Photos: Spacey Buries Critics’ Hatchet + Speeches
Date: 31 January 2006
Critics themselves came under fire at the 17th annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards ceremony, held this afternoon at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre simultaneously with the online announcement of our own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (See Today’s Other News for head-to-head results).
In introducing Kevin Spacey (pictured at today’s event), the recipient of the critics’ award for Best Shakespearean Performance for his title performance in Richard II, Michael Coveney, formerly of the Daily Mail made an oblique reference to the rough ride his critical colleagues had given Spacey during his first year as artistic director of the Old Vic. “We’re here to bury the hatchet,” said Coveney, “and not into his back.”
When Spacey took to the stage himself, he held up the John and Wendy Trewin medallion that accompanies the Shakespearean award, and asked with more than a hint of sarcasm - “This is from the critics, right?” – before picking up Coveney’s theme and adding “we’re happy to bury the hatchet.”
(The Critics’ Circle Award brought the Old Vic’s prizes haul today to a total of five. In our own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, Spacey was named Best Actor for Richard II, which also won Best Shakespearean Production. I addition, Ian McKellen’s pantomime dame debut in Aladdin at the Old Vic was named the Planet Hollywood Theatre Event of the Year.)
Harvest playwright Richard Bean also made a few digs when he accepted his Critics’ Circle award for Best New Play. He opened his speech by making it clear that he’d read the Harvest reviews written by those in the audience, which, despite today’s award, weren’t without misgivings. “I’ve written a speech,” he said. “It’s three hours long and you won’t like the ending.” He closed with a parting swipe. “When you get a lot of writers in a pub, they all sit around slagging off critics” – long pause as the audience laughed – “What? Full stop,” Bean said as he left the stage.
CRITICS’ CIRCLE WINNERS’ REMARKS
Other also had their say on presenting and receiving today’s Critics’ Circle Awards. Amongst them:
The Evening Standard’s Nicholas de Jongh likened Michael Grandage, who won the Best Director prize for The Wild Duck, to a “lavatory cleanser of a director” because “he reaches and illuminates the parts of plays that no other director reaches”. A bemused Grandage stared by saying “I’ve been called many things before” and shaking his head. He went on to thank the critics: “The support many of you gave this production was very welcome because, god knows, you need all the support you can get when you programme an Ibsen over Christmas.”
The Guardian’s Michael Billington praised playwright Laura Wade for demonstrating “skill beyond her years” with Breathing Corpses and Colder Than Here, the two plays that earned her the award for Most Promising Playwright. Wade thanked, amongst others, the staff at the Royal Court and Soho Theatres, which mounted the plays within weeks of each other last year, and “particularly Simon Stephens and the new writers’ programme at the Royal Court – I learned so much there”.
Whatsonstage.com’s own contributing editor Mark Shenton presented the award for Best Designer to the Sunday in the Park with George design team, David Farley (set) and Timothy Bird (video projection). "Design usually supports a good production; it seldom provides several of the cast members as well,” said Shenton. “But the duo we are honouring today actually created work that not only does that but also reflects the theme of the show itself. For Sunday in the Park with George is a musical about the challenges faced in the making of art, and the brilliant design of this production makes a major contribution to the act of creation in bringing it to the stage." Farley and Bird in turn praised the tiny Menier Chocolate Factory - where the musical is enjoying an extended, sell-out run – for being “crazy enough” to put on the production and director Sam Buntrock for embracing the “ridiculous notion” of animated design in the 150-seat space.
Eve Best, Best Actress winner for Hedda Gabler, collected her third Critics’ Circle Award today from the Times’ Benedict Nightingale, having won in previous years for Mourning Becomes Electra (Best Actress) and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Most Promising Newcomer). “This is the award that you – or at least I – do really want to get,” she admitted. She said the Almeida production, which transferred to the West End, was successful because of “group effort” of the company and “most of all, because of the genius of (director) Richard Eyre. Richard, you are my hero and this is for you.” She then added with a sheepish wave, “And hello mum!”
When presenting the Best Actor prize to Simon Russell Beale for The Philanthropist at the Donmar Warehouse, the International Herald Tribune’s Matt Wolf marvelled that Russell Beale “has so many (awards), he probably doesn’t know what to do with them – so why not another?” Russell Beale is currently in New York, playing King Arthur in Monty Python musical Spamalot on Broadway. Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage accepted on his behalf, reading a message from the actor who said he felt privileged to have the “great good luck to play” philologist Philip in the Christopher Hampton revival, a role he believes is “one of the greatest and most quietly surprising characters in late 20th-century drama”.
The Observer’s Susannah Clapp said of Best Musical Billy Elliot that “it performs the case it’s making about the liberating power of self-expression”. Director Stephen Daldry and book writer and lyricist Lee Hall took to the stage. Hall began by crediting the show’s composer Elton John, who was unable to attend today. “Thank you from and than you to Elton John, whose idea it was to make this into a musical in the first place,” he said. Best known as a playwright and screenwriter, Hall said that “never having written a musical before, it means an awful lot to get this award.” He added that “the most moving thing for me is watching the Billys – it does embody everything I was trying to say”. Daldry said that he and Hall were accepting the Best Musical award on behalf of the show’s producers, collaborators and cast. “Most of all, of course, it’s about the kids and the kids are here – so a little less swearing would be good,” the director chastised, following an expletive-laden warm-up from guest speaker Arthur Smith. Five Billy Elliots – including role originators George Maguire, James Lomas and Liam Mower, who also collectively won today’s Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Ms London London Newcomer of the Year – then joined him on the stage and thanked their teachers and parents.
(In another crossover with the Critics’ Circle Billy Elliot also today won Best New Musical in Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, as well as our prizes for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Ann Emery and Best Choreographer for Peter Darling.)
- by Terri Paddock
For head-to-head results from the Critics’ Circle vs the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, click here For speech highlights from the Critics’ Circle Awards, click here For photos from the Critics’ Circle Awards, click here For a full list of Theatregoers’ Choice winners, click here For further analysis of the Theatregoers’ Choice winners, click here For a final voting percentages for all winners & nominees in the Theatregoers’ Choice winners, click here
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