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HighTide is a theatre company based in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. It is one of the UK’s leading producers of new plays, and the only professional theatre company focused on the production of new playwrights. The company produces around six new productions each year which tour the UK's leading theatres and internationally.
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Under Artistic Director Steven Atkinson, HighTide have premièred major productions by playwrights including Ella Hickson, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, Nick Payne, Adam Brace, Beth Steel, Laura Poliakoff, Luke Barnes, Vickie Donoghue, Lydia Adetunji, Jack Thorne and Joel Horwood. Since being founded in 2007 and hosted at The Cut Theatre in Halesworth until 2014, HighTide have partnered with many of the world's leading theatre companies to co-produce new playwrights, including: the National Theatre, Bush Theatre, Soho Theatre, The Old Vic, Latitude Festival, Sheffield Theatres, Headlong, BAC, Watford Palace Theatre, Theatre 503, Aldeburgh Music, Eastern Angles, nabokov, Macrobert, to London's West End, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Australian National Play Festival and The Public Theater, New York and Off-Broadway.
HighTide receives and considers around 1000 scripts a year from around the world, from which they then work with 100 playwrights on a range of development opportunities, from workshops to full productions. Every play that is received is read by the Artistic Director and Associates.
Lansons, a public relations agency, host HighTide's administrative offices in-kind within their Clerkenwell offices. This innovative partnership between a business and charity has won five Corporate Engagement Awards (2012 & 2011), was nominated for two Arts & Business awards in 2010 and 2013, and has been profiled by The Guardian and the Evening Standard.
HighTide is a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England.
HighTide started life as a three-day festival, opening on 6 March 2007. It premiered short plays by Tom Basden, Steven Bloomer, Sarah Cuddon, Sam Holcroft, Matthew Morrison, Pericles Snowdon, Megan Walsh and Iain Weatherby
Tom Basden's Assembly then transferred to Hay-on-Wye Festival 2008. It was expanded into a full length play retitled Party, which premiered at Edinburgh Festival 2009 where it won a Fringe First, transferred to the Arts Theatre, London, and was adapted for Radio 4.
The second HighTide Festival opened in May 2008 with a new emphasis on full length plays rather than shorts. Four plays were premiered, written by Adam Brace, Joel Horwood, Nick Payne and the fourth devised and written by You Need Me and Emily Watson-Howes. The Festival also included platform discussions with Tom Stoppard, Michael Palin, Asif Kapadia.
The third HighTide Festival in May 2009 expanded to a two-week festival, at the centre of which were three world premieres by Lydia Adetunji, Lucy Caldwell and Jesse Weaver. An expanded programme saw a collaboration with the Aldeburgh Festival on One Evening, a fully staged concert of Schubert's Winterreise and Beckett's text, directed by Katie Mitchell, and a special performance of David Hare's Berlin and Wall, performed by the author together for the first time and directed by Stephen Daldry. Other special events included a celebration of publisher Faber and Faber's 80th anniversary with staged readings of works by their authors John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard and David Hare. The programme also included a retrospective on Anthony Minghella, with a one-off performance of Minghella's radio play Hang Up performed by Harry Treadaway and Felicity Jones, and a screening of Shakespeare in Love followed by a platform talk with director John Madden.
The fourth HighTide Festival in May 2010 premiered three productions written by Serge Cartwright, Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig and Beth Steel. The Old Vic Theatre co-produced Steel's play Ditch, with Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey causing a sensation when he visited Halesworth to open the production. Cowhig's Lidless was produced in a found space in Halesworth; the local Scout Hut and surrounding land was transformed into a Guantanamo Bay barracks. The Festival also previewed works-in-progress by Jesse Weaver, performed by Bernard Hill and Sam Hodges, and Adam Brace's Midnight Your Time, performed by Diana Quick, which went on to be fully produced the following year.
In partnership with the Genesis Foundation, HighTide launched the Genesis Laboratory, a year-round development studio situated in London.
The Festival premiered its first small-scale musical, Nicked, by Richard Marsh and Natalia Sheppard, about the formation of the UK's coalition government. Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion made his playwriting debut with Incoming, American playwright Stephen Belber's play Dusk Rings A Bell received its European premiere, and Adam Brace's Midnight Your Time was fully produced after being workshopped at the previous year's Festival.
To mark the company's fifth birthday, it was joined by five new patrons, each of whom had supported HighTide in its founding years. They were Richard Eyre, Nicholas Hytner, Stephen Daldry, Juliet Stevenson and Sam Mendes.
In April 2011, HighTide started to receive core funding as a National Portfolio Organisation from Arts Council England.
HighTide Festival 2012 featured a much expanded programme of eighteen plays in world and European premiere productions by writers including: Luke Barnes, Jon Barton, Ollie Birch, Mike Daisey, Joe Douglas, Vickie Donoghue, Thomas Eccleshare, Kenny Emson, Berri George, Karis Halsall, Nancy Harris, Ella Hickson, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Mona Mansour, Laura Marks, Ian McHugh, Jon McLeod, Shiona Morton Laura Poliakoff, Mahlon Prince, Stella Fawn Ragsdale, Stephanie Street, Philip Wells, Nicola Werenowska, Alexandra Wood.
The 2013 HighTide Festival included the premiere of the Verity Bargate Award winning Pastoral by Thomas Eccleshare (a co-production with Soho Theatre), Smallholding, the main stage debut play by Chris Dunkley (a co-production with Nuffield Theatre, Southampton), two European premieres: Moth by Declan Greene (transferring to the Bush Theatre) and Neighbors by the inaugural Tennessee Williams Award recipient Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (a co-production with Nuffield Theatre, Southampton). The Festival also included Artist Talks with Michael Frayn, Stephen Poliakoff and Roger Michell. Touring productions included Michaela Cole's acclaimed Chewing Gum Dreams, and music included appearances by Ronnie Scott's Jazz and Hackney Colliery Band.
Outside of the Festival HighTide premiered Phil Porter’s The Reprobates, a new play for young people (a co-production with The Garage, Norwich), a touring production of Alexander Masters' Stuart: A Life Backwards adapted by Jack Thorne (a co-production with Sheffield Theatres) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's open letter was performed at the Bush Theatre in an event called Pussy Riot: Hunger Strike.
HighTide's 2014 Season commenced with the transfer of Chris Dunkley's Smallholding to Soho Theatre. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's writings were performed at the Southbank Centre as part of the 2014 Women of the World Festival in an event called Pussy Riot: Letters and Writings, directed by Steven Atkinson.
The eighth HighTide Festival took place in Halesworth, Suffolk from April 10 to 19. The festival gave Elinor Cook and Harry Melling their professional debut, Nick Payne returned to the festival for the first time since 2008, and HighTide produced the European premiere of Dan LeFranc's award-winning The Big Meal directed by Michael Boyd, former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Festival also included Artist Talks with Michael Gambon, David Hare, Anthony Horowitz, Kate Mosse, and Michael Billington. Touring shows presented at the Festival included Caroline Horton's You're Not Like The Other Girls Chrissy, Live Theatre's Captain Amazing and Confirmation by Chris Thorpe which transferred to the Edinburgh Festival where it won a Fringe First Award.
Outside the Festival HighTide produced the premiere of Vinay Patel's True Brits in the Edinburgh Festival, which will transfer to the Bush Theatre in November 2014.
HighTide have been recognised for their artistic excellence and entrepreneurial approach business. Lidless won a 2010 Fringe First Award and the play was nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the Meyer-Whitworth Award. Fixer has also been nominated for the Meyer-Whitworth and the John Whiting Award, along with Moscow Live. Stovepipe and Lidless have both won producing bursaries from the Society of London Theatre and Stovepipe was nominated in the Whatsonstage.com Awards for Best Off-West End Production. HighTide has won five Corporate Engagement Awards and has been nominated for two Arts & Business Award for its partnership with Lansons Communications. Educating Ronnie won HighTide their second Fringe First Award in 2013.
- "Lansons Communications | Community | Charity | Pro-bono | Environment", Lansons Communications. Retrieved 2012-12-03.
- "The first HighTide Festival". BBC.
- Charlotte Higgins. "Arts Council England funding cuts – the great axe falls". The Guardian.
- Stebbing, Eve (5 May 2013). "HighTide Festival, Halesworth, Suffolk, review". The Daily Telegraph.