The 2011 Whingie Awards – the very worst and the not so bad

Friday 30 December 2011

Yes, the Whingers’ much coveted trophies are lined up to be divvied out again.

Artistic excellence? Possibly. Realistically most of of our glittering awards would go north of the border after our uncharacteristically enthusiastic response to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, an unusual period where we packed in so much entertainment we feared we were turning into Mark Shenton.

But after momentary deliberation and decidedly tepid debate we have eventually settled on some worthy winners.

Least Worst Play of the Year

Not the Royal Court this year. They produced our last two winners in Jerusalem and Clybourne Park. This year it is the National’s turn with One Man, Two Guvnors which stands head and shoulders above the pack for providing unreasonable amounts of giddy delight. Of course we were there at the first preview so the usual caveats must apply, though for once no one seemed to complain about out 5 glass rave. We were so impressed we immediately booked for a second viewing and are pleased to report there were no visible signs of deterioration.

Worst Evening in the Theatre

Goodness, it’s just as well that we don’t see everything as we still inflicted unreasonable amounts of tedium on ourselves. There are so many strong contenders it’s almost impossible to choose. But narrowing down our long list we have selected Cool Hand Luke, the Almeida’s My City, Thandie Newton’s stage debut in Death and the Maiden, the Menier’s Terrible Advice, the National’s A Woman Killed With Kindness and Greenland and Pinter’s Moonlight at the Donmar. Strictly speaking it should go to Moonlight as that received a one-glass rating from us, but any of these are worthy of the accolade.

Least Worst Musical of the Year

In any other year we would have been purring with contentment awarding the Donmar’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee the National’s extraordinary London Road (if it is indeed classified as a musical) or the Riverside Studio’s delightful Salad Days, but sadly for them this was also the year of Matilda. So they are trumped by the RSC’s utterly charming, witty and brilliantly staged confection.

Biggest Frustration of the Year

One should never approach theatre with high expectations as disappointment will invariably ensue, but of course we do. Blithe Spirit was up against Betty Blue Eyes which was much lauded in most quarters though not by us despite promising all the ingredients of Whinger heaven. Andrew greedily insisted on the casting vote here and went wildly off piste, opting for the guillotine not going wrong as Phil placed his head inside it in Paul Daniel’s Edinburgh show.

Least Worst Actor in a Musical

Michael Ball’s Sweeney Todd was at Chichester and as these are our awards we can do what we like. His trophy has already been crafted for 2012 after he has performed the role in the West End. This leaves us free to suggest Bertie Carvel should be clearing his copious shelf now for the many awards that will be thrust upon him in the ensuing year. We are hoping he will give pride of place to ours. His Miss Trunchball in Matilda is a thing of wonder. Extraordinary.

Least Worst Actor

We sometimes look at other award lists and see things which didn’t even register on our radar. But from our limited field we were impressed by Jude Law’s transformation in Anna Christie, Dominic West’s engaging Butley, Joseph Millson in the National’s underrated Rocket to the Moon, Jamie Parker in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Kyle Soller in The Goverment Inspector. But the sheer bravery of waving his exposed feet so close to Andrew’s face means we must settle on Jonny Lee Miller‘s creature in Frankenstein (and yes we saw both versions).

Least Worst Actress/Supporting Actress

We’ve conflated this one this year. Andrew’s trophy workshop was getting behind straightening out the wire coat hangers and unusually he didn’t eat enough Cadbury’s Roses’ Golden Barrels this Christmas to supply the gold leaf, so we found ourselves a Whingie short. And what is a supporting role anyway? Siân Brooke and Billie Piper caught our eyes in Reasons To Be Pretty at the Almeida and Sheila Hancock and Anna Chancellor impressed in The Last of the Duchess at Hampstead. Lesley Manville’s grief in Mike Leigh’s Grief was more convincing than any on display in North Korea, but as Andrew enjoyed a lovely nap during the show she was ruled ineligible. There was impressive comedy from Claudie Blakley and Michelle Terry in The Comedy of Errors but Sheridan Smith was both comic and moving in Flare Path so Whingers’ bias must prevail to hand her the conjoined award. We hope she’ll understand that it made less work for Phil who complains each year that his hands are getting too shaky for all that engraving anyway.

Least Worst Performance by a Supporting Actor

Risteárd Cooper and Ronan Raftery were both in Juno and the Paycock so sadly cancel each other out in our twisted polling system. But we would have gone for Oliver Chris‘ 33.3333 (etc) percent titular ex-public school toff of One Man, Two Guvnors anyway.

The Duchess of Argyll Award for Least Worst Supporting Actor in a Musical

Was there ever a show lifted to such a dizzying new level by one single performance? We should perhaps say lowered in the case of one Nigel Harman whose utterly hilarious Lord Farquaad in Shrek was performed entirely on his knees. Sublime.

Least Worst Supporting Actress in a Musical

Very honourable mentions for Katherine Kingsley in Spelling Bee, Lauren Ward and Josie Walker in Matilda and Carly Bawden who survived The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to again impress in Pippin. But it is no mean task to step into Whoopi Goldberg’s shoes and make the role her own. Sharon D Clarke‘s Oda Mae in the splendidly staged but musically lackustre Ghost was sheer joy.

Most Controversial Moment of the Year

No, not the high-concept cyber space reinvention of Pippin at the Menier which seems to be dividing opinion most radically. Not our almost lone support for the heavily-panned Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Nor even the Whingers’ “sacking” from their theatre column in Beige magazine after just three months having being told that certain theatre groups (particularly one such theatre group allegedly) would not advertise if we continued to write for it, allegedly. These events were completely overshadowed by Sinéad Cusack‘s alleged sausage cooking in Juno and the Paycock. Was Ms Cusack really frying the bangers or not?

Least Worst Comedy Performance of the Year

We conveniently removed Oliver Chris from the mix to make it easier but there were still too many (James Corden, Tom Edden, Daniel Rigby) in One Man, Two Guvnors to sensibly choose. So perhaps Peter Capaldi in The Ladykillers? No, we must award it to the set for that very show which gives a sublimely silly performance and as a result of its reviews is apparently quite high maintenance yet still never needs an understudy.

The Whingers’ 2011 Internship 

The Whingers are offering their first internship this year and it was not difficult to select actor David Weston who writes in his book Covering McKellen: An Understudy’s Tale:

Almost the entire audience gives a standing ovation at the end – and they aren’t all Americans, who seem addicted to them.

and about Stratford’s Courtyard Theatre

The thrust stage has terrible sight lines so unless the actor is moving, he blocks the view of large numbers of the audience. Trevor is forced to put most of the action towards the back of the stage as if there’s a proscenium arch.

and again referring to Sir Trevor Nunn

The show is long (all Trevor’s productions are)

Double dip belt-tightening has scuppered our plans to let you handle our gongs in the O2 Arena this year. Rest assured we will raise a glass to you all over an economical stand up finger. Your awards will come courtesy of the Royal Mail, if you don’t receive them you know who to blame. However if someone would like to lend us the Gielgud Theatre for an evening we will be most happy to accept. At least we know The Ladykillers‘ set will turn up to accept.

4 Responses to “The 2011 Whingie Awards – the very worst and the not so bad”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Great fun reading this, guys; the 2012 calendar is waiting to be filled and I think both Ladykillers and Sweeney Todd are my must-sees.


  2. Hillarious review! Can’t agree more with One Man, Two Guvnors.

  3. Boz Says:

    Fabulous stuff, gentlemen.

    • Gerry Says:

      Thank you to all the Whingers – you have become a valuable ‘truth-sayer’ for my avid theatre-going and if occasionally (very) I do not agree with you your website is still great fun. It makes me smile (like the ‘Umbrellas’ did!). Just to finish – if I have to choose only one – my big 2011 love was London Road . It was a ‘must-see’ and I hope it gets a return soon. Thank you to the wonderful National as well.


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