Last night at a star-studded ceremony at the Royal Opera House, the 55th annual Evening Standard Theatre Awards recognised a host of London theatre productions and talent.
This was the first year that new guidelines for the awards have ruled out West End commercial theatres, leading to recognition for a range of smaller venues, including an impressive four gongs for the Royal Court Theatre.
Rachel Weisz took the top acting honour for her performance as Blanche Dubois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse. The prize was renamed the Natasha Richardson Best Actress Award in honour of the actress who died in March, and was presented by her mother Vanessa Redgrave.
Also Ian McKellen was presented with a special award for his outstanding contribution to British theatre over the last half a century. The award will sit alongside two other Evening Standard Best Actor awards he has won, as well as Olivier awards and a Tony.
The Royal Court’s production of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem was named Best Play, and its star Mark Rylance was named Best Actor in the role of Johnny “Rooster” Byron. The play will shortly transfer to the Apollo Theatre in the West End.
There were also awards for the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, with its acclaimed production of Hello Dolly! winning the Best Musical award, the Charles Wintour Most Promising Playwright award went to Alia Bano for Shades, staged at the Royal Court as part of its young writers’ festival, and Best Design was awarded to Mamoru Iriguchi for Mincemeat at Cordy House in Shoreditch.
The evening also proved special for comedian Lenny Henry, who has officially made the break from comedy to legit theatre by being named Best Newcomer for his lead performance in Othello at the Trafalgar Studios.
EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS 2009
Awards announced: 23 November 2009
Best Play: Jerusalem – Jez Butterworth, Royal Court Theatre
Best Actor: Mark Rylance – Jerusalem, Royal Court Theatre
The Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress: Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse
The Sydney Edwards Awards for Best Director: Rupert Goold – Enron, Headlong and Royal Court Theatre
The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical: Hello Dolly, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Best Design: Mamoru Iriguchi – Mincemeat, Cardboard Citizens and Cordy House, Shoreditch
The Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright: Alia Bano – Shades, Royal Court Theatre
The Milton Shulman Award for Outstanding Newcomer: Lenny Henry – Othello, Trafalgar Studios
Special Award: Ian McKellen for his contribution to British theatre
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Former Spice Girl Melanie C made her stage debut in front of West End critics this week playing the lead role in Blood Brothers, and has been hailed a triumph.
The pop star took the role of Mrs Johnstone in Willy Russell’s emotional and powerful musical set in Liverpool. The show has been running for 21 years in the West End, most recently at the Phoenix Theatre.
Fiona Mountford from the Evening Standard said that the show “rings out as a rich, detailed and desperately moving piece of work”, largely thanks to Melanie C’s “terrific stage debut”. Along with praise for her singing, “Mel C delicately captures every changing tone”, her acting is also commended, “the arc she traces as the indomitable matriarch is strong and sure, with her climactic anguish so evidently felt that it’s almost unwatchable.”
Charles Spencer of the Telegraph said that she is “absolutely sensational… Melanie C gives one of those performances that grips with its emotional truth from the start and never loosens its grip. In every scene she seems to be living spontaneously in the moment, she sings with superb power and feeling, and ranges from warm comedy to the bitter depths of anguish.”
The overall production also fared well with the critics, with Spencer saying that, “Bill Kenwright’s production remains fresh and intense and leaves no doubt that the show belongs among the greats of British musical theatre”.
PEOPLE TO WATCH: Rising young star Ciaran Kellgren to reprise role of Peter Pan in spectacular production
2009 is definitely proving to be an important year for much talked about young actor Ciaran Kellgren.
Up until last year the 23 year old Lamda graduate had played relatively minor roles on TV and stage including Corporal Weir in ITV’s Cold Blood and parts in Macbeth and A Christmas Carol in Liverpool.
But his profile was raised significantly earlier this year when he featured in five episodes of Channel 4’s drama Shameless, cavorting naked and playing Debbie’s new love interest Mark.
Next month he will also be flying his way around a state-of-the-art tent pitched beside the O2 arena in Greenwich as Peter Pan in a spectacular multi-million pound production of the classic JM Barrie story.
The show originally premiered in the Spring in a £750,000 specially built 1,100 seater pavilion in Kensington Gardens, featuring an array of 3D and CGI sets that encompass the whole auditorium.
The spectacular production, which blends high-tech movie-making techniques with some dramatic live action performances – including much flying and dangerous thrills and spills – proved a huge success with audiences, which has led to its new stint at the O2.
The new adaptation of the classic story has been written by Tanya Ronder, and the production is directed by Ben Harrison and designed by William Dudley
Peter Pan is the story of the boy who never grew up. He takes the Darling children on a thrilling trip to the magical world of Neverland and introduces them to pirates – most notably Captain Hook – Indians, a crocodile and the Lost Boys.
Other members of the cast include movie actor Jonathan Hyde (Titanic, The Mummy) as Captain Hook / Mr Darling.
Book tickets to Peter Pan at the O2
The Tony award-winning Broadway production of Hair will transfer to London next year.
Plans are afoot for New York’s Public Theatre production of the show to move to the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in April. Cameron Macktintosh, owner of the Gielgud, is involved in helping the creative team transfer the show.
Currently playing at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in New York, the musical has proved a big hit on Broadway, directed by Diane Paulus and created by James Rado and Galt MacDermot.
With a score including songs such as”Let the Sun Shine In”, “Aquarius”, “Hair” and “Good Morning Starshine”, the show depicts the birth of a cultural movement in the ’60s as told through a tribe of hopeful hippies living in New York City while war rages in Vietnam. The young cast of 26 brings the show an energy and exuberance that promises to shake up the West End.
Negotiations are under way to bring the entire US cast to London for the show, with the aim of then introducing UK actors as the run progresses.
Evening Standard publishes list of most influential Theatre and Arts players in London
The Evening Standard recently published its The One Thousand guide, listing the most influential people in the capital. As you would expect, theatre and the arts played a major part in the line-up with a number of West End players making the list of creative leaders whose influence extends much wider than just London. Big players in the West End include both established and new talent from acting, directing and producing work, to the chairmen and chief executives who manage the business.
The Evening Standard’s The One Thousand – Theatre and Dance section
Kevin Spacey – Old Vic, Actor and Artistic director
Now a full-time Londoner and only a part-time film star, Spacey has weathered some storms to prove himself an admirable steward of the Old Vic, even temporarily remodelling its auditorium and bringing Sam Mendes back to Britain with the transatlantic Bridge Project.
Nicholas Hytner – National Theatre, artistic director
A vocal figurehead for the performing arts as well as a shrewd programmer and interpreter of plays, the suave Hytner knows that controversy, Helen Mirren, Alan Bennett and even outdoor Polish theatre make his South Bank HQ a truly national institution.
Michael Grandage – Donmar Warehouse, Artistic Director
Brilliant director and promoter of serious drama, the Donmar’s preternaturally youthful boss brought Jude Law’s Hamlet to the West End and Rachel Weisz’s Blanche DuBois to his pocket Covent Garden powerhouse.
Lord Lloyd-Webber – Composer, theatre owner and producer
He and Sir Cameron Mackintosh have had a huge influence on London’s theatreland, as well as owning a fairly large chunk of it. While churning out hit productions, Lord Lloyd-Webber braved the critics to bring musical theatre to primetime TV. Has been fighting prostate cancer.
Lucy Prebble – Playwright
Having written her first drama at university, Prebble’s second professionally produced script Enron – about the collapse of the bombastic energy company – has been acclaimed one of the plays of 2009. Oh, and she also got Billie Piper wielding a whip in the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Dominic Cooke – Royal Court Theatre, Artistic Director
“I like dissent,” says the affable, London-born Cooke, and he’s fostered it by putting Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, challenging German plays, angry work by Polly Stenham and a solo David Hare on his two stages. He’s kept the Court right on the cutting edge.
Sir Cameron Mackintosh – Impresario and theatre owner
The producer supremo who can’t fail. His theatrical ventures have out-grossed huge film successes such as Titanic and ET, and now little orphan Oliver is back in style. Has generously refurbished his theatres for future generations.
Sir David Hare – Playwright
The Labour Party, the Iraq War, the recession, and now the banking crisis in The Power of Yes … no subject is too big or too urgent for Britain’s leading political playwright. He also turns in the odd film adaptation and is married to fashion designer Nicole Farhi.
Sir Ian McKellen – Actor
Veteran classical actor at the top of his game, with Hollywood cachet in Lord of the Rings and X-Men. Has been back in the West End this year in Waiting For Godot. Is calling for producers to give more roles to older women.
Patrick Stewart – Actor
After many years in America with the Star Trek TV series, Stewart has returned to the West End, latterly making great use of his stage training in a Beckett double act with Ian McKellen. Says he has never been happier than now.
Sir Tom Stoppard – Playwright
The revival of Stoppard’s Arcadia confirmed it as a 20th Century classic, while Every Good Boy Deserves Favour reminded us he’s political and not just a clever clogs. And still the bouncing Czech manages to turn out film scripts and adaptations, with a major TV series due soon.
Dame Judi Dench – Actress
You can’t keep a good dame down and after appearing as de Sade’s mother-in-law in the West End Judi Dench will next year play Titania in Kingston for Sir Peter Hall, more than 50 years after she first essayed the part for him.
Vanessa Redgrave – Actress
What a trouper Redgrave is, making us glad there are still (some) roles for women over a certain age. The Oscar-winner has lost none of her political fire either. Mother of actresses Natasha, who sadly died in a skiing accident in Canada this year, and Joely.
Nica Burns – Nimax Theatres, chief executive
Whether running the five West End theatres she owns with Max Weitzenhoffer, organising comedy awards, or acting as President of the Society of London Theatre, Burns is London theatre’s great enthusiastic persuader: it was she who brought James McAvoy to the West End in Three Days of Rain.
Alan Bennett – playwright
The éminence grise of British theatre is still going strong 49 years after he hit the headlines with Beyond the Fringe. The History Boys introduced us to a generation of new leading men (James Corden, Dominic Maxwell), and his new drama The Habit of Art, starring Richard Griffiths and Alex Jennings, premiered at the National this autumn.
Rupert Goold – Headlong Theatre, artistic Director
It looked like Goold’s run of thrilling reworkings (Macbeth, Six Characters) had come to an end with a duff Time and the Conways but he bounced back with one of the plays of the year, Enron, and is tipped for a top job at a national company in the future.
Katie Mitchell – National Theatre, associate director
Mitchell is the most daringly experimental director of her generation, and the National’s own licensed maverick. Her adaptations of Woolf and Euripides have been emotionally demanding and technically sophisticated: it’ll be fascinating to see what she does with Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat this Christmas.
Simon Russell Beale – Actor
One of the best reasons to see Sam Mendes’s transatlantic Bridge project was to see SRB’s riveting performances as Leontes and Lopakhin in The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard. The greatest actor of his generation showed his versatility as John Le Carre’s George Smiley on radio.
Sonia Friedman – Producer
Friedman comes from a “ghastly von Trapp-style family” (her sister is singer Maria) and has established herself as London’s leading female producer, balancing straight theatre (Arcadia, Prick Up Your Ears, Othello) with superior entertainment (Legally Blonde, the Musical), always with a shrewd eye on what audiences want.
Jez Butterworth – Playwright
He was too distracted to write in the city, so started a new life as a pig farmer in the West Country, taking day trips to the capital. Jerusalem at the Royal Court sold out and transfers to The Apollo for a limited run next year.
Josie Rourke – Bush Theatre, Artistic Director
Three years into her reign the still absurdly youthful Rourke has maintained this tiny Shepherd’s Bush theatre as a home of innovative drama, scoring hits this year with Alexi Kaye Campbell’s Affinity and the dazzling war drama Stovepipe, staged in a nearby, disused shopping centre.
Mark Rylance – Actor
Superlative performer who never ceases to surprise, whether it’s by forsaking his RSC acting career to run Shakespeare’s Globe, indulging in on-screen sex in Intimacy, or turning himself from a hick teacher (Boeing Boeing) into a drug-dealing gypsy (Jerusalem). His latest, flamboyant turn is in Beckett’s Endgame.
Felix Barrett – Punchdrunk, artistic director
No one has done more to reinvent theatre as something that can happen anywhere – and thrillingly – than south London boy Barrett. His company Punchdrunk first made its mark with a multi-layered Faust in a Wapping warehouse, and most recently worked with the Old Vic on the atmospheric Tunnel 228 beneath Waterloo station.
Simon McBurney – Theatrical visionary
McBurney emerged as the creative leader of the collaborative physical theatre group Complicite and has led it in startling new intellectual directions, in the process becoming a director of international renown. Current projects include directing Beckett’s Endgame in the West End and developing the company’s first original film.
Marianne Elliott – Director
The rising power at the National Theatre, heiress to the legacy of Deborah Warner and Phyllida Lloyd, Elliott has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of a play, whether it’s Shaw’s St Joan, the hugely successful War Horse, or Shakespeare’s tricky All’s Well That Ends Well. Now working on her first musical, for the National, scored by Tori Amos.
Mehmet Ergen – Director, Leyla Nazli – Producer
The Istanbul-born Ergen and his producing sidekick Nazli have turned a former sewing machine factory in Dalston into a humming hub of creativity with stagings of seldom-seen classics and new work, not to mention East London’s own opera festival, Grimeborn.
Ken Stott – Actor
For years, Scottish-born Stott earned so little from acting he had to sell double-glazing on the side. Now he’s a bona fide theatre star, able to rivet an audience with the force of his personality. The best thing in Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, Stott was also a superlative Eddie Carbone in Miller’s A View From The Bridge.
Polly Stenham – Playwright
Blonde, spiky-haired Stenham is the poster girl for a new generation of playwrights and her debut That Face has proved remarkably durable – she’s off to New York next year to open it there. Still only 23, living in Highgate, she is adapting her second play Tusk Tusk for film.
David Babani – Menier Chocolate Factory, producer
In a few scant years the teddy-bearish Babani has built south London’s Menier Chocolate Factory into an off-West End gem. He recently basked in the glory of high-profile transfers of La Cage Aux Folles and A Little Night Music, and has attracted heavyweights like Trevor Nunn, Terry Johnson and Victoria Wood to his lair.
Rebecca Hall – Actor
Having quickly shrugged off talk of nepotism (her first roles were for her father, Sir Peter), willowy Hall, pictured below, won plaudits in Sam Mendes’s continent-spanning Bridge Project – and on the screen in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Older brother Edward is a theatre director too.
Lee Hall – Writer
Softly spoken, Newcastle-born Hall (who now lives in Islington with his wife, film director Beeban Kidron) created both the stage and screen versions of Billy Elliott and the affecting, thought-provoking Pitmen Painters. Also in demand as a screenwriter: a film about the RAF’s first working-class pilots in the Second World War is in the pipeline.
Nicolas Kent – Tricycle Theatre, Artistic Director
In his 25 years in charge, this Cambridge-educated son of a button-manufacturing businessman has ensured that Kilburn’s tiny Tricycle has punched well above its weight. He’s programmed seasons of black and Irish plays, pioneered the concept of documentary theatre and this year oversaw a huge season of work about Afghanistan called The Great Game.
Sir Trevor Nunn – Director
Ground-breaking director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, he also helped shape the modern musical with his productions of Cats, Les Mis and so on. He came back this year, after the disaster of Gone With the Wind, with Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, taking it from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End.
Dominic Dromgoole – Shakespeare’s Globe, artistic director
Far from Shakespearean in his views of the theatre – he describes the relationship between live performance and new technology as the “big story” for theatre, dance and opera. His Romeo and Juliet and Love’s Labour’s Lost are to be screened in cinemas globally.
Dame Liz Forgan – Arts council England, chair
Ex-BBC radio boss oversees a budget worth £1.3 billion over the next three years, which will go to about 880 arts organisations from the Royal Opera House to the Southbank Centre and beyond. She also chairs The Guardian’s Scott Trust and her Left-wing views have upset some Tories.
David Lan – Young Vic, artistic director
A “major, radical decision” is how he describes the Young Vic’s decision to play the entire score of Annie Get Your Gun on four Wendl & Lung pianos in the recent production. He trained as an anthropologist specialising in Zimbabwean spirit mediums.
Matthew Byam Shaw – Producer
The former actor has produced a slate of new work and classical revivals in less than a decade – and has done well with Enron, which he is bringing to the West End in the new year and then, like another of his co-productions, Hamlet, on to Broadway.
Michael Frayn – playwright
Rumours that this most cerebral of writers might retire have proved premature following Afterlife at the National. Frayn’s work ranges from side-splittingly funny to deeply serious. Married to biographer Claire Tomalin.
Kwame Kwei-Armah – Playwright and actor
The first black Briton to have a play in the West End (only in 2004), proving there are still boundaries to be broken. Most recently he’s been part of the Tricycle’s Not Black and White season. Born in Hillingdon, now living in Barnet, he changed his name from Ian Roberts after tracing his family history.
Carrie Cracknell, Natalie Abrahami – Gate theatre, artistic directors
Cracknell created A Mobile Thriller which was staged in a moving car with the audience strapped in the back seat. Abrahami stripped away the bustles in directing Vanya at the Gate, London’s only producing theatre dedicated to international work.
Matthew Bourne – Choreographer and director
Easily Britain’s most popular director-choreographer, Bourne’s mix of clear story-telling and high production values ensure loyalty for his dance-dramas. His version of Swan Lake with male swans is a modern classic.
Alistair Spalding – Sadler’s Wells, Director
Feet remain comfortably under tables for Spalding, whose transformative direction of Sadler’s Wells and his commissioning clout mean paths are beaten to his door by both wannabe choreographers and political poo-bahs.
Steven McRae – The Royal Ballet, Principal dancer
Rightly promoted to principal in the Royal Ballet’s annual round of snakes-and-ladders, the scissor-legged Australian, pictured, wows all and sundry with his fine dancing and acting finesse, latterly in Mayerling at the Royal Opera House.
Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon, Akram Khan – choreographers and dance company owners
Hip those hoorays for three British dance makers who not only choreograph and perform but also run their own companies and have a say in other people’s. Style-wise they cover the waterfront: Wheeldon has classic allure; Khan has east-west cross-over; and McGregor has everything – innovation, ingenuity, and educational commitment.
Monica Mason – The Royal Ballet, Director
With more dancers, more cash and more repertory than everyone else, the Royal’s veteran dancer-turned-director retains all her influence. But only until 2012, when she retires – so successors are jostling.
See the full The One Thousand listing at the Evening Standard website
Article update: For the latest list of shows running on a Sunday – plus special offers and discounts – visit our Sunday Shows page here.
Sunday is the new Saturday as far as West End theatres are concerned, as an increasing number of London shows begin running performances on a Sunday.
With no congestion charge and easier transport and parking, increasing numbers of families are choosing to visit London on a Sunday and take in a show.
On 8 November Hairspray joined the Sunday brigade and started running matinee performances, now with a new cast including comedian Phill Jupitus and pop diva Belinda Carlisle. And West End big-hitter Jersey Boys will also have its first Sunday performance from 17 January 2010.
Discount Tickets on a Sunday
Enjoy the following shows at a discounted rate on a Sunday:
Article update: For the latest list of shows running on a Sunday – plus special offers and discounts – visit our Sunday Shows page here.
A recession may still be playing out in Britain’s economy, but the West End seems to be doing just fine.
Two West End productions have just announced record takings for their shows: Mamma Mia! recently took £511,145 in the week ending October 31- its highest ever box office at either its current home the Prince of Wales or former venue the Prince Edward Theatre; and in the same week Oliver! took £829,383 – the highest recorded by any production at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
This news comes following Ambassador Theatre Group’s recent announcement that it is expanding its portfolio of 23 London and regional theatres. Husband and wife team Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire who run ATG, now dwarf the theatre empires of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Cameron Mackintosh having spent £90 million on buying theatres currently owned by Live Nation.
The deal boosts their total playhouses to 39, making them the largest theatre owner in Britain, rivalling past, great theatre-owners such as Apollo Leisure or Stoll Moss Theatres. The expanded theatre group is now valued at £150 million with their theatres ranging from the barn-like Lyceum theatre where The Lion King has been playing for 10 years, to the intimate Donmar Warehouse and Trafalgar Studios.
West End box office takings are predicted to be up by 4 per cent so far this year, with advance sales approaching the £50 million mark. Even long running hits such as The Phantom of the Opera, which opened in 1986, currently has an advance of £2 million, audiences for Les Misérables are 20 per cent up on 2008 and its advance is £1.5 million and The Lion King, which has already been seen by eight million people, still reaches 93 per cent capacity at the Lyceum’s 2,000 seats, and takes a weekly average of £500,000 at the box office.
And the run of success is not confined to just musicals. Even new plays, a territory usually about art more than money, is doing good business. Enron, Lucy Prebble’s play about the US financial scandal, enjoyed sell-out audiences in Chichester and the Royal Court, and has already taken £750,000 at the Noël Coward theatre in the run up to its opening there in January.
But West End producers aren’t taking any chances, and are peppering a host of productions with big name stars this winter. Kim Cattrall will star in a new production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the Vaudeville Theatre from February, Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis will star in a revival of Molière’s Misanthrope at the Comedy theatre next month, and Rupert Friend and Gemma Arterton star in The Little Dog Laughed at the Garrick Theatre from January.