Manchester Theatre Awards ceremony

Published: 9 March 2014

Manchester was in the seasonal showbiz awards spotlight at the city’s Royal Exchange Theatre.

More than 20 Manchester Theatre Awards for 2013 were presented to the winners among 100 nominees, chosen by a panel of regional theatre critics, in an event that this year was also open to the public for the first time.

Among the winners was Sir Kenneth Branagh, for his acclaimed performance as Macbeth in last year’s Manchester International Festival performance staged inside an old city church. Although unable to attend (he is currently directing a new film of Cinderella, starring Lily Cole) his sister, writer and director Joyce Branagh, attended the event to collect the award on her brother’s behalf.

Macbeth also earned Ray Fearon his second trophy in two years, for his supporting role as Macduff.

Veteran stage, film and TV actor Julian Glover won the award for best actor in a visiting production, for his title role in Maurice’s Jubilee at the city’s Opera House. He attended the event with his actress wife Isla Blair, who also presented a best supporting actress trophy to Shirley Darroch, from Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s production of Chicago. The same musical also scooped the whole cast an award for ensemble performance.

Best Actress award went to TV and stage star Cush Jumbo for her performance in the title role of Miss Julie at Manchester Royal Exchange. She was delighted to receive her trophy from close friend, and current big name at the venue, actress Suranne Jones. The venue’s Studio performance of Brilliant Adventures also won two awards.

War Horse, the National Theatre’s acclaimed adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s story, charged through a crowded field for Best Visiting Production to win the award on its first national tour to the Lowry in Salford. It returns there this summer.

The venue was also poignantly successful when the Robert Robson Award for Dance went to the Michael Clark Triple Bill. It was a production that had been programmed by the Lowry’s artistic director Robert Robson—a leading advocate of dance theatre—who died suddenly in the summer, before its actual performance.

In his honour the judges decided this year to give his name to the trophy.

Several other awards are designed to encourage the region’s small-scale fringe and studio performances and this year one of those, Away From Home, performed at the city’s 24:7 Festival, also won the prestigious New Play trophy, for its writers Rob Ward and Martin Jameson.

The Special Achievement Award went to Manchester Library Theatre’s artistic director Chris Honer who this year stands down from the role after more than 20 years.

A new award, presented by the Stage Door Foundation, also went to another long-standing Manchester institution: the comedy theatre duo of LipService, Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding.

The 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards:

Best Actor

Kenneth Branagh, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Best Actress

Cush Jumbo, A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange 

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Ray Fearon, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Shirley Darroch, Chicago, Oldham Coliseum

Best Actor in a Visiting Production

Julian Glover, Maurice’s Jubilee, Opera House 

Best Actress in a Visiting Production

Catherine Kinsella, Rutherford and Son, The Lowry

Best Production

Macbeth, directed by Rob Ashford, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Best Visiting Production

War Horse, National Theatre, The Lowry 

Best Musical

Singin’ In The Rain, Opera House

Best Opera

Otello, Opera North, The Lowry

The Robert Robson Award for Dance

Michael Clark Triple Bill, The Lowry

Best Design

The Old Woman, designer/director Robert Wilson; sound Marco Oilvieri; light A J Weissbard, Manchester International Festival, Palace

Best Newcomer

Freya Sutton, Hairspray, The Lowry 

Best New Play

Away From Home, by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson, 24:7 Festival 

Best Studio Production

Brilliant Adventures, Royal Exchange Studio

Best Fringe Production

The Best, Lass O’Gowrie

Best Studio Performance

Robert Lonsdale, Brilliant Adventures, Royal Exchange Studio

Best Fringe Performance

Rob Ward, Away From Home, 24:7 Theatre Festival 

Best Ensemble

Chicago, Oldham Coliseum 

Best Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Special Achievement Award

Chris Honer, Library Theatre, Manchester

The Stage Door Foundation Award for Excellence

Lip Service

David Upton