The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards 2018

Published: 29 January 2019
Reporter: Philip Fisher

Kyle Soller, Paul Hilton and Benjamin John Hickey in The Inheritance Credit: Simon Annand
Rosalie Craig in Company Credit: Brinkhoff-Mogenburg

The big winner at the Critics Circle Theatre Awards 2018 was Matthew Lopez’s epic exploration of the AIDS epidemic from a contemporary viewpoint, The Inheritance.

At the Circle’s annual awards ceremony held in the (very comfortable) bowels of the Prince of Wales Theatre, not only did this Young Vic production win the Best New Play award, its director Stephen Daldry triumphed in his category, while star Kyle Soller was voted Best Actor.

Following in a close second place and easily overtaking the winner if the measure had been prizes per hour of playing time, Marianne Elliott’s inventive new, gender-re-engineered take on Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth was comfortable winner of the Best Musical prize, while its designer Bunny Christie may well have beaten herself into second place, her design for this production having to compete with her equally prodigious effort for Julius Caesar at the Bridge.

Having been awarded Best Newcomer in 2015, Patsy Ferran stepped up to Best Actress this year for her performance in Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke at the Almeida.

Another actress who gave an unforgettable performance this year was Sophie Okonedo, who claimed the Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance as the leading lady in Antony and Cleopatra at the National.

This year’s Best Newcomer was Chris Walley, who confirmed in his acceptance speech that he had left drama school early to star for Michael Grandage in Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

Perhaps the most heartfelt speech of the ceremony was delivered by actress turned playwright Natasha Gordon, whose debut play Nine Night, which started life at the National before moving into the West End, made her Most Promising Playwright.

The Special Award for Services to the Theatre was particularly timely and popular, since Neil MacPherson has been Artistic Director of the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court for exactly 20 years, continually confounding budgets by presenting top-quality theatre in a tiny space. One must hope that his plea for much-needed additional funding does not fall on deaf ears.

This event was the last to be presented by Mark Shenton, who moves on to become President of the Critics’ Circle, handing over the reins and bequeathing Arthur Smith, funny as ever, to Henry Hitchings, who will be introducing and chairing the event from 2020.