Lesley Manville and Lenny Henry with their awards
Lesley Manville and Lenny Henry with their awards
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

The 25th Critics' Circle Awards took place today at the Prince of Wales Theatre (which is also home to the 2014 WhatsOnStage Awards on 23 February), with Lenny Henry and Lesley Manville among those collecting prizes.

Henry, who picked up Best Actor for his portrayal of former baseball star Troy Maxson in August Wilson's Fences, said: "I was really shocked. This is wonderful, a huge honour. I try not to read the reviews during a run but I read them all afterwards and the consensus was that it was a pretty decent fist at an iconic role."

His transformation to stage acting came only a few years ago when he proved a hit in Northern Broadsides' revival of Othello in 2009. The role of Troy was suggested to him by James Earl Jones, who described it as the "African-American King Lear".

"After 37 years of being a comedian [this award] is like a validation, because all of that work has transferred into this," Henry added. "I still love to do comedy... But comedy's very much about us [the comedians], whereas drama's more collaborative."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who shared Most Promising Playwright with fellow actor-turned-writer Rory Kinnear, said she'd written her play Fleabag in order to give herself a "naughty" role. "I wanted to play a dark and complex young woman, because quite a lot of parts for actors my age are passive princesses."

Waller-Bridge said she felt the increasing trend for actors writing their own work was born out of a sense of "frustration" when suitable roles don't come available. She added that her next project is a musical, "for a character who can't sing".

Other winners included The Scottsboro Boys at the Young Vic, which was named Best Musical in a year of stiff competition. Producer Catherine Schreiber said: "We lost so many awards to The Book of Mormon at the Tonys and it's so great that the critics saw how incredible the show is. I hope I'm not going to cry a million times today."

And Lucy Kirkwood, author of Chimerica, which led the pack with three awards, said it was "especially meaningful" because her collaborators, director Lyndsey Turner and designer Es Devlin, were also recognised. "Three women collaborating on a project of that scale was really special," she added.

PHOTOS BY DAN WOOLLER FOR WHATSONSTAGE.COM