The Lord Lloyd Webber. Producer and composer
Chairman: Charles Collier
UK theatre is currently experiencing an incredible high, with record-breaking box office returns in the West End and many Hollywood stars treading the boards. Last year alone saw Dame Helen Mirren, Jude Law, Dame Judi Dench, Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy, to name but a few, appear on the London stage, drawing huge audiences and rave reviews. Our list celebrates the people who are making the biggest impact on and off stage: the producers, writers, directors and actors who help make British theatre among the best in the world.
As an agent and managing director and founding partner of Tavistock Wood, one of Europe’s leading artist management agencies in the film, theatre, television and publishing industries, Charles Collier has worked with many of the performers, directors and producers in the business. Charles was educated at Emmanuel College Cambridge and qualified as a lawyer with the law firm Allen & Overy, before focusing his professional practice within the media and entertainment sector.
Sir Nicholas Hytner, Director
Sir Nicholas Hytner has been director of the National Theatre for ten years. Throughout his tenure he has made it one of the most respected theatres in the world leaving it artistically strong and commercially successful. Hytner is the archictect of NT Live, which broadcasts the best of the theatre’s work to cinemas across the world. In 2012, this generated a global audience of 3.2 million. Combining critical acclaim with box office attraction, Hytner has staged a string of shows such as War Horse, The History Boys and One Man, Two Guvnors, winning numerous awards and drawing attention to British theatre.
Sir Tom Stoppard, OM, CBE. Writer
Sir Tom Stoppard fled his home in Czechoslovakia as a child in the shadow of the imminent Nazi occupation. His father later died in the conflict and when his mother remarried, his stepfather insisted that the family’s Judaism be kept secret. The rebranded Stoppard left school at 17 and began work as a journalist for a Bristol paper, becoming a drama critic. This interest moved Stoppard towards theatre where he found his true calling as a writer. His absurdist tour de force Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead turned the striving dramatist into a sensation overnight and he has since created masterpieces including Jumpers, Arcadia and Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love. He is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation.
Sonia Friedman. Theatre producer
Powerhouse producer Sonia Friedman is one of the most ingenious and important theatre producers in the West End. Having engineered some of the most popular theatre productions in both London and on Broadway in recent times including the acclaimed Legally Blonde, Much Ado About Nothing and Arcadia, she has produced over 100 new productions since 1990. Since founding Sonia Friedman Productions in 2002, her company has amassed a mountain of accolades including Tony and Olivier awards. Friedman is frequently recognised in the media as one of the most prolific, inventive and influential producers working in British theatre.
Michael Grandage, CBE. Theatre director and producer
Michael Grandage’s career in the theatre was influenced by Ian McDiarmid and Jonathan Kent’s time at the Almeida Theatre in the 1990s, which he says “was one of the most exciting moments in British Theatre”. He originally trained as an actor, but came to realise he was more interested in directing. Now the artistic director of the Michael Grandage Company, he is dedicated to making the West End accessible to the masses; currently working on five productions, each production does one free performance for schools and 100,000 tickets across their season are priced at a mere £10. His work has won Tony, Olivier, Olivier, Critics' Circle, Evening Standard, and South Bank Awards, and he says that his greatest achievement is “to have made an important contribution as both a producer and a director”.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh. Producer
Cameron Mackintosh decided that he wanted to be a theatre producer at the age of eight when his aunt took him to see a production of Salad Days. He began his career in his teens, becoming a stagehand at the Theatre Royal. He has now produced more musicals than anyone else in the world with productions including Oliver!, Mary Poppins, Cats!, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, the latter three now the longest running musicals of all time. He is widely considered to be the most successful, influential and powerful theatrical producer in the world.
Rufus Norris. Associate director National Theatre
The multi award-winning theatre director Rufus Norris first came to prominence in 2001 when he won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Newcomer for his production of Afore Night Came at the Young Vic. Having initially trained as an actor at RADA, Norris has directed a multitude of critically acclaimed productions since this time, and in October 2013 it was announced that he will take on the role of artistic director of the National Theatre in April 2015. He is the first actor and non-Cambridge graduate to be appointed to this role, which is widely considered to be the most prestigious job in the world of British theatre.
The Lord Lloyd Webber. Producer and composer
From Cats to The Phantom of Opera, producer and composer Lord Lloyd Webber has created some of the most famous musicals of all time. In addition to his own shows, he is also responsible for producing the likes of Daisy Pulls it Off and The Sound of Music. Lloyd Webber leads the casting for the Emmy Award-winning BBC series, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. Lloyd Webber owns six London theatres, including Drury Lane, the London Palladium and the Theatre Royal and his theatre production company, the Really Useful Group, is one of the largest operating in London. Lloyd Webber has a host of honours, including seven Tony Awards, three Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, an Oscar and a knighthood.
Mark Rylance. Actor and director
Playwright, actor and theatre director Mark Rylance is seen by many as the patron saint of actors. Winning a scholarship to RADA, Rylance trained there from 1978 before achieving success on stage. Playing a host of protagonists such as the title role in Richard III, Olivia in an all-male production of Twelfth Night and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Rylance has attained critical acclaim winning numerous Tony and Olivier awards. Rylance was the first director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London where he worked for ten years. His first play, I Am Shakespeare, was published in 2012. Rylance is one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of recent times.
Dominic Cooke, CBE. Director
Dominic Cooke was born in Wimbledon; his father was a film editor and his mother, who once dreamt of being an actress, worked as a nurse. Educated at a state school, Cooke made frequent trips to the theatre in his youth, taking advantage of the free tickets provided by the Inner London Education Authority. After studying at Warwick University he decided he wanted to work in television and took a job as a runner. He soon decided television wasn’t for him, and so set up his first theatre company, Pan Optic. Cooke went on to work at the RSC and the Royal Court, winning the Olivier Award for Best Director in 2007. After seven years as artistic director at the Royal Court he left the theatre last year, after guiding it through one of its most successful periods.
Dame Helen Mirren, DBE. Actress
Dame Helen Mirren has an international career that spans screen, stage and television. Brought up in Essex in a “very anti-monarchist” family, her recent performance as The Queen in the The Audience won her acclaim and awards, including an Olivier Award and the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress. Beginning her career with the National Youth Theatre in the role of Cleopatra, Mirren later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company before touring Africa and America with the theatre company of renowned director Peter Brook. Her work has spanned numerous productions, audiences and accolades. Mirren is a national treasure.
Josie Rourke. Artistic director Donmar Warehouse
British theatre director Josie Rourke is the artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse, which attracts plenty of stars to its stage and audiences to its seats. Educated at St Patrick's Roman Catholic High School before reading English at Cambridge University, Rourke’s career really began as the resident assistant director at the Donmar Warehouse before working as the trainee associate director of the Royal Court Theatre. Roles as associated director at Sheffield Theatres and artistic director of the Bush Theatre followed, before she took the helm at the Donmar Warehouse in 2012. She has directed Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate, The Recruiting Officer and the recent, celebrated production of Coriolanus.
David Tennant. Actor
David Tennant told his parents that he wanted to become an actor aged three because of his love of Dr Who. His potential from an early age was evident and he has wholeheartedly pursued a career in acting. Despite his presence in film and television, in theatre Tennant has had a celebrated career and he’s worked on stage more than anywhere else. He has performed with the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Since 2008, Tennant has starred in Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Much Ado About Nothing and Richard II. His presence has attracted huge audiences, bringing Shakespeare to wider and newer audiences.
Gregory Doran. Artistic director Royal Shakespeare Company
Gregory Doran is the current artistic director of the RSC. He established his own theatre company whilst at university and put on Shakespeare productions. It was in 1987 that Doran began his career with the RSC as an actor, progressing up the ranks to associate director in 1996. In 2002, Doran won an Olivier Award for Special Achievement. On what inspired him, he says “sincerely, I found Shakespeare my greatest inspiration. Not only did he give me the words for “what oft was thought be ne'er so well expressed”; but he described a 360 degree perspective view on what it was to be human. He gave me a passport through my life.” He is hoping to stage every play that Shakespeare wrote over the next six years of his tenure.
Nica Burns, OBE. Theatre producer and co-owner and chief executive of Nimax Theatres
Theatre producer Nica Burns is the co-owner and chief executive of Nimax Theatres, which owns six West End theatres. She also directs and produces Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards. Originally a stage actress, Burns re-mortgaged her home and used all of her savings to buy the theatres. The company is now turning over £14 million per annum and became profitable in year two. The thespian entrepreneur was identified as the private business woman of the year at the 2013 UK Private Business Awards. In 2012, Burns was awarded an OBE for her services to theatre.
Sheridan Smith. Actress
Growing up, the BAFTA Award-winning actress Sheridan Smith never went to the theatre as tickets were too costly; drama school was not a possibility because her parents could not afford the fees. When she was 16, she moved to London but returned home to work in a burger van when she couldn’t afford her rent. Today, Sheridan Smith has to turn down work as the hugely popular, emotionally convincing actress has a hoard of fans in both audiences and critics. She won an Olivier Award in 2011 for her lead role in Legally Blonde, and has progressed even further to star in Flare Path, Hedda Gabler and A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside the comedic talent of David Walliams.
Vicky Featherstone. Artistic director Royal Court
Vicky Featherstone was appointed artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre in 2012 and took over in April 2013. Prior to assuming the prestigious role at the Royal Court, Featherstone was the artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, the UK’s first non-building-based national theatre, where she was responsible for the hit production, Black Watch, which was awarded international acclaim. As the first female in the role, Featherstone’s tenure at the Royal Court is significant in its potential identification of a change of culture in the heavily male-dominated world of British theatre.
Rory Kinnear. Actor
The versatile Rory Kinnear is the highly respected and hugely successful theatre, as well as TV and film, actor. Kinnear recently played the role of Iago in the National Theatre’s production of Othello, jointly winning the Olivier Award for Best Actor with co-star Adrian Lester. Kinnear has also played Angelo in Measure For Measure and Hamlet at the National Theatre. The two roles won him the Evening Standard Drama Awards Best Actor award. He also achieved recognition as the outrageous Sir Fopling Flutter in The Man of Mode at the National Theatre, winning both a Laurence Olivier Award and Ian Charleson Award. Kinnear recently branched out into playwriting with his debut script of The Herd, thought by some to be his greatest theatrical achievement to date.
Adrian Lester, OBE. Actor
Leading British theatre actor Adrian Lester was born to Jamaican immigrants; his mother was a medical secretary, his father was the manager for a contract cleaning company. Lester left school in Edgbaston at 16 as they didn’t promote interest in the arts, it was through reading that he introduced himself to Shakespeare. Through his strong will and clear talent, at 18 he gained a place at RADA and in 2013 he jointly won the Best Actor Evening Standard Theatre Award with Rory Kinnear for his title role in Othello. Lester was also awarded an OBE for his services to drama.
Lucy Kirkwood. Playwright
The playwright Lucy Kirkwood has taken the West End by storm with her award-winning play, Chimerica, which examines the relationship between East and West. Kirkwood is a writer in residence at the trailblazing Clean Break Theatre Company. In 2005, she wrote and starred in her first play, which was selected for the National Student Drama Festival. In November 2013, she became the first British beneficiary of the Berwin Lee London New York Playwrights Inc Award. Cited as Britain’s brightest young playwright, Kirkwood is at the forefront of the next generation of theatre.
Sally Greene, OBE. Owner and chief executive Old Vic Productions
Sally Greene is the owner and chief executive of Old Vic Productions, which has produced or co-produced over 100 productions in both the West End and on Broadway, including the hit show Billy Elliot: The Musical. In 1998, the theatre was threatened with closure so Greene steeped in, forming a Charitable Trust aimed at preserving one of the most famous theatres in the world. Within four months, Greene had raised £1.5 million towards the purchase price and over the next two years she raised a further £2.5 million to buy the theatre. She also brought Kevin Spacey to the Old Vic as artistic director.