The Scoop & Orange Tree Win Empty Space PrizesDate: 7 November 2006
The Empty Space/Peter Brook Awards, now in their 17th year, were presented today in a lunchtime ceremony at the Theatre Museum, with Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre, the open-air Scoop on the South Bank and Islington’s Old Red Lion all receiving prizes.
The Awards are made by London Theatrereviews 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’s prize money for both the winners and nominees, as well as a further accolade, the Mark Marvin Rent Subsidy Award, which is made to productions rather than venues and is intended to go towards funding the rent required to give a piece a further life. An additional new award was introduced last year in memory of Dan Crawford, founder of the King’s Head Theatre who died last July (See News, 14 Jul 2005), to honour pub theatres.
At today’s ceremony, the Orange Tree took the award (and £2000 prize money) for an established studio venue in a category that also included the Arches in Glasgow and the Tricycle in Kilburn (both of which received £350 for their nominations). Presenting the award, Evening Standard critic and member of the judging panel Fiona Mountford, said this “unashamedly literary theatre is middle class, and in the suburbs; if that isn’t enough to damn it from the outset, I don’t know what is.” But she went on to praise the Richmond venue’s theatre-in-education projects and trainee directors’ courses.
The award for up-and-coming theatre - presented to venues which 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 The Scoop, the free open-air amphitheatre near City Hall which presented its fourth season this past summer (See News, 3 Aug 2006). Since Scoop’s launch in 2003, over 75,000 people have enjoyed productions including Oedipus, Agamemnon, Androcles and the Lion, The London Nativity, Children of Hercules and Treasure Island. Artistic director Phil Willmott and producer Suzanna Rosenthal collected the £1500 cheque. In addition, £350 each went to the other Empty Space nominees: Sheffield’s Studio and the Southwark-based Unicorn Children’s Theatre.
Five productions were in contention for the Mark Marvin Subsidy Award. Verb Theatre’s Limbo: Stories From 7/7 at the Tristan Bates Theatre beat the King’s Head’s production of Peter Pan, Shapeshifter’s King Arthur, Look Theatre Productions’ Not the Love I Cry For and Accentuate’s Jamie the Saxt to the £1500 prize. Finally, the Dan Crawford Pub Theatre Award was presented to the King Head’s neighbour, the Old Red Lion in Islington.
Producer Thelma Holt was joined on stage to present the awards alongside judges Dominic Cavendish (Daily Telegraph critic), Lyn Gardner (Guardian), Fiona Mountford (Evening Standard) and Mark Shenton (Sunday Express).
The awards’ founder, Blanche Marvin, hosted the ceremony for the final time at the Theatre Museum, as the venue is to close on 7 January 2007 (See News, 25 Sep 2006). Marvin said she is hopeful a new space will be found for the museum, and said “things are not as bleak as they seem”. She praised all the winners of this year’s awards for their inventive use of space and they way they imaginatively followed the ethos of Peter Brook who believed “All you need is an empty space to create theatre. It’s what you do with that empty space that matters.”
- by Caroline Ansdell