The Inheritance and Company Win Big at the 2018 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

London Student recently attended The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Theatre Editor Anthony Walker-Cook details the winners. 

Mark Shenton, outgoing Chairman of the Drama section of the Critics’ Circle, opened the proceedings with a speech about not only the burgeoning of new voices through the internet but also the need for proper critics: ‘there’s an ever greater need for curated content to rise above the din and provide trusted opinion.’ Mark is leaving to become the President of the Critics’ Circle with Henry Hitchings, theatre editor of the Evening Standard, taking over.

The early highlight of the ceremony, however, was comedian Arthur Smith, whose jokes were far too rude to repeat here; but know, reader, they were highly amusing.

On to, then, the awards. Sophie Okonedo was the recipient of the Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance for her portrayal of Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre. Lyn Gardener was certainly right to say Okonedo was ‘every inch a queen’, and it is, indeed, a worthy win: to repeat from London Student’s review of the show, Okonedo’s Egyptian queen was the perfect study of the character. 

Paul Hilton and Kyle Soller in The Inheritance. Photograph: Marc Brenner.

Matthew Lopez’s epic The Inheritance,split across two performances at the Noel Coward Theatre, won three awards: best director for Stephen Daldry, best actor for Kyle Soller, and best new play. And very well deserved they all are, too. It was a stupendous show, and producer Sonia Freedman said in her acceptance speech that this is not the end for this intensely moving show. 

The other big winner was Companycurrently running at the Gielgud Theatre. Director Marianne Eliot, who the gender swapped the role of Bobby to Bobbie with the approval of Stephen Sondheim, collected the Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical. Meanwhile Bunny Christie won the award of best designer for what critic Libby Purves called her ‘Alice in Wonderland’ like style. This reviewer is glad to be going down the rabbit hole again soon.

Natasha-Gordon as Lorraine in Nine Night. Photograph: Helen Murray.

Most promising playwright was Natasha Gordon for her exquisite Nine Night, which first opened at the National Theatre and is now playing at the Trafalgar Studios. London Student voted Nine Night among the best plays of 2018 – but are we part of the din or above it? Regardless, Gordon’s play is a complete triumph and I personally cannot wait for what will come next from her.

Chris Walley won the Jack Tinker award for most promising Newcomer for his role in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, whilst Patsy Ferran (who I’ve admired since her Celia in the National’s As You Like It) won best actress for her role in Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York Theatre.

Finally, Neil McPhersonwon a special award for services to theatre for his work as artistic director of the Finborough Theatre.

The event ended with a performance from members of the British Theatre Academy (BTA) with a song from Once on this Island, which will open at the Southwark Playhouse in August this year. If last year’s superb performances of Goodnight Mr. Tomand Bring It Onfrom the BTA and this small excerpt are anything to go by, this will be another wonderful show.

London Student wishes to extend its congratulations to all the winners and it is clear 2018 was a very good year for theatre indeed. Let’s see what 2019 has in store.

Feature photograph: Brinkhoff Mogenburg.

Anthony Walker-Cook is a PhD candidate at UCL and is the Theatre editor for London Student. His interests include theatre adaptation, early modern drama, classical myths made modern and all things eighteenth century. For more information please contact: @AntWalker_Cook

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