Tonic Theatre Award winner 2017 for ‘women who are changing the face of UK Theatre’
Shortlisted for the Ellen Stewart Award 2016 for theatremakers whose work with/for young people has had a major social impact.
"a hero of children's theatre"
"Early Years theatre pioneer"
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Anna Newell has been making theatre adventures for people of all ages to watch and to take part in since 1989 - in theatres of all sizes, in a disused police station, in a shopping centre, on a barge, in a sonic lab, in a hydropool and in a secret apartment - in various cities in the UK and Ireland and also in the US, South Africa and Bosnia. She created the world’s first BabyDay, introduced theatre for children and young people with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) into Ireland and helped start babytheatre in South Africa. Her work for Early Years audiences has been seen on six continents. She is based in Bray, Ireland.
2020 sees Anna take her babyshow I AM BABA (International Early Childhood Arts Commission 2017) on a further 10-week tour right across Ireland with substantial collaboration with the National Childhood Network and the Children and Young People’s Services Committee under the auspices of TUSLA.
Anna has received Arts Council of Ireland funding to create a new show for children and young people with complex needs in 2020. GROOVE will be a 60's/70's inspired chilled-out "happening" that will tour to schools and venues.
2020 will also include R&D on Ireland’s first dance show for babies – I LIKE TO MOVE IT MOVE IT as well as further touring of SING ME TO THE SEA (a hydropool show for children with complex needs) in collaboration with a diverse multi-disciplinary network of agencies including theatre venues, disability organisations and community groups.
“SING ME TO THE SEA is a unique production which engages individuals with even the most profound level of disability in an enriching musical and artistic experience. As a society, we aim to remove barriers to participation; we make art galleries and concert halls physically accessible. However, for so many children, their disabilities go beyond the physical. They may be able to physically access buildings which house the arts, however, the content of these buildings is not often meaningful to them. SING ME TO THE SEA brought an experience of the arts to the children of St Catherine’s. It was beautiful, it was awe inspiring and it was meaningful.”
Physiotherapist, St Catherine’s School, Newcastle, County Wicklow
As one of Ireland’s leading Early Years theatremakers, Anna has been invited to mentor an increasing number of emerging artists in the field including Sam Porciello, Monica Munoz, Eamon Sweeney and Muireann D’Arcy.
Other 2020 projects include creating BABY MUSIC ADVENTURES in collaboration with Eamon Sweeney and BLUE touring community and theatre venues in Dublin.
Arts Council of Ireland Arts Grant Funding enabled a 2018/19 programme of work for early years/children with complex needs in partnership with the Civic, the Mermaid and Draiocht. This comprises BigKidLittleKid (a new physical theatre show for audiences aged 3-6 years) which was also selected for Dublin Theatre Festival 2019, BABY’S FIRST XMAS – an Xmas show especially for babies aged 0-12 months (with a distinct version, LITTLE TINY XMAS, for children under 5 with complex needs) and a 100-show national tour of SING ME TO THE SEA, including at Carlow Arts Festival.
Anna was selected as one of the first Polka Lab Artists for a project creating a show for babies with teenage performers to explore the empathetic impact of this experience for the performers with a further development of this project funded by Wicklow Arts Office in collaboration with ImmaLab, Trinity College Dublin and the Mermaid, Bray. She was granted funding by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown to create BLUE! – an interactive adventure working with the blue block Imagination Playground developed in creative consultation with the Peter McVerry Homeless Hub. Working with Brighton-based puppet theatre, she also created a new show LITTLE MONSTER for audiences aged 3-5 years.
Projects for 2018/19 included LULLABUB - a new show for babies/ toddlers (2 distinct versions) with Theatre Hullabaloo, Darlington, SING ME TO THE SEA - a new show for children with complex needs that takes place in hydropools (strategic project for Wicklow County Arts Office in collaboration with the Riverbank Arts Centre & Enable Ireland) and a pilot Early Years performer training project based at the Civic, Tallaght.
Other 2018/19 projects include GROW, a new collaboration with Indy4 and LITTLE MONSTER with Touched Theatre. Also BLUE! (an interactive adventure with a blue block playground) to be created with funding from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Arts Ofice and in creative consultation with the Peter McVerry Homeless Hub.
Arts Council of Ireland Arts Grant Funding for a programme of work for 2018/19 to be presented at the Civic Theatre Tallaght, the Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray and Draiocht Arts Centre, Fingal. This programme includes BigKidLittleKid - a new physical theatre show for audiences aged 3-6 years (also selected for the 2019 Dublin Theatre Festival), BABY'S FIRST XMAS - an Xmas show especially for babies aged 0-12 months (with a distinct version, LITTLE TINY XMAS, for children under 5 with complex needs) and further presentation of SING ME TO THE SEA including at Carlow Arts Festival.
Between 2016 and 2017, Anna created a freelance portfolio of projects with highlights including FOUR GO WILD IN WELLIES - an inclusive dance show for audiences aged 3-5 with Indy4, the professional wing of Glasgow's Indepen-Dance (still touring nationally and internationally including to the Bangkok International Children's Festival, the TYA Inclusive Arts Festival, Tokyo and the Awesome Festival, Australia in 2018). In 2019, she created a new show with Indy4 for audiences aged 3-7 for Indy4 called GROW for UK and international touring.
She also directed HUSH-A-BYE, an Early Years show with the world reknown Oily Cart, London, TWINKLE TWINKLE, a show for 18 months to 3 years for Brighton-based puppet company Touched Theatre and MESS - a classroom adventure for children with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) working with clown doctors in Scotland. She was awarded the International Early Childhood Arts Commission offered by the four Dublin Local Authorities through Arts Council Ireland’s Invitation to Collaboration Fund to create I AM BABA, a show for babies aged 0-12 months which toured for 7 weeks across Ireland in Autumn 2018 with further touring planned for 2020,
Between 2011 and 2016, Anna was Artistic Director of Belfast-based Replay Theatre Company. When she came into post, Replay toured two shows per year, one to primary schools, one to post-primary schools, with touring limited to Northern Ireland. Under her artistic leadership (and with the mentorship of Tim Webb from Oily Cart), the company became the first company on the island of Ireland (and one of not many globally) to create work for audiences of children and young people with PMLD (Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties) and her first show for this audience – BLISS – was selected as one of only 10 shows from the UK/Ireland to be presented at Assitej, the World Congress of Theatre for Children and Young People in Birmingham 2016. Replay’s programme of work for this audience received funding from Children in Need and was the only NI project to be featured on the Children in Need National Appeal Programme in 2015.
Under her artistic leadership, the company also began to make work for the very young with her youngest audience member being only 4 days old. Replay now regularly tours to venues and festivals in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and in 2015, the company toured off-Broadway. Anna’s babyshow TiNY for Replay was the first ever babytheatre in South Africa, where she led intensive workshops with Cape Town’s Magnet Theatre Company to catalyse a homegrown babytheatre movement. This was as a result of a SA-UK Seasons Fund grant (British Council in SA and the National Arts Council of South Africa) which she secured for the company in collaboration with Magnet.
For Replay, Anna conceived, was part of the team that won funding for and led the team that delivered, the world’s first BabyDay .15,000 people came to over 80 events in more than 20 venues across the city and the year-long engagement programme with every single Sure Start in Belfast leading up to BabyDay meant that the project genuinely had a broad and diverse demographic and engaged families and communities considered traditionally harder to reach. Anna was invited to sit on the Belfast Infant Mental Health & Wellbeing Working Group and leading Early Years guru, Dr Suzanne Zeedyk is both an inspiration and a major advocate for her work.
Anna was invited to work as International Artist in Residence with Polyglot Theatre, Melbourne in 2013.
In late 2015, Anna was invited to put together an NI event as part of the Battersea Arts Centre/The Guardian’s A Nation’s Theatre project and was also invited to write post-event editorial for The Guardian, in addition to a previous blog
Freelance work for older/adult audiences has included REVENGE and BRUISED for Tinderbox Theatre Company, BE MY BABY for the Lyric Theatre, co-directed TR>UBLE for TheatreofplucK (4 star review in the Irish Times) and directed REASSEMBLED, SLIGHTLY ASKEW, a unique sonic installation piece by Shannon Yee which the only NI production in Battersea Arts Centre’s A Nation’s Theatre season and which played the 2016 Dublin Tiger Fringe where it was nominated for 3 awards. REASSEMBLED continues to tour nationally and internationally, including to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
Anna was the Artistic Director of the Centre for Excellence for the Creative and Performing Arts at Queen’s University from 2005-2010, devising and delivering a pilot performer training programme and other innovative interdisciplinary practical arts programmes including devised dance theatre created with medical students – for which they got the same credit as their peers doing clinical electives. Also during this time, she created an interdisciplinary MA which involved collaboration with a range of external artists including Talking Birds, Pat Murphy, the Sonic Arts Research Centre and Forced Entertainment.
She also created two pieces of work with students from the Sarajevo Academy of Performing Arts, one for Bosnia’s International MESS Festival.
She ran the Lyric Theatre Belfast’s actor training programme for two years, during which time they produced the Presnyakov Brothers’ TERRORISM, Moira Buffini’s A VAMPIRE STORY and two performance installations.
Prior to moving to Belfast, she was Associate Director at Dundee Rep where she directed a number of large-scale pieces including Liz Lochhead’s DRACULA, Enda Walsh’s DISCO PIGS, Neil Duffield’s JUNGLE BOOK, Jim Cartwright’s RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE and Charlotte Keatley’s MY MOTHER SAID I NEVER SHOULD. She directed large-scale community projects including Ariel Dorfmann’s WIDOWS and an original operetta by Michael Marra. She also co-directed community co-productions between Dundee Rep and the Playhouse on the Square, Memphis and the Royal Court and was a key player in the setting up of the Dundee Women’s Performing Arts Network.
Anna has directed for various companies in Scotland and England including Borderline Theatre Company, Pilot Theatre Company and Birds of Paradise as well as teaching at Queen Margaret University and undertaking tens of community projects diverse in scale and nature.
She has been running large-scale community acapella harmony singing groups for nearly 20 years and these groups have supported, amongst others, Eddi Reader, Mary Black and Brian Kennedy.
"joyful, exuberant and rather eccentric" The List on GROW
"Thirty minutes of sheer delight" Arts:Blog on FOUR GO WILD IN WELLIES
“A real-life ordeal, captured by a daring, disorientating artistic collaboration, which works brilliantly on so many levels - *****”
The Stage on REASSEMBLED, SLIGHTLY ASKEW
“this two-man show gives tots exactly what they want”
Time Out NYC on WOBBLE
“this has been the most paradigm-shifting experience for us”
Jennie Resnek, Magnet Theatre, Cape Town
Irish Theatre Magazine on MARIANNE DREAMS
“directed with pace and a penchant for the subversive…this intriguing and important piece signals a new phase in the long, distinguished history of Replay”
Irish Theatre Magazine on CITIZEN
“an adventure beyond theatre”
official MESS Festival reviewer on NIJE NAS STRAH, MESS FESTIVAL, Sarajevo
“At the end of the twenty minute performance I felt as if I had been transported into the pages of a fairytale and returned gently back to earth.”
The Cape Times, South Africa, on TiNY
“a production with extraordinary finesse”
The Times on REVENGE
It was, perhaps, the most immersive theater experience I’ve had since I saw an adaptation of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying staged inside a 15×15 foot crate. (And, yes I’ve seen Sleep No More)
Blog review of BABBLE offBroadway
“In all my 21 years of teaching, I have never seen such high quality work for this audience”
Principal, Parkview Special School on INTO THE BLUE
"People from this area won't go into the city centre, they simply do not venture outside their own area. You coming to them is so important- this is now the most deprived area in NI. I've seen children who are wired for chaos and today I witnessed them being re-wired for calm.”
Child Psychologist on TiNY
“her production is of such great technical and almost cinematic visual flair as to render one breathless every time”
Scotland on Sunday on DRACULA
“full of attack and beautifully produced”
The Scotsman on THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
“Extremely haunting and emotional…The finale is especially notable for its immense power: vocally, visually and emotionally”
The Edinburgh Guide - Theatre Review on WIDOWS
“it makes you want to rip your heart out and throw it on the stage”
male teenage pupil on COMET
“Director Anna Newell has excelled herself with this high-voltage production..the roars of approval from the audience suggest that this is a show that Dundee will take to its heart”
The Scotsman on DISCO PIGS
“extracts every available ounce of humour, pathos and real, gritty bitterness from the dialogue”
The Scotsman on WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF HRT
“a nigh-on irresistible piece of comic theatre”
The Sunday Herald on PASSING PLACES
“the show addresses the audience with a lovely warm-hearted directness that is completely irresistible” The Scotsman on JUNGLE BOOK
“I was killed with excitement, it was as good as it could get!”
pupil on THE SCHOOL UNDERNEATH