UK Theatre Awards 2017: A blow by blow account
12.30pm I arrive at the Guildhall, London and head for the drinks reception in the Crypts. It’s quite posh. I have a glass of champagne and bump into theatre critic Mark Shenton. “Hello! I’m surprised you managed to fit this in between all your meetings,” he says, laughing. We have a quick gossip.
12.45pm I mingle and bump into critics Lyn Gardner and Fiona Mountford, which is nice. “What on earth are you doing here!?,” Lyn says. I wouldn’t miss it for the world – congratulations, Mrs. I say. Bless.
12.55pm A man from Scottish Ballet asks me to take his photo around forty times – because the lighting is not flattering. I oblige. Great days.
1.00pm Everyone is having lunch. Here is the menu.
(I was afforded a cheese roll, a banana and a Kit Kat. Beggars can’t be choosers.
1.30pm The guy from Scottish Ballet appears. “I need somewhere to throw up my gum,” he says to me and the chap from UK Theatre. Words fail me. I suggest a bin around the corner.
2.00pm It’s starting. I think.
2.05pm Oh here comes Gemma Bodinetz who has won the Best Director award for artistic directorship of Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse’s new repertory season. “I’m looking forward to the whole thing now: I can get drunk,” she says. Amazing.
2.08pm “Yayyy Gemma!” Shrinking violet Sam Hodges is gate crashing my interview, which is a bit annoying. Oh well, he’s charismatic.
2.14pm Anyway, why is today so important to Gemma? “I’m absolutely thrilled… It’s taken me 14 years to win this award. It’s a very important thing for us as an organisation,” she states.
2.16pm Let’s have a quick chat with Nuffield Southampton Theatres Sam Hodges then. He has just picked up the Renee Stepham Award for Best Presentation of Touring Theatre for Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Why is today so important for him and this production, I ask. “It’s a massive deal; it was a glorious show. We’d never done anything on this scale and arguably we shouldn’t have – luckily our board backed this decision fully and this is the icing on the cake,” he says, smiling.
2.18pm I lose the thread of what’s going on and before I know it along comes actor Joseph Millson who has won Best Performance in a Play. What is it about regional theatre that is sexy? “I am hugely devoted to the supporting of local and regional theatres; it saved my life when I grew up in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “Even if it hadn’t doesn’t make you an actor – it gives young people such an independence.” He continues. “There’s something so individual and so much expression. If everyone just bought one ticket a year at their local theatre then everybody could reap the benefits.”
2.25pm I have a glass of white wine. 7/10.
2.30pm Sharon Duncan-Brewster has deservedly won Best Supporting Performance for A Streetcar Named Desire at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre. “A lot of people do not venture out to do any work outside of London, so when I was asked to be in Streetcar I thought the only role I could play is the negro woman,” she says, candidly. What does this win mean to her? “Every city or town that I go perform in, there are people who look like me in the theatre and its time they saw themselves represented on stage,” she says. “I would love to see more of the amazing diverse work happening out in regional theatre coming into London,” she pauses and has a little cry. We have a hug.
2.41pm I run to the toilet and bump into West End Producer Nica Burns(!) She looks fierce in a white gown- I am too scared to talk to her, which is a shame.
2.45pm Best Touring Production went to The Who’s Tommy, which was co-produced by New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Ramps on the Moon. The two organisations also received the award for Promotion of Diversity for their groundbreaking work in the inclusion and integration of deaf and disabled individuals. Here comes the Former Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Stratford East, Kerry Michael. What more needs to be done on the diversity front, going forward? “We need continue making inclusive show because they are so exciting – we’ve got to keep winning awards which aren’t just about inclusion but are about high-quality art,” he replies. Indeed.
3.00pm There is a break. Everyone has a chat, dessert and more wine.
3.25pm Sheffield Theatres’ production of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which will open at London’s Apollo Theatre in November, wins Best Musical Production. John McCrea, who plays the eponymous role of Jamie, won the award for Best Performance in a Musical. Here come the boys.
3.30pm I have a quick photo with John McCrea who is wearing a rather fetching scarf indoors. ‘Trendy’.
3.34pm Personality vortex Freddie Fox appears with Playwright Sir David Hare. Hare is the recipient of the Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts from The Shakespeare Guild. We have a photo (I’m really very shy) and I collar Freddie for a chat. “Stories need to be told everywhere all over the country and the world. Not just London. It’s a chance to be heard and seen and celebrated – it clearly means an awful lot to many people,” he says.
3.40pm I decide to have another glass of wine. ‘Lol’.
4.00pm Lyn Gardner is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre award and so actual Emma Rice is here to introduce her. That’s pretty amazing. The whole thing feels quite exciting now.
4.03pm “A critic being honoured by the theatre industry? John Osborne once suggested most of you are supposed to feel towards people like me the way: “a lamp-post feels about dogs.”” Gardner says, which gets a big laugh. She continues. “If you want to see theatre’s future, then get on a train.” The whole place erupts into applause. Inspirational.
4.10pm Lyn Gardner walks up to me clutching her award. I ask her how would she describe her state of mind? “Discombobulated,” she says. Why is this annual event so significant for the sector, I enquire. “Quite simply, too often regional theatre is not as celebrated as it should be. Regional theatre is a thing in itself – it is not simply a training ground or somewhere where people begin their careers until they move to London. It’s where the vast majority of the population live,” she says, emphatically. She’s got a point. Also, Surely she should get an OBE soon – Billington has one.
4.12pm Emma Rice looks uncomfortable and our eyes meet. As someone who is moving forward with a regional company (Wise Children), why do you think regional theatre should be celebrated, I ask quickly. She smiles, enigmaticly. “At Kneehigh – we lived by the Joan Miró quote “To be universal, you also have to be local” – you find communities with stories to tell and friends that they want to tell them with. That’s integrity and that’s the real deal,” she says.
4.15pm What a day. The ceremony concludes and I go and find somewhere to eat a burger.
Find out more about UK Theatre at UKTheatre.org
UK THEATRE AWARDS 2017 WINNERS
The Renee Stepham Award For Best Presentation Of Touring Theatre
Nuffield Southampton Theatres for the world premiere touring musical production of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox
Best Show for Children and Young People
The Snow Queen, New Vic Theatre
Gemma Bodinetz, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse new repertory season
Best Touring Production
The Who’s Tommy, New Wolsey Theatre and Ramps on the Moon
Best Supporting Performance
Sharon Duncan-Brewster, A Streetcar Named Desire, Royal Exchange Theatre
Best Performance in a Play
Joseph Millson, The Rover, Royal Shakespeare Company
Best New Play
Narvik by Lizzie Nunnery
Theatre Employee Of The Year
Jane Claire, English Touring Theatre and Liz Leck, Birmingham Hippodrome Theatre Trust
Clothworkers’ Theatre Award
Jon Bausor, The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic
Achievement in Dance
Scottish Ballet for the European premiere of Crystal Pite’s striking one-act ballet Emergence
Promotion of Diversity
New Wolsey Theatre and Ramps on the Moon for their groundbreaking work in the inclusion and integration of deaf and disabled individuals
Achievement in Opera
Scottish Opera, Pelléas And Mélisande
Best Performance in a Musical
John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Theatres
Best Musical Production
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Theatres
UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre 2017 with Smooth Radio
The Mill at Sonning
Achievement in Marketing/Audience Development
Scottish Ballet for its Digital Season in April 2017
Outstanding Contribution To British Theatre 2017