WEST YORKSHIRE PLAYHOUSE, LEEDS
Artistic director: Ian Brown
History: The Playhouse opened in 1990 and flourished under the 12-year leadership of Jude Kelly, current artistic director of London's South Bank Centre. The largest repertory theatre outside of London and Stratford, Kelly attracted big names including Sir Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart to the Leeds-based venue. Brown, former artistic director of the Traverse, opened his tenure with Christopher Eccleston in Hamlet in 2002.
Find out more: www.wyplayhouse.com
BRISTOL OLD VIC
Artistic director: Simon Reade
History: The Bristol Old Vic was founded in 1946 as an off-shoot of London's Old Vic, along with its prestigious theatre school; former alumni include Jeremy Irons, Daniel Day-Lewis and Miranda Richardson. Rescued from bankruptcy in 2002 by the Arts Council, the theatre has subsequently flourished under joint artistic directors Simon Reade and David Farr. Farr left Bristol to take over the reigns at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith earlier this year.
Find out more:www.bristol-old-vic.co.uk
STEPHEN JOSEPH THEATRE, SCARBOROUGH
Artistic director: Sir Alan Ayckbourn
History: Sir Alan took up the role of artistic director following the death of mentor Stephen Joseph, who pioneered theatre-in-the-round, in 1971. In 1996, after six years of fundraising, he established a permanent home for the company in Scarborough's two-stage home. All but one of Ayckbourn's 69 comedies have premiered in Scarborough. Talents nurtured by the company, which celebrated its 50th birthday this year, include Michael Gambon and Tamzin Outhwaite.
Find out more: www.sjt.uk.com
Artistic director: Jonathan Church
History: Founded in 1913, the Rep was the launch-pad for the careers of director Peter Brook and actors Julie Christie and Sir Derek Jacobi. 1998 saw the introduction of The Door, a venue dedicated to producing new work. The theatre hit the headlines in December 2004 when violent clashes between the police and demonstrators forced the cancellation of Sikh drama Behtzi.
Find out more: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk
TRAVERSE THEATRE, EDINBURGH
Artistic director: Philip Howard
History: Founded in 1962 by a group of maverick artists, the Traverse is committed to producing new plays by Scottish and international playwrights. The theatre, which relocated in the 1990s, attracts considerable attention during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with recent productions taking place in a toilet block and a moving car. The theatre annually commits to the Highland Tour Project taking work to the highlands and islands.
Find out more: www.traverse.co.uk
ROYAL SHAKESHEARE COMPANY, STRATFORD-UPON-AVON
Artistic director: Michael Boyd
History: The modern RSC, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, was formed by director Sir Peter Hall in 1960. Originally dedicated to advancing the Shakespearean drama, its repertoire now includes modern and classic plays and provides a training ground for some of Britain's most talented actors. The company floundered in the late 1990s amid rumours of staff dissatisfaction and massive debt, leading to the resignation of Adrian Noble in 2003.
Find out more: www.rsc.org.uk