Birthday Honours 2012: RSC's Michael Boyd knighted
Feature by Rob Carnevale
MICHAEL Boyd, the artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2012.
He is joined on the list by RSC executive director Vikki Heywood, who recieved a CBE. Both she and Boyd will leave their positions at the RSC later this year.
Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and educated at Latymer Upper School in London, Daniel Stewart’s College, Edinburgh, and at the University of Edinburgh, Boyd trained as a director at the Malaya Bronnaya Theatre in Moscow and, in 1979, took up his first post as a trainee director at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, graduating to Assistant Director a year later.
He joined the RSC in 1996 as associate director, successfully staging the three parts of Henry VI together with Richard III at the Young Vic in London in April 2002, and eventually assumed control of the RSC seven years later, in 2003, where he was faced with a deficit of £2.8 million.
Since then, his achievements have been manyfold and include a new £112.8m theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and rebuilt the RSC’s acting ensemble, paving the way for long-term companies-within-the-company to undertake projects such as the 2006-8 Histories cycle.
In the past couple of years, meanwhile, the company opened the multiple Olivier-award winning Matilda: The Musical in the West End, featuring music by Tim Minchin, and is currently leading a World Shakespeare festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
Commenting on their joint achievements in a recent interview with The Guardian, Heywood said she was “immensely proud” to have led the team that built “arguably the finest theatre for Shakespeare in the world, which is loved by both artists and audiences”, adding that delivering the project “on time and on budget has been one of the greatest achievements of my career”.
Heywood, herself, was appointed as Executive Director of the RSC in 2003. But prior to landing that prestigious position, she was Joint Chief Executive of the Royal Court Theatre, during which time she was responsible for overseeing the £20m redevelopment of that theatre and the production of over 100 world premiere productions in London and on Broadway.
She is a board member of the Society of London Theatre, The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and a member of Warwick University Council and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Commenting on their honours, Boyd said: “I am extremely grateful for this wonderful acknowledgement of my work so far, of our achievements at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and of the earned importance of theatre in British life.”
Heywood echoed those thoughts and went on to pay tribute to the passion and ambition of those she has worked with, adding that she is “absolutely delighted and very proud”.
Elsewhere on the honours list, Felix Cross, artistic director at Nitro Black Music Theatre in Londn, has also been made an MBE for his services to music theatre.
Since its formation in 1979, the company (originally set up as the Black Theatre Co-operative) has created over 50 shows, developing opportunities for black artists in the UK and working with some of the most talented performers, composers and writers of the past three decades.
The company’s aim is to create dynamic music theatre events that explore the contemporary black British experience.
Key recent projects have included Nitro Ignites, a summer programme where young people aged 14 to 18 from around the ‘Market Road’ area worked with a team of professional music artists to create their own music, and Deep Down, which saw Nitro working with London club night Deep Down to bring theatrical narrative to clubbing.
Other figures honoured include Edward Gardner, who is director of music at English National Opera, who becomes an OBE for his services to music, and former Royal Opera House director of opera Elaine Padmore, for services to music.
Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, co-founders of dance company Ballet Boyz, are both appointed OBEs for services to dance, while Alistair Spalding, chief executive of Sadler’s Wells, has become a CBE for services to dance.