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 23rd year were presented by comedienne, novelist and playwright, Jenny Éclair. Amongst some of the high-profile award-winners were Ian McDiarmid, Bill Bailey and Denise Welch.

Manchester’s two theatrical powerhouses, The Royal Exchange and Salford Quays-based Lowry centre, battled it out for the most awards. The Exchange took eight for its in-house productions across their main house and studio theatres and the Lowry garnered a total of six awards for its varied programme of visiting productions.

The Donmar Warehouse’s touring production of Henry IV scooped up two accolades, that of Best Visiting Production and Best Actor for McDiarmid’s performance in the title role. Best musical was awarded to the tour of Boy George musical Taboo.

This year's MEN Awards featured more than 70 nominations, encompassing both visiting and local-area productions, across 17 different categories.

The Lowry's Artistic Director, Robert Robson, has this to say, “We were thrilled to have received 22 nominations, our largest number yet and absolutely delighted to win six awards, particularly for our co-production of Taboo. The Lowry has come a long way since it first opened its doors on 28th April 2000 and these awards reflect the quality and diversity of our theatre presentations. We’re extremely proud that our enormous commitment to presenting high profile theatre in Salford has been acknowledged in this way.“

The Manchester Evening News 2004 award winners are:

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE - Denise Welch for The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Royal Exchange

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE - O-T Fagbenie for Six Degrees of Seperation at the Royal Exchange

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Barbara Marten for In Conversation at the Royal Exchange

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Leigh Symonds for Popcorn at the Bolton Octagon


BEST FRINGE PERFORMER - Jonathon Pram in Victim of the 21st Century at the Royal Exchange Studio

BEST MUSICAL - Taboo at the Lowry

BEST VISITING PRODUCTION - Henry IV from the Donmar Warehouse at The Lowry

BEST FRINGE PRODUCTION - Coyote on a Fence at the Royal Exchange Studio

BEST SPECIAL ENTERTAINMENT - A Strange (and Unexpected) Event from Horse+Bamboo Theatre Company at the Royal Exchange Studio

COMEDY AWARD - Bill Bailey in Part Troll at the Lowry "

BEST DESIGN - Perfect at Contact (design by Paul Clay)

BEST PRODUCTION - A Conversation at the Royal Exchange Studio

BEST NEW PLAY - Perfect by Kaite O’Reilly at Contact

OPERA AWARD - Il Tabarro and The Dwarf Opera North at the Lowry

DANCE AWARD - Play Without Words from the New Adventures and the National Theatre at The Lowry

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER - Andrew Garfield for Kes at the Royal Exchange

- by Hannah Kennedy