Winners Announced For The 32nd Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards
The most inclusive year ever, with a broad collection of acting talent recognized at the 32nd Critics’ Circle Awards.
The winners at this year’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards are more inclusive than ever as, in a historic first, two of the acting gongs were awarded to performers with disabilities. The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance went to Arthur Hughes, whose magnetic turn as the eponymous hero in Richard III marked the first time the Royal Shakespeare Company has cast a disabled actor to play the character in its history.
Lizzie Annis received the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer for her astonishing performance opposite Amy Adams in The Glass Menagerie as Laura, the painfully shy daughter of Adams’ troubled matriarch. Annis, who has cerebral palsy, was praised by critics for the subtlety and sensitivity she brought to the role.
In a shock twist, Jodie Comer – who has won every major acting prize this season for her heartrending performance in Suzie Miller’s Prima Facie – was pipped to the post by Patsy Ferran, whose astonishing turn as Blanche DuBois in Rebecca Frecknall’s A Streetcar Named Desire netted her the award for Best Actress. Ferran, who stepped into the role only four days before the first performance, blew critics away with her compassionate performance and potent chemistry with co-stars Paul Mescal and Anjana Vasan.
The prize for Best Actor went to Hamilton alum Giles Terera, who delivered not one but two masterful performances this year in Othello at the National Theatre, and as Guy in Blues for an Alabama Sky. The director of the latter, Lynette Linton, won Best Director, her lyrical and light-footed staging of Pearl Cleage’s play, a riveting rendition of the Harlem Renaissance’s dying days.
Peter Morgan’s Patriots won The Michael Billington Award for Best New Play, a crowning achievement atop what has been a triumphant return to the stage for The Crown showrunner. Patriots – an incisive study of Russian dissidence via Putin’s friend-turned-foe, Boris Berezovsky – is the first new play penned by Morgan in almost a decade and has been widely applauded by critics for its breakneck pace and political timeliness.
PLAYWRIGHT, MUSICAL, AND DESIGNER AWARDS
Tyrell Williams won the prize for Most Promising Playwright, his debut Red Pitch a deft exploration of football, friendship, and gentrification. Williams, who was also honored this year with the 53rd George Devine Award, was recognized by critics for his playful and poetic use of language, and his centering of experiences that have been historically underrepresented on stage. The Most Promising Playwright award is sponsored by Finito, The Employability Experts.
The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical went to Oklahoma!, an invigorating interpretation of Rogers & Hammerstein’s classic re-orchestrated and reimagined for the 21st century. The musical was honored for its 2022 run at the Young Vic but has recently transferred to Wyndham’s Theatre in London.
Tom Pye was named Best Designer for his work on My Neighbour Totoro, his whimsical production design able to summon all the magic of the source material, and even deliver fresh delights. This continues the awards season success of the RSC’s adaption of the Ghibli animation classic, which won six Oliviers earlier this month. Webber Phillips sponsors the Best Designer award.
EMPTY SPACE PETER BROOK AWARD, ATTENDEES, JOSS STONE AND DAVE STEWART
The 2023 Empty Space Peter Brook Award went to the New Diorama. Originally founded by critic and producer Blanche Marvin MBE, who ran these awards from 1989-2017, the Empty Space Peter Brook Award has been newly revived by the Critics’ Circle to mark the passing last year of radical theatre director Peter Brook. It is the only UK theatre award named in Brook’s memory, with the approval of his estate, and recognizes a theatre that best embodies Brook’s concept of “the empty space”.
In attendance at the ceremony were many of this year’s winners, among them Peter Morgan (The Crown), Giles Terera (Hamilton), and Patsy Ferran (A Streetcar Named Desire). They celebrated alongside awards presenters and guests including actors Paul Mescal (Normal People), Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones), Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply), Tracey-Ann Oberman (It’s A Sin), Joanna Vanderham (Crime), and leading directors such as Rufus Norris (the National Theatre).
Attendees were also treated to a surprise preview of the latest work from singer-songwriter Joss Stone and Eurythmics star Dave Stewart. The two are collaborating on a new musical, The Time Traveller’s Wife, which will open at the Apollo Theatre in October 2023. Attendees enjoyed a performance of ‘This Time’, performed by actress Joanna Woodward. This song articulates the adoration and frustration of her love of her now-husband Henry, as well as her famous line from the beloved novel: “‘It’s hard to be the one who stays behind.”
THE CRITICS’ CIRCLE
The Critics’ Circle is grateful for the continuing support of lead sponsors Nyman Libson Paul, the creative industry accountants. Anthony Pins, Managing Partner of Nyman Libson Paul, said “As leading accountants and tax advisers to the theatre industry, we are delighted to continue our long association with the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, which are highly respected and valued by the recipients.
The Circle also acknowledges the generosity of Finito, Webber Phillips, and Theatre of Wine.
“Young people leaving school, college and university increasingly want a career in the Arts and Creative Industries. The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards shows them what is possible,” said Ronel Lehmann, Founder and Chief Executive of Finito, the employability experts.
LIST OF WINNERS
Best New Play (The Michael Billington Award)
Peter Morgan, Patriots
Best Musical (The Peter Hepple Award)
Oklahoma!, Young Vic, Bard SummerScape & associates
Giles Terera, Othello and Blues For An Alabama Sky
Patsy Ferran, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Shakespearean Performance (The Trewin Award)
Arthur Hughes, Richard III
Lynette Linton, Blues For An Alabama Sky
Tom Pye, My Neighbour Totoro
Most Promising Playwright
Tyrell Williams, Red Pitch
Most Promising Newcomer (The Jack Tinker Award)
Lizzie Annis, The Glass Menagerie
The Empty Space Peter Brook Award
Carl Roberts is the News Editor for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!