Last night at a star-studded ceremony at the Royal Opera House, the 55th annual Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2009 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.
Best Director prize went to man of the moment Rupert Goold for Enron -which was another victory for the Royal Court and is also transferring into the West End – this time the Noel Coward theatre.
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.