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RTST, Anthony Almeida: “The work has got to cost and it has got to matter to me.”

Anthony Almeida has won the 2019 Royal Theatrical Support Trust (RTST) Sir Peter Hall Director Award, which will see him helm a full-scale production at Curve in Leicester.

The accolade is open to anyone making the transition from smaller stages into larger-scale productions with a grant of £50,000 being applied towards costs of staging the Production.

This RTST promotes theatre nationally – in the regions beyond London and is presented to an up-and-coming director who demonstrates exceptional directing skills in a competitive process. Almeida’s chosen show will open next year at Curve, and will subsequently tour the UK as a co-production with the Rose Theatre Kingston and English Touring Theatre.

We are huddled at a table at Shakespeare’s Globe, London. Upstairs, theatrical royalty Vanessa Redgrave and Sir Ian McKellen are hosting a reception for invited guests and industry figures. Almeida, 32, finds it difficult to talk about himself, although he engages generously, he is visibly nervous. This is his first interview.

Sir Geoffrey Cass & RTST 2019 Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Anthony Almeida

Sir Geoffrey Cass & RTST 2019 Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Anthony Almeida

So, we talk about his shiny black outfit: “Ha! Wearing all black is about escaping I suppose– the reason I direct is so people can look at other stuff and not me,” he explains.

“I feel excited. I feel ready. It seems like it’s taken a long time to get here because I’ve only ever done the jobs that I want to do, as opposed to work that I feel that I have to do. As a director, first you’re referred to as emerging then you are called fledgling and then you are called up and coming. Now, though, I’m ready to go.”

Has it sunk in? “Yeah. I just feel ready,” he says. “The process was so demanding; This year’s selection panel included Curve’s Nikolai Foster, RSC deputy director Erica Whyman, designer Grace Smart and director Lindsay Posner. There was a written application, a workshop that involved me directing a scene with actors and then a long formal interview. It was like being on The Apprentice,” he says, laughing.

Who did he share his award win news with first? “I rang my dad. He didn’t say anything, he cried. My parents have always been tremendously supportive. I don’t come from any theatre stock; It’s a privilege to be here tonight.”

He continues: “I’m a Bristol boy, but it is interesting this distinction between theatre and regional theatre; it’s just theatre isn’t it? But when it is talked about it isn’t about geography, it is what is London theatre and what is non-London theatre.”

So how might a director in Shetland achieve that goal of making work on minimal resources? For Almeida, it has to do with fostering the balance between making interesting work and exploring the civic responsibility of theatre. His work to date has been all about “community focussed work,” whether that be in pupil referral units, working with people experiencing homelessness or in refugee’s detention centres. He adds: “The work has got to cost and it has got to matter to me. This kind of work isn’t additional – for me it is the work, that’s why I do this” states Almeida with admirable, if idealistic, conviction.

I ask which theatre directors inspire him most. “I would say Amit Lahav, Ivo Van Hove and Sally Cookson,” he says. “Sally is all about the work and the art and it’s her work that has taken her on the journey. Her work is completely joyful. Ivo for his dramaturgical rigour but how theatre is about ideas. And Gecko Theatre’s work is visceral and his sculpting of image and body in space just gets my pulse racing.”

How will he know he’s achieved what he wanted to? “Two things – that people leave the theatre and that they keep the conversation going and reconnect as a result of watching the play and long-term success would be that I’m still working, Carl, and that we are still having a conversation about it,” says Almeida.

Almeida sums up his advice for any up and coming theatre director. “I’d say find your tribe,” he says, “they might not be on your doorstep but go out and find like-minded people – people have said to me in the past: if you like it –  do it  – you’ll find a way, but it doesn’t quite work like that. That’s why opportunities like today are so vital.”

Anthony Almeida announced as winner and Maria Crocker as runner-up of the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2019

Anthony Almeida

The Royal Theatrical Support Trust (RTST) and Leicester’s Curve have announced Anthony Almeida as the winner of the 2019 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award and Maria Crocker as the runner-up. Now in its fourth year, the award – which honours the memory of RTST co-founder, Sir Peter Hall – is made to an up-and-coming director demonstrating exceptional directing skills in a rigorous competitive process.

As the winner of the 2019 award, Anthony will now get the opportunity to direct a full-scale, fully funded production to open in 2020 at Curve, as a Made at Curve co-production between Curve, Rose Theatre Kingston and English Touring Theatre (ETT), then tour across the UK. The RTST will make a grant of £50,000 to Curve to be applied towards the costs of the winner’s production.

Anthony and Maria were selected by a panel comprising: Nikolai Foster (Artistic Director of Curve) as chair, and judges Jerry Gunn (Executive Producer at Rose Theatre Kingston), Carol Leeming (Poet and Playwright, Resident Assistant Director of Curve), Richard Twyman (Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre), Lindsay Posner (Theatre Director), Grace Smart (Theatre Set & Costume Designer), Cathy Tyson (Actor), Erica Whyman (Deputy Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company).

The scheme promotes the RTST’s charitable objectives by nurturing up-and-coming talent in the theatre and supporting British regional theatres. It is also intended to appeal to a wide range of candidates and to play a part in promoting diversity in the theatre, onstage, offstage and among audiences.

Chairman of the RTST, Sir Geoffrey Cass, said: “The 2019 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award had 8 finalists of the very highest quality, selected from a strong field of 53 candidates. Directing workshops – held over two full days, in which the finalists had to direct actors, observed by our immensely experienced panel of judges, and then be interviewed by the panel – constituted a unique and exacting test of their directing skills. The winner’s prize is the exceptional opportunity to direct a production that will premiere on the stage of Curve, Leicester, move on to the Rose Theatre, Kingston, then go on a main-stage national tour with English Touring Theatre (ETT). The RTST’s collaboration with Leicester’s Curve, Kingston’s Rose Theatre, and English Touring Theatre is admirably fulfilling the RTST’s twin primary charitable objectives of identifying and encouraging emerging theatre professionals and promoting British regional theatre”.

Deputy Chairman, Mark Hawes, said: “This unique Award propels Anthony Almeida deservedly into mid-scale regional tour direction. While there can only be one winner, the selection process has given other hugely talented directors rare and valuable exposure to the influential theatre practitioners who served on the judging panel.”

 Curve Chief Executive Chris Stafford, Artistic Director Nikolai Foster, Artistic Director of English Touring Theatre Richard Twyman and Rose Theatre Kingston Executive Producer Jerry Gunn said: “Anthony impressed the entire panel with his vision, rigour and ability to inspire actors. He showed a real passion for making work for audiences outside of London and we’re incredibly excited to collaborate with him on this production which will be seen in Leicester, Kingston and across the UK. We’d like to thank all of the directors that took part in the workshop weekend, who displayed such talent and inspired us all with their commitment to the process and craft of directing.”

Winner, Anthony Almeida said: Being named the 2019 winner of the mighty RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award is a gift. I’m feeling moved. I’m feeling ecstatic. At a time of ever increasing financial uncertainty, when up-and-coming directors can be seen as unnecessary risks, this opportunity is a true lifeline. The process encouraged and challenged all of me. It offers genuine warmth and demands utmost rigour. Now there’s work to be made – I’m thrilled to be taking the vital next steps in my artistic adventures with the big-hearted, wildly ambitious folk at Curve, ETT and Rose Theatre Kingston – to you all, and to the essential RTST: thank you.”