The Donmar Warehouse’s increasing domination of Theatreland is underlined with the announcement today of the shortlists in this year’s Evening Standard Theatre Awards, in which the Donmar has netted a total of six nominations – twice as many as any other theatre (See News, 4 Nov 2008 – for longlists).

Three Donmar productions - Othello and The Chalk Garden, which both ran at the theatre’s 250-seat Covent Garden homebase, and Ivanov, which has launched the year-long Donmar West End residency at Wyndham’s Theatre – have attracted the judges’ attention.

Othello’s Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ivanov’s Kenneth Branagh go head-to-head for Best Actor, while The Chalk Garden co-stars Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton compete against each other for Best Actress and their fellow cast member Felicity Jones is in the running for Outstanding Newcomer of the Year. The sixth Donmar nomination is for artistic director Michael Grandage, who is up for Best Director for his work on all three plays.

In terms of theatre tallies, the Donmar’s closest competition comes from the Royal Court and Young Vic theatres, both of which have earned three nominations. There are two nods apiece too for the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company (its artistic director Michael Boyd up for another Best Director award for the Histories) and the National Theatre of Scotland (for the London transfer of Black Watch).

By contrast with the subsidised sector’s shortlist success, the commercial West End – which includes the year-round programming of the Old Vic and the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company’s inaugural season – only managed five nominations across the board.

Two of those are in the Best Musical category, where La Cage Aux Folles (now transferred from the Menier Chocolate Factory to the West End’s Playhouse) and Marguerite (which finished its run early at the Haymarket). Controversially, the year’s big Broadway import, Jersey Boys, which tells the story of the Four Seasons, did not make today’s shortlists, though it was included on the longlists published earlier this week.

The first prize-giving of the awards season – ahead of the Critics’ Circle, the Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com’s own audience-voted Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to submit your nominations), all of which are announced in the new year – the Evening Standard Awards are announced at a ceremony hosted by Richard Wilson at the Royal Opera House on 24 November 2008.

The Standard Awards are decided by a panel of critics from the Mail on Sunday (Georgina Brown), Observer (Susannah Clapp), Times (Benedict Nightingale) and Daily Telegraph (Charles Spencer) as well as the Standard itself (Nicholas de Jongh), chaired by Evening Standard editor Veronica Wadley.

Commenting on today’s shortlists, Nicholas de Jongh said: “It\'s been an astonishing year in the London theatre. We have ranged from the heights of Shakespeare\'s Histories cycle performed in one epic sweep at the Roundhouse, to Kenneth Branagh leading Chekhov\'s Ivanov and Michael Grandage\'s year-long season in the West End. We have seen a West End cinema playing host to a hybrid film-theatre version of Noel Coward\'s Brief Encounter, La Cage Aux Folles rediscovered as the first gay-marriage musical and Enid Bagnold\'s 1950s traditional middle-class drama acclaimed as a classic of dark English comedy.”

De Jongh added that, during the Standard’s awards year, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Goldblum and Josh Hartnett have also “proved that Hollywood stars can dazzle in London”, although none of the men dazzled the Standard judges enough to make the shortlists.

- by Terri Paddock


The full shortlists of contenders in this year’s 54th annual Evening Standard Theatre Awards, which covers openings up until the end of October 2008, are:

BEST PLAY

  • Black Watch - by Gregory Burke (National Theatre of Scotland at Barbican)
  • Now Or Later - by Christopher Shinn (Royal Court)
  • The Pitmen Painters - by Lee Hall (Live Theatre and National Theatre co-production)

    BEST ACTOR

  • Kenneth Branagh - Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham\'s)
  • David Calder - King Lear (Shakespeare\'s Globe)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor - Othello (Donmar Warehouse)

    BEST ACTRESS

  • Lesley Sharp - Harper Regan (National\'s Cottesloe)
  • Margaret Tyzack - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)
  • Penelope Wilton - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)

    THE NED SHERRIN AWARD FOR BEST MUSICAL

  • La Cage Aux Folles - Menier Chocolate Factory and Playhouse
  • Marguerite - Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Street Scene - The Opera Group, Young Vic and Watford Palace Theatre co-production

    THE SYDNEY EDWARDS AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

  • Michael Boyd - The History Cycle (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Roundhouse)
  • Michael Grandage - Othello/The Chalk Garden/Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham\'s and Donmar Warehouse)
  • John Tiffany - Black Watch (National Theatre of Scotland at Barbican)

    BEST DESIGN

  • Miriam Buether - In The Red And Brown Water (Young Vic)
  • Rob Howell - The Norman Conquests (Old Vic)
  • Neil Murray - Brief Encounter (Kneehigh at Cinema Haymarket Theatre)

    THE MILTON SHULMAN AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NEWCOMER

  • Felicity Jones - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)
  • Lex Shrapnel - Henry IV Part I (Royal Shakespeare Company at The Roundhouse)
  • Ella Smith - Fat Pig (Trafalgar Studios and Comedy Theatre)

    THE CHARLES WINTOUR AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT

  • Bola Agbaje - Gone Too Far (Royal Court)
  • Anupama Chandrasekhar - Free Outgoing (Royal Court)
  • Tarell Alvin McCraney - In The Red And Brown Water/The Brothers Size (Young Vic)