Tonic Awards

The Tonic Awards celebrate the achievements of women who are changing the face of our theatre industry, and the projects, productions and organisations that are redefining the role of women in the performing arts.

We created the Awards so that the amazing contributions of women to theatre can be highlighted publicly – not just the doom and gloom stories about under-representation – and so that younger women in particular have visible role models to aspire to.

Logo kindly designed by Deywynters.

The 2019 Tonic Awards

The third annual Tonic Awards, hosted by Tracy Ann Oberman, was held on Monday 25th March at the May Fair Hotel.

The recipients of this year’s awards are; Jude Kelly CBEAlison TickellOpen Clasp Theatre CompanyPaula GarfieldElliott & Harper Productions for CompanyShakespeare’s Globe’s production of EmiliaThe Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and Dance Umbrella.

The 2019 Tonic Awards were generously supported by Dewyners, JHI, May Fair Hotel, Nick Hern Books and WhatsOnStage, and our headline sponsor White Light.

“It is absolutely vital there is a platform to celebrate the integral part women play in this industry and we couldn’t be prouder that the Tonic Awards return this year to recognise and champion the work of these women, both on and off stage. We’ve seen great strides forward for women in our industry and wider society over the last few years and we hope to continue to support these positive changes.”

Lucy Kerbel, Director of Tonic Theatre

The 2019 Tonic Awards Recipients

Open Clasp Theatre Company for their efforts to engage and provide opportunity to marginalised women to engage with theatre and present stories that might otherwise go unheard.

The award was presented to Open Clasp Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Catrina McHugh MBE by Erica Whyman OBE, Deputy Artistic Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shakespeare’s Globe’s production of Emilia for bringing visibility to Emilia Bassano, a female artist who had been obscured in history, in an articulate, witty and intelligent production that highlighted the situation for women in theatre and wider society.

The award was presented to playwright Morgan Lloyd-Malcolm plus various members of the team behind the production of Emilia by Sita McIntosh, Chair of Tonic’s Board of Trustees and COO of WhatsOnStage.

Dance Umbrella for shaping the landscape of modern and contemporary dance in the UK. Under the leadership of three outstanding women Dance Umbrella is a creative force that develops artists, audiences and the artform itself.

The award was presented to the three women who have in succession been Artistic Director at Dance Umbrella: Val Bourne CBE, Betsy Gregory and Emma Gladstone by Siobhan Davies CBE, Artistic Director of Siobhan Davies Dance.

Paula Garfield for her energy and unwavering commitment to opening theatre up and the artistic quality of the work she produces as Artistic Director of Deafinitely Theatre.

The award was presented to Paula Garfield by Jo Hutchison, Director of JHI Marketing.

Elliott & Harper Productions for Company, an outstanding production andground-breaking example of cross-gender casting in commercial musical theatre, breathing new life into a classic and paving the way for more cross-gender casting and reimagining of the musical theatre cannon.

The award was presented to Marianne Elliott and Chris Harper from Elliott & Harper Productions by Sarah Crompton, Theatre Critic for WhatsOnStage and culture journalist.

Alison Tickell for her commitment to increasing awareness of the performing arts’ carbon footprint and implementing practical and imaginative changes to better the industry through her pioneering work for Julie’s Bicycle.

The award was presented to Alison Tickell by Sir Nicholas Serota, CH, Chair of Arts Council England.

The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for the impact it has had in supporting women writers over the last 40 years. Its recognition and financial support has aided generations of women pursuing careers in writing.

Susan’s granddaughter Emily Reid accepted the award on behalf of The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. It was presented by Indhu Rubasingham MBE, Artistic Director of Kiln Theatre.

Jude Kelly CBE for her inspirational leadership of the Southbank Centre, in particular, the creation of the Women of the World Festival – utilising the resources, creativity and expertise of an arts organisations to empower and provide a platform to women and girls.

The award was presented to Jude Kelly CBE by Lemn Sissay MBE, poet, playwright and broadcaster.

Attending the ceremony were senior figures from across the UK theatre industry including Nadia FallHaydn GwynneRobert HastieBrigid LarmourBritannia MortonDame Rosemary Squire DBE and Meera Syal CBE.  Tonic Awards will return in March 2020 with another cohort of recipients.

The 2018 Tonic Awards

The second annual Tonic Awards took place on Monday 19 March 2018 at the May Fair Theatre within the May Fair Hotel. It was hosted by broadcaster and journalist Jenni Murray DBE.

The recipients of this year’s awards are; Emma de Souza, Clean Break Theatre Company, #WakingTheFeminists, The Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester, Steffi Holtz and Gina Abolins, Kully Thiarai, Lyn Gardner, Caryl Churchill, and Katie Mitchell.

The 2018 Awards were generously supported by Boom Ents, Dewynters, JHI, May Fair Hotel, Nick Hern Books and WhatsOnStage, and our headline sponsor White Light.

Watch highlights from the 2018 Tonic Awards

The 2018 Recipients

Emma de Souza, for her tireless commitment to bringing new audiences into London’s West End through Kids Week, which offers families the opportunity to experience theatre together at an affordable price.

The award was presented to Emma by Caro Newling, Vice President of the Society of London Theatres.

Clean Break Theatre Company, for forty years of work on the theme of women and the criminal justice system, giving opportunities to generation after generation of female creatives, and giving voice to women whose experiences are all too often silenced by society.

The award was presented to Chief Executive Lucy Perman and other representatives of Clean Break Theatre Company by Jennifer Joseph, an actor and Clean Break Theatre Company alumnus.

Waking the Feminists, for a brave and creative campaign to effect positive change in regards to representation of women in Irish theatre. The campaign was ultimately successful in its clear demands, and has gone on to effect wider change across the theatre industry in Ireland and beyond.

The award was presented to Lian Bell on behalf of Waking the Feminists by playwright Ursula Rani Sarma.

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, for the consistency with which the theatre has programmed and foregrounded work about women, and within that, the diversity of women’s experiences. It has acted as a beacon of enlightened, exciting and nuanced programming.

The award was presented to Sarah Frankcom, Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, by actress Maxine Peake, whose recent credits at the Royal Exchange include A Streetcar Named Desire, The Striker and Hamlet, and who will shortly appear in Beckett’s Happy Days at the venue.

Steffi Holtz and Gina Abolins, for their brave decision to speak up about inappropriate behaviour in their workplace, in spite of potential personal and professional repercussions, giving voice to the often unseen and unheard experiences of those working behind the scenes and in less high profile positions.

The award was presented to Steffi and Gina by Vicki Featherstone, Artistic Director at the Royal Court Theatre.

Kully Thiarai, for her achievements and ethos as an artistic director. In particular, her dedication and energy to creating theatre and artistic experiences for the communities around which the organisation she has led are based.

The award was presented to Kully by theatre director and Soho Theatre Associate Charlotte Bennett.

Journalist Lyn Gardner, for her dedication to showcasing new voices and productions as a theatre critic and her thoughtful contributions to debate within the theatre industry as a journalist.

The award was presented to Lyn by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic.

Playwright Caryl Churchill, for an extraordinary career, in particular her consistent daring to defy form, leading the way for a new generation of female playwrights, breaking down walls within the theatre industry.

The award was presented to Caryl by playwright and screenwriter Moira Buffini.

Director Katie Mitchell, for her game-changing artistic work, proactive support of younger female theatre artists, and dedication to foregrounding feminism on stage.

The award was presented to Katie by Lucy Kerbel, Director of Tonic Theatre.

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The 2017 Recipients

The recipients at the inaugural Tonic Awards in 2017 were: Rosemary Squire DBE, the all-female Shakespeare trilogy (Donmar Warehouse and beyond), Emma Rice, Anna Newell, Indu Rubasingham MBE, Dawn Walton, Jenny Sealey MBE, Paule Constable and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre).