At a ceremony held in Manchester yesterday, the Manchester Evening News announced the winners for this year's MEN Theatre Awards, the so-called 'Oliviers of the North', now in their 22nd year (See News, 10 Nov 2003).

Amongst some of the high-profile award-winners were George Costigan, Matthew Kelly, Russell Dixon, Karen Drury and Peter Kay. The Salford Quays-based Lowry centre came out on top, garnering a total of five awards for its varied programme of visiting productions, followed by Manchester's Royal Exchange with three awards for its in-house productions. The touring production of long-running West End hit Chicago, which called at the city's Palace Theatre, was named Best Musical.

Commenting on the venue's success, Lowry artistic director Robert Robson said: "We were thrilled to have received such a great number of nominations, our largest number yet and delighted to have won five awards. We've had a fantastic year with international dance companies like the Kirov and Paul Taylor, big theatre hits from Broadway and the West End and an extremely rare event in the theatrical calendar with Scottish Opera's complete staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle. We're extremely proud that our enormous commitment to presenting high quality and high profile theatre in Salford has been acknowledged in this way."

This year's MEN Awards featured more than 80 nominations, encompassing both visiting and local-area productions, across 22 different categories. The crème de la crème of the 22nd annual MEN Theatre Awards was the Lowry, as they rose above the rest garnering five awards in an evening hosted ye by Justin Moorhouse and presenters Ben Keaton, Joseph Alessi, and Toby Sedgewick.

Some of the big names to take in awards were George Costigan, Matthew Kelly, Russell Dixon, Karen Drury and Peter Kay.

The Lowry's Artistic Director, Robert Robson, has this to say, "We were thrilled to have received such a great number of nominations, our largest number yet and delighted to have won five awards. We've had a fantastic year with international dance companies like the Kirov and Paul Taylor, big theatre hits from Broadway and the West End and an extremely rare event in the theatrical calendar with Scottish Opera's complete staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle. We're extremely proud that our enormous commitment to presenting high quality and high profile theatre in Salford has been acknowledged in this way."


The Manchester Evening News 2003 award winners are:

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE - Emma Lowndes for Port and The Seagull at the Royal Exchange

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE - Paul Webster for Home at the Oldham Coliseum

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Kerry Pears for Brighton Beach Memoirs at the Oldham Coliseum

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Russell Dixon for The Seagull at the Royal Exchange

BEST ACTRESS IN A VISITING PRODUCTION - Karen Drury for Brief Encounter at The Lowry

BEST ACTOR IN A VISITING PRODUCTION - George Costigan and Matthew Kelly for Of Mice and Men at The Lowry

BEST FRINGE PERFORMER - Segun for Bro-9 at Contact

BEST MUSICAL - Chicago at the Palace Theatre

BEST VISITING PRODUCTION - 1984 from Northern Stage Ensemble at The Lowry

BEST FRINGE PRODUCTION - Shoot the Crow at the Royal Exchange Studio

BEST SPECIAL ENTERTAINMENT - Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes in Happy at the Library Theatre

COMEDY AWARD - Peter Kay's "My Mum Wants a Bungalow" tour at The Lowry

BEST DESIGN - Bro-9 at Contact

BEST PRODUCTION - Translations at the Library Theatre

BEST NEW PLAY - You Hang Up First at Contact

OPERA AWARD - Maria Padilla at the Buxton Festival

DANCE AWARD - Triple Bill from the Paul Taylor Dance Company at The Lowry

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER - Viktoria Kay for Cooking With Elvis at the Bolton Octagon

- by Christian Bell