NICA BURNS, Nimax CEO named Producer of the year by The Stage.

7th January, 2021

NICA BURNS, Nimax CEO named Producer of the year by The Stage.

Nimax CEO, Nica Burns was named Producer of the year on 6th January 2021 by The Stage.

The Stage said… Between the first and second lockdowns, Nimax chief executive Nica Burns described being a producer and theatre owner in 2020 as like surfing a massive wave. “One moment you’ve got hope and you’re at the top,” she told the Financial Times. “Then you’re down at the bottom.”

Yet each time she – and theatre – has been knocked down, Burns has resolutely got back on the board. Throughout the year, Burns was at the forefront of those producers making every possible effort to put theatre on, determined that shows would play in the West End, and that audiences would be there to see them.

Early on, she rejected the idea of mothballing her company Nimax’s six London theatres and making all of her staff redundant. Instead of redundancy pay-outs, she reasoned, was it not better to support employment? From the beginning of the first lockdown, Burns was looking for ways to get the lights back on. It was, she said, “a very carefully thought-through gamble”.

When, in September, she announced the phased reopening of her theatres, it was a landmark moment of genuine hope for the industry: a clarion call to action, and one that focused a lot of minds. Burns did this knowing that each venue could only break even at best. Even so, Nimax brought in robust safety measures and set about opening at 50% capacity. She was not always a producer on the shows, but was an enabler of others, working with both established and younger producers to fill her venues with work.

The first show to return was in October, when the Apollo reopened with Adam Kay’s This Is Going to Hurt. The second lockdown meant the run lasted just 14 performances, but a survey of audiences found that they had been happy with the venue’s safety procedures.

And despite the huge disruption of opening and closing and delayed restarts, Burns ploughed on, ensuring shows would open as soon as the second lockdown ended. In the second week of December, Burns’ theatres staged 42 performances of 12 shows. Those productions kept theatre workers employed and audiences entertained. “When my staff turn up for work their eyes are smiling and they skip in. They are so pleased to be working,” Burns said. “It’s not just a job. It’s a job that is their heart, too.”

The shows that returned included the musical Six, Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – which Burns also produced. That was until the introduction of Tier 3 in the capital shut them all down again.

This year, Burns also threw her weight behind the Theatre Support Fund, and will host special concerts at the Palace Theatre early in the new year if restrictions allow. She also remains a trustee of the Theatre Development Trust.

Shortly before London was put in Tier 3, Burns told the Telegraph that she could go to bed with the duvet over her head “or look around and think: how can I make this happen”. In the face of overwhelming odds this year, she has consistently tried to make it happen, when some other established commercial producers didn’t. Perhaps even more importantly, she has also supported others to do the same.