Thacker's special day at Manchester Theatre Awards

Published: 6 March 2016

One of the country’s most distinguished theatre directors, and the first-ever Professor of Theatre at Bolton University, David Thacker was honoured with a Special Achievement trophy at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

It topped off his final year as artistic director at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre since a further six awards went to productions or individual performers from plays that he had directed in 2015.

These were for the winners of the Actor and Actress In a Leading Role categories, Supporting Actor and Actress, and both the Production and Ensemble trophies.

And Leading Actor Colin Connor continued those winning ways when he also collected the Best Performance in a Fringe Production award for being the writer, director and performer in Mr Smith at the King’s Arms in Salford

Theatres across the metropolitan area were amongst the nominees in the annual Manchester Theatre Awards shortlist for 20 categories, chosen by a panel of 10 of the region’s leading theatre critics. For the second year there was also a Youth Panel award, chosen by a team of young city theatre enthusiasts.

The red carpet event was held at HOME, the city’s newest arts venue, and attended by a glittering array of stage stars, both national and local.

Stage and TV actress Maxine Peake, a previous winner of a Leading Actress trophy, was narrowly beaten in that category this year, but also found her first self-penned play Beryl, about champion cyclist Beryl Burton, nominated in both the Visiting Production and New Play categories.

The city’s Opera House and Palace Theatre venues were guaranteed a winner in the Musical category since all nominees were from shows they had staged. In the event it was The Bodyguard - The Musical that took first prize. The Opera House was also the setting for the winner of this year’s Design award, which went to the Manchester International Festival production of Tree of Codes. The spectacular production just missed out in the Dance category, which was won by English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget.

Two of the stars of the current Manchester Royal Exchange production of Husbands & Sons—Joe Armstrong and Louise Brealey—found themselves winners of the Visiting Actor and Actress trophies for their appearance in Constellations at the Lowry last year. The play also won Best Visiting Production.

Other awards covered nominations for Opera and Special Entertainment performances and the city’s vigorous fringe and studio theatre scenes were honoured across four categories.

A capacity audience was welcomed to the event by MTA chairman Kevin Bourke and the awards ceremony was again hosted by comedian Justin Moorhouse. Other entertainment was served up by comedian and animator Howard Read, Jessica Parker and Josh Tevendale from the musical Avenue Q, which comes to the Palace Theatre in May, and Manchester folk singer Jennifer Reid.

Incidental music for the ceremony was specially composed by Toni Baker, who has been touring the world with ‘60s band The Dakotas since the 1980s and has written the music for Peter Kay’s stage and TV shows, including Phoenix Nights and Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere.

Manchester Theatre Award winners

  • Actor In A Leading Role: Colin Connor in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Actress In A Leading Role: Barbara Drennan in A View From The Bridge and The Family Way at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Actor In A Supporting Role: David Birrell in An Enemy Of The People at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Actress In A Supporting Role: Natasha Davidson in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Actor in a Visiting Production: Joe Armstrong in Constellations at The Lowry
  • Actress in a Visiting Production: Louise Brealey in Constellations at The Lowry
  • Performance in a Studio Production: Carla Langley in Cuddles at the Royal Exchange Studio
  • Performance in a Fringe Production: Colin Connor in Mr Smith at the Kings Arms, Salford
  • Ensemble: Noises Off at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Production: An Enemy of the People, directed by David Thacker at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Visiting Production: Constellations from the Royal Court Theatre at The Lowry
  • Studio Production: Lungs at The Roundabout at The Lowry
  • Fringe Production: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Kings Arms, Salford
  • Musical: The Bodyguard - The Musical at the Palace Theatre
  • Dance: Lest We Forget from English National Ballet at the Palace Theatre 
  • Opera: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Royal Northern College Of Music
  • Design: Tree Of Codes at the Opera House (Designer: Olafur Eliasson, Sound Designer Nick Sagar, Lighting Realisation Rob Halliday)
  • New Play: The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch at the Royal Exchange
  • Special Entertainment: Bridging the Gap, The Gap Theatre Project at Halle St. Peters
  • Youth Panel Award: The Shrine of Everyday Things, from Contact Young Company at Contact
  • Special Achievement Award: Professor David Thacker, former artistic director at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
  • Stage Door Award For Excellence: 24:7 Theatre Festival

David Upton