Actors Ian McDiarmid, Alex Ferns and Linda Bassett and playwrights David Hare and Lucy Prebble were amongst the big winners in this year’s TMA Theatre Awards, announced at a ceremony hosted by comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig last night (Sunday 17 October 2004) at west London’s Lyric Hammersmith theatre (See News, 17 Sep 2004).

McDiarmid (pictured) won Best Actor honours for Tom Stoppard’s translation of Pirandello’s Henry IV, which opened first at the Donmar Warehouse before embarking on the London theatre’s first-ever regional tour (See News, 18 Mar 2004).

Ferns scooped Best Supporting Actor for the American death row drama Coyote on a Fence, which transferred briefly to the West End after its UK premiere at the Royal Exchange. It was one of two trophies for the Manchester venue - Liz Ascroft won Best Designer for the Exchange revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

London’s Royal Court – whose studio space, the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, is eligible for the TMA Awards, while the larger Downstairs auditorium is covered by the West End-focused Laurence Olivier Awards, announced in February – also nabbed a pair of awards. Linda Bassett won Best Actress for Lucky Dog while The Sugar Syndrome - written by Lucy Prebble, Olivier nominee and this year’s Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright (See News, 3 Feb 2004) – was named Best New Play.

The Out of Joint premiere of David Hare’s indictment of the UK’s railways, The Permanent Way, which enjoyed an extended season at the National as part of its nationwide tour, won the award for Best Touring Production.

Other major awards were: Best Supporting Actress for Barbara Adair in the Tinderbox tour of Revenge; Best Musical for The Hired Man at Salisbury Playhouse; and the special Eclipse Award for combating racism in drama for Philip Hedley, who last month stepped down after 25 years as artistic director of London’s pioneering Theatre Royal Stratford East (See News, 10 Sep 2004).

In considering this year's 13 awards categories, more than 1,000 productions were seen by the panel of some 150 regular theatregoers from across the country. The 2004 judging year ran from 1 September 2003 to 31 August 2004.

Last night's ceremony was attended by numerous theatre luminaries who, in addition to the majority of the winners and nominees, included actors Francis Barber , Anita Dobson, Isla Blair, Kulvinder Ghir and Lyric Hammersmith artistic director Neil Bartlett.

Presented by the Theatrical Management Association and formerly known as the Barclays Awards, after the high street banking group whose lead sponsorship ended two years ago, the TMA Awards, unlike most of the UK's prizes for theatre, do not focus on London and the West End. They are the only nationwide awards for excellence in regional theatre.

The Theatrical Management Association is a trade association that represents over 300 member organisations involved in the creation, presentation and management of professional theatre, opera and dance in the UK. Its annual awards were established in 1990.

- by Terri Paddock

The full list of 2004 TMA nominations is as follows. Winners are denoted in bold:

BEST ACTRESS - Linda Bassett for LUCKY DOG at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs; Victoria Hamilton for SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER a Sheffield Theatres Production at the Lyceum and on tour; and Carmen Munroe for MOTHER COURAGE, Nottingham Playhouse in association with the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of the Eclipse initiative.

BEST ACTOR - Corey Johnson for A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and West Yorkshire Playhouse; Ian McDiarmid for HENRY IV, Donmar Warehouse on tour; and Lalor Roddy for THE WEIR at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Barbara Adair for REVENGE, Tinderbox Theatre Company on tour; Lucy Briers for CLOUD NINE a Sheffield Theatres production at the Crucible; and Eileen O'Brien for the Royal Exchange Theatre Company’s ACROSS OKA.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Alex Ferns for COYOTE ON A FENCE, Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre in a co-production with Matthew Mitchell Ltd; Finbar Lynch for OTHELLO at Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton; and John Woodvine for HAMLET at the Nuffield, Southampton.

BEST DIRECTOR - Rupert Goold for PARADISE LOST at Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton; Terry Hands for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST at Clwyd Theatr Cymru; and Anna Mackmin for CLOUD NINE, a Sheffield Theatres production at the Crucible.

BEST NEW PLAY - REVENGE by Michael Duke, Tinderbox Theatre Company on tour; THE SUGAR SYNDROME by Lucy Prebble at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs; and YELLOWMAN by Dael Orlandersmith, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse in association with Hampstead Theatre.

BEST MUSICAL - FIERCE – AN URBAN MYTH written by Justin Young, music composed by Philip Pinsky, Gridiron Theatre Company on tour; THE BIG LIFE written by Paul Sirrett, music composed by Paul Joseph at Theatre Royal, Stratford East; and THE HIRED MAN book by Melvyn Bragg, music and lyrics by Howard Goodall, by arrangement with The Really Useful Group Ltd at Salisbury Playhouse.

BEST DESIGNER - Liz Ashcroft for Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre Company’s THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE; Ti Green for PARADISE LOST at Bristol Old Vic; and Laura Hopkins for OTHELLO at Royal and Derngate Theatres, Northampton.

THE OPUS AWARD FOR BEST TOURING PRODUCTION - GONE TO EARTH, a play with music by Helen Edmundson based on the novel by Mary Webb, Shared Experience; THE PERMANENT WAY by David Hare, Out of Joint and the National Theatre; and THE WOODEN FROCK adapted by Tom Morris and Emma Rice, Kneehigh Theatre and BAC in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

THE EQUITY AWARD FOR BEST SHOW FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE - ARTHUR, THE STORY OF A KING, Wee Stories and The Scottish Touring Consortium, co-created by Andy Cannon, Iain Johnstone and David Trouton; BEASTS AND BEAUTIES – EIGHT TALES FROM EUROPE at Bristol Old Vic; and BEST BEHAVIOUR, devised and directed by Mark Storor at Polka Theatre.

MOST WELCOMING THEATRE - Devonshire Park, Eastbourne; The Orange Tree, Richmond; and Theatre Royal, Norwich.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE - Henri Oguike for his new work WHITE SPACE and his fearless, accomplished repertory; Scottish Ballet for sure-footed modernisation under Ashley Page and dynamic performances; and Lynn Seymour for her inspirational coaching at Birmingham Royal Ballet and Rambert Dance Company.

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA - Vladimir Jurowski for his conducting of PARSIFAL for WNO; Opera North for its Eight Little Greats Season at Leeds and on tour; and Christopher Alden for his direction of LA VIDA BREVA and DJAMILEH for Opera North.


THE ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND ECLIPSE AWARD (an Arts Council England award for combating racism) - Philip Hedley.