Denzel Westley-Sanderson wins The RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2021

Denzel Westley-Sanderson wins The RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2021

The Royal Theatrical Support Trust (RTST) and English Touring Theatre (ETT) have announced Denzel Westley-Sanderson as the winner of the 2021 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award and Nathan Crossan-Smith as the runner-up. Now in its fifth 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 2021 Award, Denzel Westley-Sanderson will direct a full-scale, funded, mid-scale regional touring production of a classic or modern play opening in 2022 at Leeds Playhouse, in a co-production between ETT and Leeds Playhouse, then tour across the UK. The RTST will make a grant of £50,000 to be applied towards the costs of the winner’s production.

As the runner-up, Nathan Crossan-Smith will receive mentoring and professional support from ETT.

Denzel Westley-Sanderson and Nathan Crossan-Smith were selected by a panel comprising Chair, Richard Twyman; Artistic Director of ETT; James Brining, Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse; Dominic Cooke, Director; Paapa Essiedu, Actor; Haydn Gwynne, Actor; Shelley Maxwell, Movement Director; Nickie Miles-Wildin, Co-Artistic Director and CEO of DaDaFest; and Sirine Saaba, Actor.

The scheme promotes the RTST’s charitable objectives by supporting up-and-coming theatre practitioners and 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.

Sir Geoffrey Cass, Chairman, and Mark Hawes, Director of the RTST said, “Our Award scheme has become a unique gauge of up-and-coming directing talent in British theatre — this year the reading is higher than ever. We received a surfeit of high-calibre entries from experienced directors eager to seize this rare career-transformative opportunity to progress to mid-scale tour directing -doubtless aspirations were pent-up over the pandemic. Winner: Denzel Westley-Sanderson and runner-up Nathan Crossan-Smith will be exciting directors to watch.

“Denzel’s production will be the fourth regional mid-scale touring co-production, and the fifth regional production in total, to be catalysed by our RTST Award and production grant. We’re thrilled to be working with our 2021Award partners ETT and Leeds Playhouse to bring this about next Autumn. Taking a wider view: we’re enormously proud that our Award is continuing to propel fresh and diverse talent into the mid-scale while providing meaningful support to regional British theatre companies, especially in these trying times for the industry.”

Richard Twyman, Artistic Director, and Sophie Scull, Executive Producer of ETT, also commented, “It’s a great pleasure to announce this year’s winner of the 2021 RTST Sir Peter Hall Directors Award, Denzel Westley-Sandersonand runner-up, Nathan Crossan-Smith. The award is unique in its ambition and scope, opening up the nation’s stages to an exceptional new artist each year, and allowing them to make work for audiences across the country. Denzel is a dynamic, intuitive director and we can’t wait to work with him to make a show in Autumn 2022, that will open in Leeds and tour nationally. We also look forward to offering mentoring support for Nathan to develop his craft over the coming year.

We’d like to thank the panellists and workshop actors, for all the care and talent that they gave to the selection process this year and to all the directors that took the time to apply and be part of the process. The quality of entrants was extremely high and we only wish that we could offer all of the directors that applied this opportunity.”

James Brining, Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse, said: “Massive congratulations to Denzel on winning this award, which gives up-and-coming theatre practitioners a valuable opportunity to take their work to the next level, developing the scale and ambition of what they can achieve and giving them the support they need to move forward with confidence.

“We can’t wait to work with him on what promises to be an exciting addition to our 2022 programme. At Leeds Playhouse, we pride ourselves on supporting visionary artists at all stages of their career as part of our pioneering Furnace artistic development programme. We feel honoured to be able to work with Denzel, to help him develop his practice and to support him as he reaches a pivotal point in what looks set to be a stellar career.”

Previous winners and official runners-up respectively of the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award are Anthony Almeida and Maria Crocker (2019); Nancy Medina and Josh Seymour (2018); Chelsea Walker and Tinuke Craig (2017); and Kate Hewitt and Rebecca Frecknall (2016).

For further details of the award, please visit the RTST’s website:

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