Empty Space Singles Out Tricycle & Theatre 503Date: 4 November 2004
The Empty Space/Peter Brook Awards, now in their 15th year, were presented today in a lunchtime ceremony at the Theatre Museum, with the Tricycle Theatre and Battersea’s Theatre 503 both being honoured.
The Awards are made by London Theatre Reviews and The Theatre Museum to honour a body of work rather than an individual production, and are presented in recognition of the pioneering concepts or innovations that, in the spirit of the legendary director Peter Brook in whose honour they are named, are achieved by venues who perform in smaller studio spaces and receive comparatively little or no public funding. There is prize money for the winners and nominees, as well as a further award, the Mark Marvin Rent Subsidy Award that is made to productions rather than venues and is intended to go towards funding the rent required to give the production a further life.
At today’s ceremony, the Tricycle Theatre took the award (and £2000 prize money) for established studio venue in a category that also included BAC and Southwark Playhouse (both of which received £350 for their nominations). Presenting the award to the Tricycle, Mark Shenton -- Whatsonstage.com and Sunday Express critic and one of the judging panel alongside fellow critics Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), Dominic Cavendish (Daily Telegraph) and Kate Bassett (Independent on Sunday) -- paid tribute to the theatre with these words: “The Tricycle, or Trike as it is often affectionately known, isn’t just a local theatre, nor even a national one, but now a truly international one. Through its work, it effortlessly spans each of those interconnecting territories. It has firm roots in the local community in Kilburn that it has been part of for nearly a quarter of a century now. Its programme regularly reflects the cultural diversity of its locale, with Irish, black, Asian and Jewish writers past and present, from home as well as abroad, presented frequently. But it is work that transcends Kilburn’s geographical and social boundaries to reach far wider. With its pioneering development of its Tribunal plays, the Tricycle had made an even larger political as well as theatrical impact.”
The award for Up-and-Coming theatre, presented to theatres who are either still struggling for recognition after years of productions with experienced artistic directors at their helm or are recently opened venues with up-and-coming artistic directors, went to Battersea’s Theatre 503, formerly known as the Latchmere, in a category that also included Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre and the Studio at the Royal Exchange, Manchester. Shenton again presented the award (and £1500 prize money, with £350 to each of the nominees), saying: “What’s in a name? Battersea’s Theatre 503, as it is now known, may have been forced to change its name from the Latchmere after a legal battle this summer with a former director of the theatre, but as my colleague Lyn Gardner said when reviewing a new play there after the change: ‘Names of course don’t really matter – it is the quality of the work that counts’. And in the last two years under the artistic directorship of Paul Higgins, the theatre has presented 24 new plays, five devised plays and four seasons of innovative work that have variously demonstrated that fact. It is here that audiences could see new or revised work by established writers like Anthony Neilson, Ron Hutchinson, Naomi Wallace and Gary Owen, and also see early work by Glyn Cannon, Dennis Kelly, Jennifer Farmer and Fraser Grace – writers who have gone on to work with Paines Plough, the Bush and the RSC. Plays like Dennis Kelly’s Debris and Phil Porter’s Stealing Sweets and Punching People have come here via the National Theatre Studio, with Theatre 503 providing an invaluable platform to bring the plays to the public and a bridge for the playwrights between the fringe and bigger spaces. Theatre 503 has established itself as a crucial part of the ecology of new writing in the capital.”
Four productions were in contention for the Mark Marvin Subsidy Award of £1500: nominated were Cambridge-based company Menagerie who are already committed to performing Craig Baxter’s Hard Sell at Theatre 503 in December, Lifeblood Company who are seeking to bring Glyn Maxwell’s Lifeblood to Wilton’s Music Hall, The Lion Part who are aiming to open Lillie on the Land at the Trafalgar Studio’s second studio space next spring, and Shapeshifters, who are planning to stage a promenade version of Keith Dewhurt’s Lark Rise to Candleford at the Finborough next summer. The award was won by Shapeshifters.