The Owle Schreame Awards for Innovation in Classical Theatre

Last weekend saw the inauguration of a brand new set of theatre awards. They were conceived by Brice Stratford, Artistic Director of the Owle Schreame Theatre. They are named after that company, which since 2008 has been exploring and recreating ancient techniques to create productions for modern audiences. They have mounted productions at London’s St Giles Church, staging plays by writers who were buried there.

The awards aim to encourage and draw attention to work which, like that of Owle Schreame, seeks new and different approaches to the classical repertoire whether it be Shakespeare and his fellows or plays dating from other periods.

They are not being awarded as the result of a public vote or the deliberations of a judging panel, but Brice himself has sought to discover companies or individuals who meet some or all of the criteria he laid down for selection, not only to award them with one of the specially designed trophies, inspired by the graveyard scene in Hamlet—handsome glass tankards in the shape of a skull—but to bring those companies together to share their ideas and experience.

Brice says the Owle Schreame Awards have been established to fill a void. They set out to “encourage and recognise some of the most exciting, hot-blooded and innovative work in the performance of Classical theatre today. The experimental. The obscure. The courageous, the rough, the important and the cutting-edge; to promote, to applaud and to connect.”

On Sunday, he brought representatives of thirteen companies together not just to applaud them but to get them talking. In making his choices, he says what he was looking for had to meet some or all of several criteria.

These included producing work with an historical aspect: rarely seen revivals, first presentations even, embodying artistic aims and achievement, promoting audience engagement both with the performance and by introducing them to a classical heritage and community involvement making such work part of people’s lives.

Brice selected thirteen companies for this inaugural set of awards. They range from well-established companies to brand-new enterprises and from those with a long production record to a company that has yet to mount their first production.

The following companies each received a transparent skull trophy.