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Propeller wins best touring production at Theatre Awards UK 2011

  • Date: 18 November 2011
  • Area: South East
Man in black with sword

Richard Clothier (King Richard) in Richard III, Propeller Theatre Company, 2011. Credit: Manuel Harlan

An award-winning Kent-based theatre company won an esteemed theatre award this October.

At this year’s Theatre Awards UK 2011, Propeller Theatre Company won the Best Touring Production award for Richard III and The Comedy of Errors.  

Formerly known as the annual Theatre and Theatre Management Awards (TMA), these awards are given to honour creative excellence and the outstanding work seen on stages throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Propeller was presented with the award on Sunday 30 October 2011 at a lunchtime ceremony at the Banqueting House, Whitehall, one of the five Historic Royal Palaces.

Both Richard III and The Comedy of Errors were directed by Edward Hall, designed by Michael Pavelka with lighting design by Ben Ormerod and were presented in association with The Touring Partnership.

Internationally acclaimed all-male company, Propeller is renowned for combining a rigorous approach to the text with an exciting, physical aesthetic to engage its audience's imagination and bring fresh understanding to classic plays. The company has toured extensively around the world and has previously won TMA awards in 2009 and 2003, as well as the New York Obie and the New York Jeff Award.

A large scale tour of the two productions was supported with a £175,000 Arts Council National Touring development award, whose aim is to increase opportunities for high quality theatre to be performed at large scale venues.

Caroline MacKay, Executive Producer, Propeller Theatre says, ‘We were completely thrilled. It was just wonderful to win this award, in our first year as an independent company and in our first year in partnership with The Touring Partnership. I was thrilled for Edward and the artistic team.’

‘We’d been touring together since October, and we finished last July – so 10 months in total. We did 13 weeks in the UK and further weeks abroad. Last year we had a five-week season in Boston, then we played in New York and in Michigan, which was simply tremendous. We also did Verona, Galway festival, a festival in Neuss, Germany and Helsingor Festival (Denmark). It was a lovely mixture of UK and abroad.’

Although Propeller is enjoying its first year as an independent company, it has been making theatre for 15 years. They formed in 1997 and were supported by Watermill Theatre, an Arts Council regularly funded organisation. In April 2009, the company became an independent company, which will be become a National portfolio organisation in 2012.

Caroline adds: ‘It’s a wonderful time for Propeller and Shakespeare. We can play these large houses and to be somewhere like Salzburg on a Wednesday evening and have no star names, and people still come. It’s quite something: it’s people wanting to come see Propeller’s work. But we still work as an ensemble, as a band of brothers and 49 actors who have been part of Propeller during all those years.’

Backing from The Touring Partnership and Arts Council England have both been beneficial to the companies’ growing success.  

Caroline says: ‘The Touring Partnership is a collection of the large-scale theatres in Britain –such as Theatre Royal Norwich, Theatre Royal Plymouth – and our partnership with them has enabled us, along with our Arts Council funding, to set up as a company in our own right, and it great news that this sustaining three way partnership will run through until 2015.’

Jenny Robert, Relationship Manager, Theatre, ‘Propeller Theatre Company’s inventive, modern and electric approach to Shakespeare offers young people – and anyone at any age - a fantastic introduction to theatre going, and Arts Council England is thrilled to have them as one of its National portfolio organisations.’

For more information about Propeller, see www.propeller.org.uk