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Kate Hewitt wins JMK Young Directors Award

Theatre news

THIS year’s JMK award of £25,000 has been awarded to Kate Hewitt to stage Caryl Churchill’s Far Away at the Young Vic from November 7 to November 29, 2014.

The four-hander play focusing on themes of manipulation and denial was originally produced at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in 2000. It’s the first professional production of the play by a woman in the UK.

The runner up for the award, who will receive £2,000, is Roy Alexander Weise with The Ugly One by Marius von Mayenburg.

The JMK Trust was set up to commemorate the visionary young director James Menzies-Kitchin, whose career was cut short by his sudden death at the age of 28. Applicants must be under 30, have directed no more than two professional productions and must apply to direct a ‘classic text’.

The award combines prestige with the practical benefits of a production budget, rehearsal, production experience and the opportunity to stage the work at the Young Vic.

Previous winners include Thea Sharrock, Orla O’Loughlin, Bijan Sheibani, Mark Rosenblatt, Natalie Abrahami, Polly Findlay, Cathal Cleary, Sam Pritchard and Alex Brown in 2013. Previous runners up include Josie Rourke, Carrie Cracknell and Charlotte Westenra.

Trustee Clare Menzies-Kitchin was awarded an MBE for services to drama in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June 2012.

Kate Hewitt, originally from Newcastle but now resident in Battersea, London, is Resident Director on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and was part of the original creative team in 2013.

Her credits as Associate Director include Headlong Theatre Company’s Medea (UK tour 2012-13) and Electra (Gate Theatre 2011 and Latitude festival 2011). As Assistant Director, she’s worked on Wild Swans (Young Vic and A.R.T Boston, USA), Clybourne Park (Wyndham’s Theatre 2011 and Royal Court 2010), Through a Glass Darkly (The Almeida 2010) and Breathing Irregular (The Gate, 2010).

Hewitt trained in Lecoq physical theatre at the London International School of Performing Arts after studying Drama at Goldsmiths, and received a Jerwood Assistant Director Award (2012).

Roy Alexander Weise, from Brixton, London, is to direct The Man in the Green Jacket at Jermyn Street Theatre in July as part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s South African Season.

His past work includes You Are What You Are with Talawa Theatre Company (2013), One Million Tiny Plays About Britain at the Young Vic (2013), Skeen at the Ovalhouse (2012) and Invisible Mice (2011). He is the BBC Theatre Fellow at the Bush and Lyric Hammersmith theatres (2013/14).

The finalists were Hannah Banister, Phil Bartlett, Jessica Edwards, Kate O’Connor, Tara Robinson and James Yeatman.

Stephen Fewell, Chair of the JMK Trust, said: “Kate is an exciting and worthy winner of this year’s JMK Award.

“The financial necessities of life can, understandably, lead talented emerging directors down the path of looking after existing theatre productions, where their skills are recognized and rewarded. However it can prove tough to leave the world of staff or resident direction and risk that livelihood in the quest to originate your own work.

“All theatre is collaborative, and Kate and her team impressed with their creative and original ideas for this modern classic. But it was Kate’s skill with actors that has secured her this year’s JMK Award and, with the support of the Young Vic, the rare opportunity to take that risk.”

Winner Kate Hewitt said: “Winning the JMK award allows me to take the thrilling next steps towards creating my own work, but most significantly with the confidence of the JMK Trust behind me. The rigour and care that goes into the JMK’s varied approach to finding the finalists stops it being about someone who can write a great application and it raises your game as a director before you’ve entered the rehearsal room. All of the previous winners are brilliant directors and to be included in that world is a privilege.

“I trained in physical theatre and classical text and this play offers a rich world to bring together the varied fields of my background. Through the three acts we witness key episodes of lead character Joan’s life from childhood into adulthood. Far Away presents me with possibilities and questions, which is a great place to start. It is by no means limited to one particular way of staging, putting me in an exciting position as a director. The play moves from naturalism to the surreal and I was hooked one of the best opening scenes I’ve ever come across.

“Like all good theatre, the play encourages you to question oneself and the world we live in. There is something so refreshing about engaging with a piece of writing that is deeply relevant and yet not overtly topical. Far Away explores how we are lied to, and most importantly, the way we ourselves collude with those that lie to us. Far Away has more than stood the test of time since its first production in 2000, it is still a vital piece of work.”

Caryl Churchill, writer of Far Away, said: “The JMK award seems to lead to good productions by young directors. I’ve enjoyed Thea Sharrock’s Top Girls and Caroline Steinbeis’ Mad Forest and look forward to seeing Kate Hewitt’s Far Away.”

In 2012, The JMK Trust launched a new regional programme setting up groups for young and emerging directors at theatres around the UK providing access to workshops, training and networking opportunities. The current partners are Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Rep, Direct North and Home in Manchester, Northern Stage, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Salisbury Playhouse, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Headlong. The regional programme is run by theatre director Lisa Spirling.

Responding to the success of the programme a new annual Regional Assistant Director Bursary was launched in 2013 for each partner venue in order to increase opportunities that support and help to develop artists around the country. So far bursary recipients have assisted on Jane Eyre in Bristol, The Mother in Birmingham, Untold Stories in Leeds, Catch 22 in Newcastle and Gaslight in Salisbury.

Over its first 3 years this bursary will give 24 directors based outside London the opportunity to gain vital practical experience and develop their careers.

Tickets will go on sale at The Young Vic Box Office on Wednesday, June 18 at 10am and are available by calling 020 7922 2922 or booking online at www.youngvic.org/.