The award goes to 24-year-old Sam Pritchard, whose proposed production of Marius von Mayenburg’s Fireface will now be staged at the Young Vic’s Clare studio theatre in September/October, with the backing of an £18,000 prize bursary.
Fireface was originally staged in 1998 in von Mayenburg’s native Germany and was first seen by British audiences at the Royal Court as part of the International Playwrights Season in 2000, directed by Court artistic director Dominic Cooke. This will be its first major London revival for what’s billed a “modern classic”.
The JMK runner-up this year was Simon Pollard with his proposal for a production of John Cameron Mitchell’s Off-Broadway cult musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He’ll receive £2,000, funded by the Ian Ritchie Foundation, towards mounting the production. The six other directors shortlisted were: Abigail Graham, Tim Hoare, Kate O’Connor, Kirsty Patrick Ward, Prasanna Puwanarajah and Josh Seymour.
The JMK Trust was set up 15 years ago to commemorate the visionary young director James Menzies-Kitchin, whose career was cut short by his sudden death at the age of 28. Applicants for the Award must be under 30, have directed no more than two professional productions and must apply to direct a ‘classic text’.
The Award has become the single most sought-after prize, and a vital springboard, for young theatre directors. Previous winners include Thea Sharrock, Orla O'Loughlin, Bijan Sheibani, the Young Vic’s now deputy artistic director Joe Hill-Gibbins, Mark Rosenblatt, Natalie Abrahami, Polly Findlay and Cathal Cleary, and previous runners-up include Josie Rourke, Carrie Cracknell and Charlotte Westenra.
Commenting on award and this year’s increased prize money, Stephen Fewell, the newly-confirmed Chair of the Board of the JMK Trust, said: “In the current financial climate, it is harder than ever for talented emerging theatre directors to make that transition from assisting others to initiating their own work. We’ve worked hard this year to raise the amount of the JMK Award, so that Sam and his actors are properly supported in realising his ambitious production of Fireface at our current home, the Young Vic.
“Fifteen years ago, when we created the Trust, there were only a handful of development opportunities for young directors, but it was far cheaper for aspiring theatre-makers to mount their own productions on the Fringe, and in many houses around the country there existed the financial and creative leeway for them to cut their teeth on their own show. Things have changed, and opportunities like the JMK Award appear more important than ever. Few would disagree that it is only by making theatre that people really grow as directors, and the JMK Award affords Sam that valuable opportunity.”