Winners of The Stage Awards 2024 announced

The winners of The Stage Awards, in association with Tysers Live, have been announced at the annual awards ceremony at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London. The prestigious event took place in front of an audience from every corner of the industry, with guests including West End producers, artistic directors, stage stars and many of the figures who featured in The Stage 100 list.

Now entering its 14th year, The Stage Awards were launched in 2010 to highlight the achievements in theatre across the UK. This year it turned its attention to 30 nominees across nine categories, all of whom exemplified the very best of the theatre community. For the first time this year, there was also the surprise addition of a Judges’ Award, presented to theatre company Chickenshed, in celebration of 50 years of excellence.

This year, the Theatre of the Year Award was given jointly to two venues in recognition of their achievements during 2023: The National Theatre in London and the Watermill Theatre in Newbury. This was a timely win for the National, receiving the award for its work during its 60th anniversary year, a testament to outgoing artistic director Rufus Norris and an admirable legacy for its incoming artistic director Indhu Rubasingham. In its anniversary year, the National Theatre pulled out all the stops; not only did it deliver its most prolific season in the theatre’s history, producing 31 plays and musicals – with seven West End transfers and two shows in New York, it also continued to impress with its community and outreach work. In 2023, it reached more than 15,000 students via its touring productions in schools and delivered its most ambitious Public Acts initiative: The Odyssey. Both on stage and off, the National continues to lead by example in demonstrating the power and importance of theatre.

Meanwhile, the Watermill Theatre’s win represented a heroic comeback story. Since losing its Arts Council England funding at the end of 2022, the team at the Watermill have worked tirelessly to ensure that the theatre not only survives, but thrives. Nowhere is this clearer than in its triumphant production of the Lord of the Rings musical, its boldest production to date. Similarly to the Watermill, the winner of Fringe Theatre of the Year, sponsored by encore insure – Little Angel Theatre, London – operates within a world of ambition that goes way beyond its size. Little Angel’s win gives recognition to its contribution to the theatre ecology through its championing of puppetry and children’s theatre – an often undervalued sector of the industry. Based on an ethos of inclusivity and a passionate belief in the importance of stories for everyone, Little Angel is a beacon for the value of inventive and accessible theatre.

Accessibility and engagement with younger audiences is also at the heart of the winner of the Theatre Building of the Year award, the Roundhouse Works, London. Designed specifically for 18-30 year olds, this development has allowed the Roundhouse to expand its work with the next generation of artists massively. This venue, which will offer young creatives affordable membership and financial assistance, stands as a reminder of the importance of carving out spaces within the theatre community in which to welcome and nurture young creatives.

Nowhere is the development of creative spaces and the impact it can have on communities more evident than in Culture Collective, the recipient of the Community Project of the Year award sponsored by Evolution Productions. Using pandemic recovery funds to support 26 organisations – ranging from tiny community hubs to regularly funded organisations across Scotland – Culture Collective has had a transformative effect on some of the communities and the industry professionals within them hit hardest by the pandemic – all against a backdrop of a chronically underfunded sector.

Ellie Keel Productions, the winner of Producer of the Year, equally embodies the importance of championing accessibility within the industry and the nurturing of new talent through the Women’s Prize for Playwriting, now in its third year. Through the prize, producer Ellie Keel demonstrates not only her passion for discovering new writers, but her commitment to producing their work. 2023 proved a busy year, taking three shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, including Nathan Queeley-Dennis’ hit debut play Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz, which later transferred to London’s Royal Court.

Shifting perspective to the global theatre community, the contribution of Battersea Arts Centre (BAC), London was recognised today, winning the International Award sponsored by Concord Theatricals. This year, BAC’s ambitious and commendable international programming included a series of remarkable works, from productions such as Hate Radio by Milo Rau (SWITZERLAND) and Miet Warlop’s propulsive and intense One Song (BELGIUM), to collaborations such as with the Shubbak Festival, the UK’s premier festival of contemporary Arab arts and culture. Through its work both on and off stage, Battersea Arts Centre is fast becoming London’s key hub for international theatre.

The importance of the international network also shines through in Parade-Fest and Artists on the Frontline’s With Fire and Rage, the recipient of Digital Project of the Year sponsored by Cabbells. This immersive multimedia theatrical experience not only followed artists on the front line in Ukraine but linked them to Liverpool. Stories unravelled in public spaces across the city as first-hand audio testimony was combined with a variety of mediums and art forms, bringing distant experiences to audiences with powerful immediacy. This award-winning work pushed the boundaries of how audiences can engage with storytelling.

The value of engaging audiences beyond the physical realm is exemplified, too, in ZU- UK’s Within Touching Distance, which took home the Innovation Award sponsored by Charcoalblue. Within Touching Distance is a digital arts collaboration between mental- health patients, health professionals, researchers and community organisations. This intimate, one-on-one, mixed-reality production has been described by health practitioners as “a perfect example of the power art has to push the limits of healthcare simulation and make healthcare professionals think beyond their own reality”.

The Unsung Hero Award, sponsored by Kindred Partners, was awarded to Janet Bakose from the Chichester Festival Theatre. She is the theatre’s longest-serving staff member of an incredible 45 years. Janet first joined the theatre in 1978 as a deputy box-office manager. Since taking over the programming responsibilities for the winter months in 2004, she has brought in over 600 productions, performances and concerts. As colleagues describe: “Quite simply, it is impossible to underestimate her contribution to the success and ethos of Chichester Festival Theatre.”

In a surprise first for The Stage Awards, a Judges’ Award was given to north London’s Chickenshed for 50 years of excellence. Its ethos of being a theatre company for “absolutely everyone”, Chickenshed champions inclusivity and accessibility not only on stage but also through its courses, workshops and Young Company.
Louise Perry, managing director from Chickenshed said: “Huge thanks to The Stage Awards for recognising Chickenshed’s contribution over the last 50 years.

“Mary Ward and Jo Collins founded our theatre from a chicken shed in 1974, declaring that it was a space for everyone and over the past five decades the organisation has been defined by both groundbreaking professional theatre and industry-leading inclusive practice. This award gives us confidence that the industry is ready for the wonder out of chaos that this inclusion creates.

“We can’t wait to show everyone what the next 50 years of Chickenshed looks like and look forward to having many conversations with those who share similar aspirations for community-led, inclusive practice.”
The Stage editor Alistair Smith, said: “My fellow judges and I would like to congratulate all our winners. It’s always a real pleasure to judge these awards, which reveal just what an extraordinary range of superb theatre is being created by all types of companies all across the UK.

They also underline how much is achieved by theatremakers despite dwindling public funding. Imagine what they could do with more generous support from central and local government.”

The winners were announced at The Stage Awards 2024 – hosted by Isobel Thom and Elan Davies, co-recipients of The Stage Debut Award 2023 for best performer in a play – on January 29, 2024 at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, in association with Tysers Live. The ceremony also featured a live performance from the award-winning actor Jessica Lee, winner of best performer in a musical at The Stage Debut Awards 2023 for her performance in Miss Saigon at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Jessica Lee performed Borrowed Time from her run playing Misa Amane in the English-language premiere of Frank Wildhorn’s musical adaptation of Death Note: The Musical.



Theatre of the Year

National Theatre, London / Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Fringe Theatre of the Year

Little Angel Theatre, London

Theatre Building of the Year

Roundhouse Works, London

Community Project of the Year

Culture Collective

Producer of the Year

Ellie Keel Productions

International Award

Battersea Arts Centre

Digital Project of the Year

Parade-Fest and Artists on the Frontline for With Fire and Rage

Innovation Award

ZU-UK for Within Touching Distance

Unsung Hero

Janet Bakose – Chichester Festival Theatre

Judges’ Award

To find out more about The Stage Awards 2024, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop