The Manchester Evening News announced the winners for its 25th anniversary MEN Theatre Awards. The 'Oliviers of the North' were hosted by Sally Lindsay, former star of the Salford-set Coronation Street, at the city's Crowne Plaza Midland Hotel on Wednesday evening, with winners including Ian McKellen and Cathy Tyson in attendance.

Across more than 20 categories, the MEN Awards encompass both locally produced productions and those visiting the Greater Manchester area. The big winner, in its own 30th anniversary year, was the Royal Exchange Theatre (pictured), which scooped a total of eight prizes, including the four main home-grown acting honours: Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role.

The Donmar Warehouse touring production of Mark Ravenhill’s The Cut, which received mixed reviews when it premiered first in London at the beginning of the year, scored a double victory for Best Visiting Production and Best Actor in a Visiting Production for Ian McKellen. Accepting his award, McKellen commented: “What Manchester loves today, London will adore tomorrow. In the cast of The Cut, it was what London failed to appreciate in February, the people at The Lowry absolutely got in May.”

Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks echoed McKellen’s London vs Manchester sentiments, saying: “Manchester is now right up there with the leading capitals of the world, not just for the quality of our home-grown product but also in terms of the shows that visit us from around the world…. This is the day when we prove that Manchester – and not the West End of London – hosts the best theatrical awards in this country and one of the leading events of its sort in the world.”

The Manchester Evening News 2006 award winners are:

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE - Raquel Cassidy for Mirandolina at the Royal Exchange.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE - Ben Keaton for Harvey at the Royal Exchange.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Janet Henfrey for Separate Tables at the Royal Exchange.

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Wyllie Longmore for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Royal Exchange.

BEST ACTRESS IN A VISITING PRODUCTION - Cathy Tyson for Trumpet at the Contact Theatre.

BEST ACTOR IN A VISITING PRODUCTION - Ian McKellen for The Cut at The Lowry.

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A FRINGE PRODUCTION - Four named winners: Sue Janes for Relativity at Studio Salford; Caroline Harding and Candida Gubbins for Two Sisters at Buxton Festival Fringe; and Kath Burlinson for The Mother’s Bones at the Paupers’ Pit.

BEST MUSICAL - Miss Saigon at the Palace Theatre.

BEST VISITING PRODUCTION - The Cut from the Donmar Warehouse at The Lowry.

BEST FRINGE PRODUCTION - The Judgement of Mr Jenkins at the 24:7 Festival.


COMEDY AWARD - The New Statesman.

BEST DESIGN - The Flags at the Royal Exchange Studio.

BEST INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTION - Slava’s Snowshow at The Lowry.

BEST NEW PLAY - In the Shadow of Trees, created by Horse+Bamboo company.

OPERA AWARD - La Traviata at the Clonter Opera, Cheshire.

DANCE AWARD - Edward Scissorhands, New Adventures.

BEST NEWCOMER - Sian Haslock for Divas and Double Glazing at the 24:7 Festival.

BEST PRODUCTION - Blonde Bombshells of 1943 at Bolton Octagon.

BEST STUDIO PRODUCTION - The Flags at the Royal Exchange Studio.

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A STUDIO PRODUCTION - The cast (Francis Magee, Jamie Beamish, Kieran Cunningham and [Siobhan McSweeney) of The Flags at the Royal Exchange Studio.

BEST FAMILY SHOW - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palace Theatre.

- by Terri Paddock