The North East in The Stage 100

Peter Lathan

Every year, the industry newspaper The Stage produces a list of the people who it believes are the 100 most influential people (and partnerships) in UK theatre. This year, two from the North East don’t just make the list but are in the top 25.

Eighth is Michael Harrison, born and brought up in Wallsend, who, in his capacity as Managing Director of Qdos, oversees the largest pantomime producing company in the UK and always directs the panto at the Newcastle Theatre Royal. He has created over 100 pantos, including, in 2016, Cinderella at the London Palladium, the first panto at that theatre for almost 30 years, and this year, Dick Whittington.

He is also a West End producer, whose productions include The Bodyguard at The Adelphi and Dominion Theatre, Gypsy at the Savoy, Mrs Henderson Presents at the Noël Coward, Annie at the Piccadilly and Young Frankenstein at the Garrick Theatre (which he previewed in Newcastle).

With Cameron Mackintosh, he produced the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Barnum and with David Ian is currently producing Sunset Boulevard and Scrooge, both at the Curve in Leicester.

His other musicals include tours of Aspects of Love, The Witches of Eastwick, Chess, I Dreamed a Dream, Jolson and Co, Annie, Funny Girl and Beautiful.

In 2017, he was made an Honorary Freeman of the City of Newcastle.

Occupying the no. 22 spot is Robert Icke from Stockton, who is currently Associate Director at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, having been Associate Director of Headlong from 2010 to 2013. His Almeida production of Oresteia won Best Director at the 2016 Olivier Awards and Best Director at both the Critics’ Circle and Evening Standard Theatre Awards in 2015. His 1984 for Headlong won Best Director at the UK Theatre Awards 2014 and Best Director at the Liverpool Arts Awards 2013 and was nominated for Best New Play at the 2014 Olivier Awards.

Having created new versions of Schiller’s Mary Stuart (for the Almeida), Uncle Vanya, Oresteia and (with Duncan Macmillan) 1984, he is currently working on a new production of Oedipus for the Toneelgroep Amsterdam.

Seeing, as a teenager from a totally non-theatrical family, a production of Richard III with Kenneth Branagh, he took straight to theatre and, at the age of 16, set up—with three friends: Daniel Hill, Andy Berriman and David Kirkbride—the Arden Theatre Company which presented Julius Caesar (2003), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2004), The Taming of the Shrew (2005), An Inspector Calls (2006), Twelfth Night (2006), King Richard III (2007) and Journey's End (2007), all at ARC Stockton.

He went on to read English at King’s College, Cambridge, where he set up another theatre company called The Swan. In 2007 he took a Cambridge production, Coat by Rory Mullarky, based on Gogol’s story The Overcoat, to the Edinburgh Fringe.

They are listed ahead of such luminaries as Bill Kenwright (24), Matthew Warchus (36), Sam Mendes (38), John Tiffany (55), Michael Grandage (who has been something of a mentor to Icke) (58) and Katie Mitchell (65).

Also in the list are two people who have a strong NE connection: at 17 are the trio at the top of the Royal Shakespeare Company, which includes Erica Whyman who for nine years was Artistic Director of Northern Stage, and Jeremy Herrin, who is currently Artistic Director of Headlong and was Associate Director of Live Theatre from 2000 to 2008, is at 49.

You’ll find the full list, with comment by the BTG’s Sandra Giorgetti, in our features section.