Emma Rice vowed to “pull down the ceilings” and “keep defying those pesky unwritten rules” as she was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre prize at the UK Theatre Awards.
The 52-year-old, who was previously artistic director at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, was recognised for her “unique, innovative and socially relevant work” at the ceremony at London’s Guildhall on Sunday.
Collecting the award from designer and regular collaborator Vicki Mortimer, Rice said: “Today feels like coming home; surrounded by theatre friends old and new, celebrating what it is to make work with and for communities, and recognising our power as outsiders, as radicals and as rebels.”
She went on: “As others did for me, I promise to use all my strength, joy and experience to keep holding the doors wide open.
“I promise to pull down the ceilings and to keep defying those pesky unwritten rules that still seem to nag at our industry.
“If a rule is unjust, break it.”
Other winners at the awards – hosted by actor Jodie Prenger – included Sheffield Theatres production Life Of Pi, which won four gongs.
It took home best new play, best director for Max Webster, best design and best performance in a play for Hiran Abeysekera.
The play, adapted by Lolita Chaktrabarti from the Yann Martel novel, is due to transfer to the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre next year.
Another Sheffield Theatres show, Standing At The Sky’s Edge, was awarded best musical production.
Rebecca Trehearn won best performance in a musical for her role in Nottingham Playhouse’s Sweet Charity, with Esh Alladi receiving the award for best supporting performance for Hobson’s Choice at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.
Five new “offstage” categories were introduced to the UK Theatre Awards this year, to reflect the changing theatre industry.
Northern Ballet won for digital innovation, York’s Pilot Theatre won excellence in touring, Colchester’s Mercury Theatre picked up the prize for excellence in inclusivity and Derby Theatre won excellence in arts education. Northern Stage won the workforce award.
English Touring Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East production Equus won best play revival and Billionaire Boy The Musical triumphed in the best show for children and young people category.
Chester’s Storyhouse won the UK’s most welcoming theatre award.
The achievement in dance accolade went to Scottish Ballet for the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s dance-theatre adaptation of The Crucible.
Buxton International Festival at Buxton Opera House won the achievement in opera gong for the world premiere of Georgiana.