Sometimes it feels like everyone and their mother in London is a part of the theatre industry, yet breaking in can seem impossible. But it isn’t, and one of the most important steps on your journey has to be research and networking. Backstage is here to help you out, and we’ve put together a list of West End power players: directors, producers, and casting directors you should know something about so you don’t end up meeting them and sticking your foot in your mouth. These are the current who’s who in the business – and just like in Fame, you should remember their names!
Sir Cameron Mackintosh is a theatre producer and owner. He’s the top man at many of London’s most fabulous theatrical venues: The Gielgud, The Noël Coward, The Novello, The Prince Edward, The Prince of Wales, The Queen’s, The Victoria Palace, and Wyndham’s Theatre. Most recently, Mackintosh has produced Hamilton, but his CV also includes Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and Mary Poppins among many others. He is notable for bringing well-known theatre directors to the world of musical theatre.
Trevor Nunn has a career spanning over 50 years in the British theatre. He was Artistic Director (AD) of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre (NT), and is currently AD at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has been nominated for and won Tony, Drama Desk, and Olivier Awards. He is the co-director of Les Misérables which is now in its 34th year in the West End. His raved-about production of Fiddler on the Roof recently transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End.
Though she only served a short tenure as Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice is a director to know. Coming up from Kneehigh as an actress, she has made her mark as a director and runs her own company, Wise Children. Their show of the same name is currently on tour in the UK after playing at the Old Vic, and she will soon step into one of the roles onstage. Catch Wise Children to experience her essential contribution to contemporary British theatre.
Ivo Van Hove
Belgian theatre director Ivo Van Hove is taking not only the West End but also the western world by storm, and his productions are lauded in both Europe and the US. Currently, he has All About Eve, starring Lily James and Gillian Anderson in the West End, and this summer he will direct a new stage adaptation of The Damned at The Barbican. His productions are known for their minimalism and modernism.
Coming up on 30 years in the business, Sonia Friedman has produced over 160 shows, winning an extraordinary 48 Olivier Awards. In 2017, she was named Producer of the Year at the Stage Awards. She currently helms Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Book of Mormon, All About Eve, and the upcoming Rosmersholm at the Duke of York’s Theatre. As a female producer, she is paving the way for women in the industry.
Since 2013, Rupert Goold has been the Artistic Director at the Almeida, but his career as a director spans more than two decades. His West End productions have been lauded, especially since his 2007 production of Macbeth. He is known for radically reimagining classic texts and familiar stories, and helmed the stage adaptation of American Psycho. His work has become increasingly political, with his well-loved production of ENRON at Minerva Theatre and the Royal Court in 2009, and 2017’s Ink and 2019’s Shipwreck at the Almeida.
Known first for her daring work at the National Theatre and now with a bold new production of Company in the West End, Marianne Elliott needs to be on your radar. Her productions of War Horse, Angels in America, and The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time all transferred to either the West End, Broadway or both. This summer she’ll direct Death of a Salesman at the Young Vic. Elliott was recently awarded an OBE for her services to the theatre.
A powerhouse in West End musical direction, Phyllida Lloyd has two productions currently running: Mamma Mia! (she also directed the film adaptation) and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. Also known for her all-female productions of Shakespeare, Lloyd is a herald for female voices in the theatre world. Those productions, the Shakespeare Trilogy, are being made available far and wide for educational purposes. We can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.
If you’re hoping to be cast in a West End musical, David Grindrod is a name you have to know. He has cast innumerable musicals, including Mamma Mia!, Bat Out of Hell, School of Rock, Jesus Christ Superstar and Matilda. He is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dedicated casting director and has been in the business for over twenty years. If you get a call to be seen by David Grindrod Associates, don’t take it for granted!
After bursting on the scene in 1989 as the director of Miss Saigon, Sir Nicholas Robert Hytner has had an impressive career in the theatre. He served for over 10 years as Director of the National Theatre and many of his productions there were lauded, including One Man, Two Guvnors, which toured and played in the West End. He now runs the Bridge Theatre, which he started after leaving the NT, and is currently directing an immersive production of A Midsummer Night's Dream starring Gwendoline Christie, Oliver Chris, David Moorst and Hammed Animashaun.
- Why Is the Young Vic Theatre So Influential?
- Why You Should Care About the Royal Shakespeare Company
- What Is the National Theatre, and How Can I Get Involved?
- UK Theatre Festivals to Know and How to Train There
For more from Backstage UK, check out the magazine.