The National Theatre swept the board at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards this week, after being named Time Out’s Theatre of the Year for 2011. Mike Leigh won Best Director for ‘Grief‘, generously forgiving those critics who gave it bad reviews for their ‘crassness and stupidity’. Richard Bean delivered an amusing albeit somewhat menacing acceptance speech after his hit ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’ scooped Best New Play.
Best Actor was accepted – via an iPad message read out by director Danny Boyle – by Benedict Cumberbatch for ‘Frankenstein’. Charmingly, Cumberbatch had written two speeches, a long one and a short one; critics unanimously voted to hear the latter. ‘Frankenstein’s Mark Tildesley also won Best Designer. The National Theatre’s groundbreaking ‘London Road’ (Time Out’s show of 2011) beat off competition from ‘Shrek’ , ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Crazy for You’ and ‘Backbeat’ to take Best Musical – with creators Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork hoping the award would help put ‘bums on seats’ when this startlingly original verbatim musical about the street where the Suffolk Strangler lived returns, enlarged for the NT’s Olivier stage, in July 2012.
Elsewhere Time Out theatre editor Caroline McGinn presented young director Blanche McIntyre with the Most Promising Newcomer Award for her work at the Finborough Theatre; ‘Birdsong’ star Eddie Redmayne (above) took Best Shakespearean Performance for his current title role in ‘Richard II’ at the Donmar Warehouse; and Best Actress went to the ever-delightful Sheridan Smith for her moving turn in the Haymarket Theatre Royal’s revival of Terence Rattigan’s ‘Flare Path’.