Guidance for Offies Assessors – Shared

SHARED: Newcomer / Choreography / Musical Director / Access

Newcomer

This category was created in 2022 to recognise a newcomer in their field – it is likely to be a performer, but it could be a newcomer in design, choreography, direction, etc.

Shows are asked to put forward the names of anyone they would like to be considered for this category.

Choreography / Movement

What to look for:

Choreographed elements of an Off West End production may apply to the overall movement of a show and / or the more obvious basic structure of a dance number in a musical. The best choreographers, whether providing a framework for complex scene changes or a traditional chorus line, will have considered how dance, and movement, power the story being told. Stephen Mears, one of the UK’s currently most successful choreographers succinctly advises: ‘I believe movement should always forward the plot, not just be dance for dance’s sake”.

Even if assessors have no dance experience, we can filter our impressions through the key consideration of whether the choreographer has always honoured the story and remained true to the motivations of the characters. We should not be able to see the joins between director and choreographer – so that the dance and movement elements are a seamless, integral, part of the performance.

Additionally, assessors should also critique the very best dance and movement ideas by considering whether the gestures used reflect the music; how the choreography is contingent to the overall vision – including the costumes, set and lighting; and whether the dance or movement has surprised and delighted through the formation or technical elements.

In this way, assessors should be able to develop a set of notes that help make decisions around rewarding the choreography with an Off West End award nomination. The questions below should help to clarify that decision – but overall, the key question should be (as with all production staging elements): ‘Is the effect – of the choreography – on the creation of meaning strong enough to warrant an Off West End award nomination?’

Key questions:

  • What role does dance and / or movement play in story-telling and character?
  • What choices have been made by the choreographer?
  • What is the mood, and is it consistent (upbeat; traditional; amusing or poignant)?
  • Does the choreography denote character?
  • What is the relationship between the dance and movement – and the other staging elements?
  • Does the choreography complement; deliberately contrast or simply distract …
  • What effect do the technical elements of the dance and movement generate –aesthetically pleasurable; deliberately disruptive and surprising; or simply shoehorned into the production?
  • Overall, does the choreography help to amplify the sum of parts – and enhance the overall generation of meaning?
  • If not, what effect does this have?

Musical Director

What does an MD do?

This nomination recognises the excellence of the person waving the baton in the pit (or out of sight somewhere) and again it’s a subjective call.

Firstly, understand that nearly all of the musical theatre MD’s out there are gifted musicians – typically incredibly talented keyboard/piano players, who display a remarkable level of skill and achievement.

The role of the MD is not just to conduct the band – it is to provide an interface between the musicians and the actors – making sure that the music follows (or leads) the action as appropriate, at all times being in tune with the flow of the show. Each performance is of course unique, throwing up countless timing and production issues that should be undetectable to the audience.

A good MD will make the score flow effortlessly keeping the band and cast coupled in perfect creative harmony.

So – what makes an MD the Best MD?

Consider what makes his/her contribution particularly special, including the following list that is far from exhaustive:

  • Does the score address a range of styles?
  • Does the score require unusual instruments?
  • Is the band particularly large?
  • Is the band particularly small yet still producing a sound of exquisite musical theatre entertainment?
  • Is it an actor/muso production (where the cast are also playing instruments on stage) and has the ND conducted that challenge well?
  • Has the MD maintained a good connection with the cast (especially during complex dance routines) that make the whole production flow seamlessly.

The WOW Factor

Consider also the indefinable magic of music played to perfection.  If you feel that “box has been ticked” for you, then you should carefully consider nominating for BMD.

Access

This is a new award category which aims to recognise the best of emerging inclusive practices in independent, alternative and fringe theatre across London.

Many theatres are now embracing Graeae Theatre Company’s pioneering theatrical language, known as the “aesthetics of access“, which covers inclusive practices such as the integration on stage of hearing sign language interpreters, deaf sign language interpreters, live audio describers and creative enablers.  Other practices such as captioning or the inclusion of relaxed environment performances may also be relevant

This new award is part of the sector wide commitment and acknowledgment of the skills of this new cohort of artists and creatives as we strive to make theatre a truly equitable experience.

To be eligible for this award category, a production will have to, in some way, incorporate the “aesthetics of access” as outlined above.  Productions which do this will receive our “LIVE.ACCESS” badge and we have added a special page to the Offies website which will include a regularly updated list of such productions.

Our Offies assessors will then be looking for how well the production has embraced the visual and /or aural aesthetics of access, and nominations for this category will be announced throughout the year, alongside nominations for all other Offies categories.

When contacting OffWestEnd to invite assessors to the press night for the show, the company / venue or their PR representatives should indicate that they believe the production is eligible for this category.