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West End isn’t best according to the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

Posted at 5:00 pm, January 15, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment
Simon Russell Beale

London’s subsidised theatres were the big winners and the West End was the big loser at today’s Critics’ Circle theatre awards, the first ceremony in the annual awards season that culminates in April’s Oliviers.

In a cheerily unglittery ceremony presided over and voted for by London’s crack theatre hacks, Southwark’s Young Vic took home three different prizes: best actress for Hattie Morahan in ‘A Doll’s House’, best director for Benedict Andrews’s ‘Three Sisters’ and best designer for Miriam Buether and her astonishing set for ‘Wild Swans’.

The commercial sector flopped miserably: not a single West End show won an award, which probably says less about critical snootiness and more about a year in which the big producers wussed out of any sort of risky venture for fear of the Olympics fatally denting ticket sales.

Off-West End, then, there was a double win for the Tricycle Theatre’s ‘Red Velvet’ and the husband-wife team behind it: Lolita Chakrabarti built on her success at the Evening Standard awards last year to take most promising new playwright, while her husband Adrian Lester took best actor for his starring role as black Victorian performer Ira Aldridge.

The National Theatre did its usual impressive thing, with Simon Russell Beale (above) taking home best Shakespearean performance for the title role in ‘Timon of Athens’ and Lucy Prebble delivering an intensely moving speech as she accepted the award for best new play for her magnificent ‘The Effect’.

Things were rounded off by Denise Gough, who took home best newcomer for her sizzling turn in the Lyric Hammersmith’s ‘Desire Under the Elms’, while the Menier Chocolate Factory’s ongoing revival of Sondheim’s ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ received the award for best musical.

Finally there was a special award for Shakespeare’s Globe and its gloriously improbable Globe to Globe festival last year. In a warm and funny speech, Globe artistic director Dominic Dromgoole said he was astonished at how good the 37-plays-in-37-languages has been, ‘except two of them’, which he graciously declined to name.

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