Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, Max Webster, Jack Thorne, Leo Warner, Will Close, Celinde Schoenmaker, Marcelo dos Santos, Jack Wolfe, Sophie Okonedo, Miriam Buether, Louis McCartney, Arlene Phillips, Marisha Wallace, Tom Littler at 33rd Critics Theatre Awards @Sohoplace Theatre, London on 25th March 2024

Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, Max Webster, Jack Thorne, Leo Warner, Will Close, Celinde Schoenmaker, Marcelo dos Santos, Jack Wolfe, Sophie Okonedo, Miriam Buether, Louis McCartney, Arlene Phillips, Marisha Wallace, Tom Littler at 33rd Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards @Sohoplace Theatre, London on 25th March 2024

The Drama Section of the Critics’ Circle gathered on Monday 25 March to celebrate the winners of our 33rd Critics’ Circle Awards.

It was special moment to be back at @sohoplace, where Tyrell William’s Critics’ Circle award-winning play Red Pitch has just transferred to the West End. In a high spot, Tyrell took to the stage to announce his successors as winner of our Most Promising Playwright award: Marcelo Dos Santos for Backstairs Billy Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini for Sleepova.

Chair Kate Maltby at the 33rd Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards @Sohoplace Theatre, London on 25th March 2024

Chair, Dr Kate Maltby, opened expressed sympathy for producers facing increased production costs during an economic crisis, but warned against high ticket prices which risk turning theatre into a once-a-year luxury. “Because theatre criticism is just an extension of something every healthy civic society needs: a conversation, a community of habitual regular theatre-goers, for whom theatre is not a luxury, but a practice of living.”

Andrew Scott, Winner of Best Actor for ‘VANYA’ at 33rd Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards @Sohoplace Theatre, London on 25th March 2024

Picking up on her words, Best Actor winner Andrew Scott also used the occasion to argue that “the arts are not a luxury or an entertainment or a diversion.” In a moving speech widely reported in the press, Scott talked about the very recent death of his mother, “the person who introduced me to the wonder of the arts” and “the most compassionate and generous and discerning of all the critics”. He finished with a passionate call for critics and artists to engage “not as enemies but as allies in defending and protecting this extraordinary thing that only human beings can do”.

We are deeply grateful to him for making the effort to attend in person during such a difficult time, and for giving his permission to share his words. The full speech can be seen below.

Andrew Scott pays tribute to his mother after winning Best Actor at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards

Andrew Scott’s category of Best Actor was sponsored by 5RB, the media and communications law specialists. In a time of rising costs, we were also grateful for category sponsorship from Finito: The Employability Experts (Most Promising Newcomer); Marquee TV (Best Director) and Overtures Piano Bar (Best Musical). Our longterm partners Nyman Libson Paul, leading accountants to the theatre and film industry, remain our headline sponsors, and drinks were generously provided by Bisol Prosecco and Wild Idol, the non-alcoholic wine pioneers.

—- Official Press Release —-

WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR THE 33rd CRITICS’ CIRCLE THEATRE AWARDS

Record win for Andrew Scott as he collects prize for Best Actor

Fan choice Sunset Boulevard loses out as critics name Guys & Dolls as Best Musical

Sophie Okonedo named Best Actress, now firm favourite for next month’s Oliviers

London, 25th March 2024:

The 33rd Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards saw Andrew Scott net a historic win as Best Actor, the first time any performer has been named Best Actor by both the nation’s film critics and theatre critics in the same year.

His superhuman turn in VANYA, a one-man Chekov adaptation which saw him play eight different characters in conversation with each other, was lauded as virtuosic by critics. Sarah Hemming, chief theatre critic of the Financial Times, described it as “’tremendously moving, dialling up the empathy at the heart of that great, humane play and at the heart of live theatre”, when she presented Scott with his award.

Scott is also receiving plaudits for his performance in Andrew Haigh’s film All of Us Strangers. Today’s announcement makes Scott the inaugural winner of “the double” at the Critics’ Circle, winning the same prize at both the Film Awards and the Theatre Awards, each of which are run in successive months by umbrella group the UK Critics’ Circle. In February, All of Us Strangers took home three awards at the Critics’ Circle Film Awards – Scott’s Best Actor gong among them.

The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance went to David Tennant for his austere, cold-blooded performance in the Donmar Warehouse’s high-tech staging of Macbeth. Tennant was named “the greatest Shakespearean actor of his generation” by both Critics’ Circle Chair Kate Maltby and BBC Front Row presenter Samira Ahmed, who presented the award.

The prize for Best Actress went to Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo for her role as the titular character in @sohoplace’s Medea, a performance critics called ‘towering’. Okonedo will be hoping to repeat the victory at 2024 Olivier Awards next month, where she is nominated in the equivalent category alongside stars including Sarah Jessica Parker (Plaza Suite) and Sarah Snook (The Picture of Dorian Gray).

This year’s Awards saw the Critics’ Circle continue its commitment to celebrating diversity. The award for Most Promising Playwright went jointly to Marcelo dos Santos (Backstairs Billy) and Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini, whose captivating coming-of-age play Sleepova saw 2021 BAFTA Rising Star winner Bukky Bakray make her stage debut at the Bush Theatre. The play has been praised by critics for its celebration of Black female friendship, and the tenderness with which it tackles themes of grief, chronic illness, and sexuality.

Ibini, a Black, Queer writer who uses a wheelchair and describes themself as “bionic”, was also nominated for the equivalent award at the 2023 Evening Standard Awards, but lost out to Isley Lynn for The Swell. Like Okonedo, she is currently nominated for an Olivier award for Sleepova. Ibini’s win also marks the third year running that a Critics’ Circle’s prize for Most Promising Playwright has gone to a play staged at London’s Bush Theatre, cementing the theatre’s position as a powerhouse of British new writing.

Also nominated at this year’s Oliviers is the Best Director winner Rupert Goold, whose James Graham-penned production Dear England opened at the National Theatre last year to widespread acclaim. Intimate and inspiring, the play retells Gareth Southgate’s transformational leadership of the England team. Joseph Fiennes, who stars as Southgate in both the stage show and its upcoming BBC adaptation, was in attendance at the ceremony, alongside actor Will Close to took to the stage in character as England Captain Harry Kane, to accept the award on Goold’s behalf.

In a surprise twist, Sunset Boulevard – which won nearly every category in which it was nominated at February’s audience-powered WhatsOnStage Awards– was pipped to the post for The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical by Nicholas Hytner’s production of Guys & Dolls. An immersive interpretation of Frank Loesser’s classic, the radically restaged production transports its promenading audience from the bustling streets of 1950s New York to the heady heat of Havana in the unlikeliest of love stories. The WhatsOnStage Awards are the only awards voted for entirely by the public; the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards are the only awards show voted for entirely by critics using a secret ballot. Clearly, critics and fans sometimes disagree.

But the critics agreed with audiences on one thing: their praise for young actor Jack Wolfe. Wolfe, a winner at the WoS awards for his role in the Donmar Theatre’s sold-out rock musical Next to Normal, was one of two actors awarded the Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer. He shared it with Louis McCartney, currently leading the cast of Stranger Things: The First Shadow, a wildly popular stage-based spinoff of the Netflix series.

Jack Thorne’s The Motive and the Cue, a witty and affecting play that stages the explosive tensions between John Gielgud and Richard Burton as they rehearsed the 1964 production of Hamlet, won The Michael Billington Award for Best New Play. The Sam Mendes directed production stars Johnny Flynn as Burton and Mark Gatiss as Gielgud, and enjoyed an acclaimed run at the National Theatre before it transferred to the West End late last year. Gatiss attended to support Thorne, who collected the award.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow also took home the Best Designer award, which was awarded to Miriam Buether with 59 Productions. 59 Productions are the video team which supported Buether’s hugely ambitious production design and sets, praised by critics as being able to summon all the high octane, retro thrills of the Netflix series.

The 2024 Empty Space Peter Brook Award for an innovative venue went to the Orange Tree, Richmond. Named to honour the legacy of the late theatre director Peter Brook, this was the first UK theatre award named in Brook’s memory, curated for the Critics’ Circle by founder Blanche Marvin.

Guests in attendance at the ceremony were treated to an exclusive preview of a song from Why Am I So Single?, the forthcoming new musical from Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, creators of SIX. The song Just In Case was performed by cast member Leesa Tulley. The preview is a return full circle for Marlow and Moss: before it went on to break records on Broadway, SIX initially previewed to critics as an unknown show at the 2017 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.

In attendance at the ceremony were many of this year’s winners, among them Andrew Scott (All of Us Strangers), Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) and Jack Wolfe (Shadow and Bone). They celebrated alongside awards presenters and guests including actors Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), Emma Naomi (Bridgerton), Gethin Anthony (Game of Thrones), Jamie Morton (My Dad Wrote A Porno) and Sophie Melville (The Way), writer and previous winner Zadie Smith (White Teeth; The Wife of Willesden), and industry leaders such as National Theatre director Rufus Norris, former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips and producer Sonia Friedman.

Notes to Editors

  • The 2024 awards recognise work produced in the year 2023
  • Last year’s winners included Peter Morgan, Arthur Hughes, Patsy Ferran, Giles Terera, Lynette Linton, Tom Pye, Tyrell Williams, Lizzie Annis. Full details can be found at https://criticscircletheatreawards.com/results/2022-results/
  • The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards are voted on by the full membership of accredited, professional theatre critics, in a one-member one-vote system
  • The current chair of the Critics’ Circle is Dr Kate Maltby, national news columnist for the i paper, theatre critic for Prospect magazine and theatre columnist at The Stage. She is Deputy Chair of Index on Censorship and a Senior Research Associate at Jesus College, Cambridge.
  • Peter Brook, widely renowned as the most influential British theatre director of the twentieth century, died on 2 July 2022
  • Blanche Marvin MBE, born in 1925, is a legendary and much–loved leading member of the UK’s theatre scene, known for her colourful hats at opening nights. She has been involved in writing, directing and producing theatre in London and New York for over 50 years
  • Why Am I So Single? is the new musical from the writers of SIX, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. The production will be playing at the Garrick Theatre from 27 August 2024 to 13 February 2024

LIST OF WINNERS

Best New Play (The Michael Billington Award)The Motive and the Cue, National Theatre
Best Musical (The Peter Hepple Award) supported by Overtures Piano BarGuys & Dolls, Bridge Theatre
 Best Actor supported by 5RB  Andrew Scott, VANYA
  
Best ActressSophie Okonedo, Medea
Best Shakespearean Performance (The Trewin Award)David Tennant, Macbeth
Best Director supported by Marquee TVRupert Goold, Dear England
Best DesignerMiriam Buether with 59 Productions Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Most Promising PlaywrightMarcelo Dos Santos, Backstairs Billy Matilda Feyiṣayọ Ibini, Sleepova
 Most Promising Newcomer (The Jack Tinker Award) supported by Finito: The Employability Experts    Jack Wolfe, Next to Normal Louis McCartney, Stranger Things: The First Shadow
  The Empty Space Peter Brook Award    Orange Tree, Richmond

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