Emma Rice – Acceptance Speech – UK Theatre Awards 2019

Thank you to the UK Theatre Awards. This
couldn’t be more perfect and I couldn’t be more delighted or proud. My cherished
UK my lifelong love of touring and theatre the big and enduring love of my
life all rolled into this amazing award. So why when this afternoon is all about
theatre is my mind wandering to the Opera ?Well there’s a really simple
answer to that – I’ve just finished my first job in opera and it was quite an
experience. The Opera took years to plan and throughout the many meetings
rehearsals and text sessions one question was asked of me
again and again and again, “What is your vision? Tell us your vision and we will
cost it. Describe your vision and we will deliver it. Explain your vision and we
will show it.” I have rarely found myself so ill at ease and this award tells me
why. It reminds me that I am a theatre animal to my bones and it is in theatre
and theatre alone that I thrive. It reminds me that I only really make sense
when I’m surrounded by my friends that I am at my best when my vision fizzes with
the visions of others when my dreams mingle with the dreams of those around
me. I fly when the collective imagination takes flight. My lonely individual
imagination would never get off the ground if I was left to my own devices
and those of you that know me and I’ve got many friends here today know that
that’s true because I can sit on a sofa and eat a biscuit for England and it’s
because of this lifelong commitment to collaboration that this award cannot
speak only of my outstanding contribution but of the outstanding
contribution of others. I have to thank my Cornish giants Mike Shepherd and the
late Bill Mitchell who carried me aloft and gave me my artistic home my creative
freedom and a wildness that I protect to this day.
I thank Kneehigh’s long-term producer Paul Cruz who would wrestle any
self-doubt that I head to the ground physically and spiritually with his
irrepressible enthusiasm. I thank the industry giants that are Michael Boyd
and Nick Hytner who opened doors for me that other women and for other women of
my generation that had historically been closed and I thank Shakespeare’s Globe
for showing me not what I couldn’t do but what I could. And who would imagine
that I’d be standing here now not my lovely mum and dad as they watch me
stumble out of Nottingham with two average A-levels wanting to make her
career in theatre. They watched always supportive as I strayed from the path I
strayed to Theatre Alibi in Devon and to the Gardzienice Theatre Association
in Poland and then to Kneehigh in Cornwall where I unpacked my bags and I
stayed for decades. Thanks to my mum and dad and to these
inspirational companies for the huge impact they’ve made on my life and
career and can I just say my dad was just discharged from hospital today so
dad, go home, be well! Then after a brief and ill-judged
attempt to get onto the path in London I packed my bags again and I followed the
theatre pebbles to a new creative home with Wise Children. At Wise Children
I intend to stray from the path over and over and over again visiting all the
brilliant regional theaters that have been such a large part of my journey and
will continue to build relationships with those theatres and those
communities many of you are here today thank you for everything you’ve done
over the years. Thank you to Poppy and my brilliant team at Wise Children
for making this new adventure such an exhilarating and joyful ride thank you
to my loyal gang of creatives and actors stage managers and administrators, board
members and supporters who have stuck with me through thick and thin. Thank you
to my friend and agent Alan Brody who has weathered many storms with care and
wisdom. Thank you to David Jubb who turned me from artist to leader and Allegra
Galvin who helps me follow the pebbles to wise children and thank you to Simon
Baker my partner in all ways and in all things – I wish you were here Simon He is
there on FaceTime! You, my team, my big glorious beautiful team with your
generosity your genius your integrity and treasured friendship are the
greatest sum of all that I have achieved. So today feels a little like coming home
surrounded by theatre friends old and new
celebrating what it is to make work with and for communities and recognizing our
power as outsiders as radicals and as rebels and on a day like today I realize
that somehow without a plan it is now me that has power and as we
know with that power comes responsibility and I willingly take it
on. As others did for me, I promise to use all my strength, all my joy,
all my experience to keep holding those doors wide open I promise to pull down
the ceilings and to keep defying those pesky unwritten rules that still nagger
our industry – if a rule is unjust, break it! So thank you theatre friends.
Let’s keep using our collective power for good,
let’s keep listening to the stories of others and let’s keep choosing joy and
hope. Let’s stay curious and loyal, humble and brave. Let’s keep
changing the world one company, one community, one audience at a time. We’re
all theater animals and I shout to the moon in gratitude. Thank you.

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