations to all the winners in this exceptionally challenging year.