The RTST was delighted to run the 2017 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award Scheme (Scheme) with Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST).

Chelsea Walker was the winner of the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award 2017.

The official runner-up was Tinuke Craig.

Chelsea won the unique opportunity to direct a full-scale, fully-funded production of a classic play – A Streetcar Named Desire – co-produced by NST, English Touring Theatre and Theatr Clwyd in 2018. The production premiered in the main house of NST’s new city-centre theatre, NST City, in March 2018 and then went on a tour of main houses of theatres across the UK. It opened to four star reviews from The Stage, The Times and The Guardian. After 84 performances, 8 venues and over 22,400 audience members, the play ended its run back at NST City on 16 June 2018. The RTST made a grant of £50,000 to NST to support its share of the production costs.

In September 2018, the production was nominated for The Renee Stepham Award for best presentation of touring theatre.

★★★★ The Guardian “Walker makes us believe in the magic of theatre” Reviewed by Lyn Gardner

★★★★ The Stage “Brutal, riveting interpretation” Reviewed by Tim Bano

★★★★ The Times “a name-making performance” Reviewed by Dominic Maxwell

Photo credits: The Other Richard

How The 2017 Award Worked

Chelsea was selected as winner for her demonstration of exceptional directing skills in a rigorous competitive process among director-candidates. The process began with candidates pitching in writing their vision for a bold, radical re-working of a classic play of their choosing, and it culminated in seven short-listed candidates being observed directing actors in workshops, and then a final interview stage.

Chelsea was chosen by a Selection Panel of distinguished theatre practitioners, namely:

  • Sam Hodges, Director / CEO, NST (Chair)
  • Howard Brenton
  • Tamara Harvey, Artistic Director, Theatr Clwyd
  • Patricia Hodge
  • Danny Lee Wynter
  • Stephanie Street
  • Richard Twyman, Artistic Director, ETT

Chelsea Walker directed Yous Two by Georgia Christou (Hampstead Theatre Downstairs) in early 2018. Chelsea’s previous directing credits include the major revival of P’yongyang by In-Sook Chappell, Chicken Dust by Ben Weatherill (Finborough), Klippies by Jess Sian (Southwark Playhouse) and Lean by Isley Lynn (Tristan Bates). She has also assistant directed on Wild by Mike Bartlett (Hampstead Theatre), Routes by Rachel de-lahay (Royal Court), and The Little Mermaid, adapted by Joel Horwood (Bristol Old Vic). She was a runner up in the JMK Young Directors’ Award 2016, is a director on the Old Vic 12, and is a script reader for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Winner, Chelsea Walker said: “I’m thrilled to have won the RTST Award, and I’m really grateful for their support as I make this next step in my career. These platforms for young directors are rare and invaluable. I feel very lucky to be given the opportunity to work with the brilliant NST, ETT and Theatr Clwyd. The process of applying for the award forces you to be rigorous and interrogate the kind of work you want to make. I’d like to thank the RTST, Sam Hodges, Tamara Harvey, Richard Twyman and the wonderful, welcoming panel for making the process so warm and invigorating.”

Mark Hawes, Deputy Chairman of the RTST, said: “The RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award winner Chelsea Walker is demonstrably a director to watch, and NST City – Southampton’s sleek, new-build led by Sam Hodges – will definitely be a theatre to watch.  We’re thrilled to be the catalyst for Chelsea’s launch into mid-scale, main-house directing as part of NST City’s first year programme – and for Nuffield Southampton Theatres’ co-production with English Touring Theatre and Theatr Clwyd, which will propel a national tour of a re-imagined classic directed by Chelsea.  Exciting times ahead for British regional theatre”.

At a prestigious award ceremony in November 2017 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, winner Chelsea Walker was presented with her award by chairman Sir Geoffrey Cass, deputy chairman Mark Hawes, RTST trustees Sir Ian McKellen, Noma Dumezweni and Sir Mark Rylance, and Sam Hodges. The event, attended by some of the best known names in British theatre, included entertainment from Clare Halse & Tom Lister, stars of the hit musical 42nd Street, and the acting students of The Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Photo (left): Sir Mark Rylance (RTST Trustee), Tom Lister, Sir Ian McKellen (RTST Trustee), Mark Hawes (RTST Deputy Chairman), Sir Geoffrey Cass (RTST Chairman), Noma Dumezweni (RTST Trustee), Clare Halse. Photo (middle): Lady Hall (Nicki Frei), Mark Hawes, winner Chelsea Walker, Sir Geoffrey Cass. Photo (right): Winner Chelsea Walker, Noma Dumezweni.

The After Story

After her success with A Streetcar Named Desire, Chelsea was re-engaged by English Touring Theatre to direct Cougar, a new play by Rose Lowenstein for Orange Tree Theatre, in a four week run in early 2019. Chelsea also directed a bold, new production of Brian Friel’s version of the Ibsen classic Hedda Gabler at Sherman Theatre in Oct/Nov 2019. You can follow Chelsea’s career here.

Tinuke Craig – the official runner-up for our 2018 RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award directed Random/Generations, a double-bill of plays by Debbie Tucker Green at the Minerva Theatre at Chichester Festival Theatre from 4 May to 2 June 2018. In August 2018, Curve Leicester and Birmingham Hippodrome announced Tinuke would be directing a co-production of Tony-award winning broadway sensation The Color Purple, running from 28 Jun – 13 Jul 2019 at Curve, Leicester and 16 – 20 Jul 2019 at Birmingham Hippodrome. The Stage and The Guardian gave the production a ★★★★ review and the production is nominated for the 2019 UK Theatre Award ‘Best Musical Production’. Tinuke directed Vassa by Maxim Gorky at Almeida Theatre in October 2019. Jitney, the groundbreaking classic by August Wilson, directed by Tinuke, will be performed at Leeds Playhouse 16 Oct – 6 Nov 2021. You can follow Tinuke’s career here.