The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards 2009

Thursday 28 January 2010

Well, the fire door had been carelessly left open so like model citizens we went in and pulled it firmly shut behind us and then it turned out we were in the Price of Wales Theatre and there was free drink and Rachel Weisz and Jude Law were and so we thought, what the hell, and stayed for The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards 2009.

Of course, it’s pretty much the definition of “yesterday’s news”* (well, you try filing a blog post when they’ve been topping up your wine glass not stop for for three hours and to be fair Andrew was tweeting it live) and so you know that Weisz and Law were among the winners. We sort of guessed that when we saw them there.

So this was how it went:

  • Best Actress: Rachel Weisz for A Streetcare Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse
  • Best Designer: Christopher Oram for Red, Donmar Warehouse
  • The John and Wendy Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance: Jude Law, Hamlet, Donmar in the West End
  • Most Promising Playwright: Alia Bano for Shades, Royal Court
  • The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer: Tom Sturridge for Punk Rock, Lyric Hammersmith/Royal Exchange
  • Best Director: Rupert Goold for Enron, Royal Court / Chichester / Headlong
  • Best Actor: Mark Rylance for Jerusalem, Royal Court
  • The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical: Spring Awakening, Lyric Hammersmith
  • Best New Play: Jerusalem, Jez Butterworth, Royal Court

But we’re not doing it justice. The Delfont Room is quite lovely and we met lots of lovely people and it was all lovely and we love our new lives as party-goers.

Andrew effected an introduction between Phil and Donmar AD Michael Grandage and it turned out that they don’t look anything like each other. Grandage is clearly younger, more handsome and better groomed. We had a chat with the legend who is Blanche Marvin. Producer Sonia Friedman took the opportunity to remind the Whingers how incoherent they had been at their last meeting and we made an entirely new friendship with Mary behind the bar.

Speaking of grooming, it’s a measure of how auspicious Andrew considered these awards that eschewing his new House of Fraser cardie (cruelly described by some wag as being from the House of Antonia Fraser) which had been worn with pride at the Legally Blonde party (did we mention we were at that too?)  Andrew sported a suit. How Sonia Friedman recognised him is anyone’s guess. Due to Andrew’s dramatic weight loss due to a new diet, gym regime and general worrying about life, the belt and trousers were far too big and could have fallen around his ankles at the slightest tug but fortunately for all concerned those sparrow’s legs remained hidden until way after the ceremony ended. But that’s another story.

But back to the ceremony. Comedian Arthur Smith was unconditionally pardoned having previously been found guilty of being an accessory to Sandi Toksvig’s Christmas Cracker. In his hilarious warm-up set in which he pondered how many shit plays retiring Times critic Benedict Nightingale must have seen in his 53 years, he referred to the Tim Walker/Critics’ Circle spat as the Best Hissy Fit in the Stalls and even worse before conjuring up amusing images of Nightingale’s successor Libby Purves selling crack cocaine in the corridors of Radio 4 and giving John Humphries blow-jobs. There was also a very funny balloon joke that you must get us to tell you next time you see us.

And then it was onto the awards. Mark Rylance got the loudest cheer and the Best Actor award which he received from Benedict Nightingale who remembered Rylance “skipping 40 steps across the Globe Theatre stage as Cleopatra” and lauded his bold, sly canny and charismatic Rooster Byron who was “born out of his time”. Rylance, he said, was “the funniest actor on the British stage – King Arthur transformed into a troll”. Rylance responded with a story about a stuffed fish instead of an acceptance speech. He’s quite scary and we didn’t get to talk to him and we were quite relieved.

Best actress Rachel Weisz thanked amongst others Oram, Grandage and said she hopes to return to stage soon but it seems unlikely as she didn’t even have time to sit in the Delfton Room for five minutes as she had to rush off to accept another award at the last ever South Bank Show Awards at the Dorchester.

Chief London “legit” (we’re saying nothing) Variety critic David Benedict (left, with the Whingers) awarded the Best Newcomer award to Tom Sturridge whose touchingly shy acceptance speech concluded with the thought that the Lyric, Hammersmith and the Royal Exchange were “good theatres – morally and architecturally”.

Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer described Best Director Rupert Goold as a director who “keeps taking us by surprise – sometimes with duds” and Goold – surprisingly bouffant of hair and with tan pointy shoes and what looked like a dark brown linen suit (In winter! We know!) – took it all on the chin and made reference to the mauling his Turandot had received. But he was clearly playing to Whingers when he recommended that “a couple of glasses of wine” improves a visit to the theatre.

Jude Law received the Trousers That Fitted Most Beautifully Round the Thigh Award Best Shakespearean Performance Award for his Hamlet from Claire Allfree and in his acceptance speech alluded to regarding Michael Grandage as a friend now. Phil will of course will be monopolising on his doppelgänger status and turning up at Jude’s home for dinner in the very near future.

The Whingers didn’t see Most Promising Playwright Alia Bano’s Shades, but hey, it was at the Royal Court so wish they had. Christopher Oram never seems to put a foot wrong so his Best Designer award for Red kept their rictus grins intact. So the only award that had them shaking their heads in disagreement was when Ian Shuttleworth handed the Best Musical award to three of the producers of Spring Awakening.

The one perhaps most easily predicted was Best New Play. Would it go as the Whingers assumed to Jez Butterworth‘s Jerusalem? In the Whingers’ minds, Jez was very much up against Mike Bartlett’s Cock**- stiff competition and it could have swung either way. But Butterworth justly took the award. Jez talked about the fun he had working with Ian Rickson and said “I love it that you (the critics) have a circle” and gestured towards chairman and host Mark Shenton as he suggested that all critics live together rather than with their mums as he had imagined..

With some (Weisz) rushing off to hover up other awards, the critics off to review the West End opening of Enron, the cast of Jerusalem with technical rehearsals to attend to, and some (Shenton & +1) off to gym work outs (and even – sadly – funerals to attend) it seems it was left to the Whingers to keep the party going and do some serious mopping up at the bar.

Even Jude Law seemed in no hurry to rush off until he glimpsed the Whingers deep in conversation with a very affable Jez Butterworth (right). Grandage had disappeared so Phil was unable to get the photo opportunity of his dreams and see if they really do appear separated at birth. Although it is true that Grandage had put it to Phil earlier that “there is a passing resemblance – I suppose we’re of an age” Andrew maintains that Grandage cast him a wink as he said it. Anyway, understandably this man had more important things to do like, well, directing artistically we suppose.

So now that that’s all done and dusted, let’s have a look at the old scoreboard:

Royal Court 4
Donmar 3
Lyric, Hammersmith 2
National Theatre 0


* Update 28 Jan: It’s now the definition of “the day before yesterday’s news” obviously. Unless you’re reading this tomorrow or thereafter.

** Right. Own up. Who sniggered when Mark Shenton said “Mike Bartlett’s cock”? Just about everyone in the room actually.


One Response to “The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards 2009”

  1. PhilK Says:

    No picture with Jude Law?

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