Playgoers may well remember 2007 as one of the strongest years for Shakespeare in London – and the results of this year’s 19th annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, announced today (29 January 2008) at the Prince of Wales theatre, help demonstrate the point.

For the first time in the awards’ history, the prize for Best Shakespearean Performance was awarded jointly – to Chiwetel Ejiofor (a former Critics’ Circle Most Promising Newcomer in 2000 for Blue/Orange) for Othello at the Donmar Warehouse and to Patrick Stewart for Macbeth. The latter, which transfers to New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music next month, also netted Rupert Goold another Best Director gong. Today’s wins follow Macbeth’s double triumph – Best Director and Best Actor for Stewart - at November’s Evening Standard Awards (See News, 27 Nov 2007).

Several other Standard winners were also celebrating again today, particularly Hairspray, the Critics’ Circle’s other double winner, which scooped both Best Musical and Most Promising Newcomer for Leanne Jones (pictured). The Standard’s Best Actress, Saint Joan’s Anne-Marie Duff, took home the same trophy today; Complicite’s A Disappearing Number once again won Best New Play; Rae Smith and Handspring were again named Best Designer for War Horse; and, last but not least, Polly Stenham added another Most Promising Playwright trophy to her shelf for That Face.

The only major divergence between the results of the Critics’ Circle and the Evening Standard Awards, which are themselves decided by critics, came in the Best Actor category. With Stewart already recognised elsewhere, the prize went to Charles Dance for Shadowlands.

Many of the critics’ winners are also in the running for our own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre prize-giving decided by the public, for which online voting concludes on 10 February 2008, with winners unveiled on 22 February just before our first-ever Year on Year Concert, attended by numerous nominees and winners. The awards season culminates in March with the Laurence Olivier Awards. The Olivier shortlists are released next week ahead of the awards ceremony at the Grosvenor House, Park Lane, on Sunday 9 March 2008.

- by Terri Paddock

The full list of Critics’ Circle winners is as follows:

BEST NEW PLAY - A Disappearing Number by Simon McBurney and Complicite
(Award presented to Complicite’s Judith Dimant by The Times’ Benedict Nightingale)

The Peter Hepple Award for BEST MUSICAL - Hairspray
(Award presented to Leanne Jones and choreographer Jerry Mitchell by the Independent’s Paul Taylor)

BEST ACTOR - Charles Dance for Shadowlands
(Award presented to Dance by the Mail on Sunday’s Georgina Brown)

BEST ACTRESS - Anne-Marie Duff for Saint Joan
(Award presented to Duff by the Evening Standard’s Nicholas de Jongh)

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for BEST SHAKESPEAREAN PERFORMANCE - Chiwetel Ejiofor for Othello and Patrick Stewart for Macbeth
(Awards presented to Ejiofor and Stewart by, respectively, the Sunday Times’ John Peter and Time Out’s Jane Edwardes)

BEST DIRECTOR - Rupert Goold for Macbeth
(Award presented to Goold by the Guardian’s Michael Billington)

BEST DESIGNER - Rae Smith and the Handspring Puppet Company for War Horse
(Award presented to Tom Morris, War Horse co-director and associate director at the National Theatre, by the Daily Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish)

MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT - Polly Stenham for That Face
(Award presented to Stenham by Metro’s Claire Allfree)

The Jack Tinker Award for MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER - Leanne Jones for Hairspray
(Award presented to Jones by Ian Shuttleworth of the Financial Times and Theatre Record)

Agree or disagree with the critics?
For the full list of Theatregoers’ Choice Awards
nominations & to vote – click here.