The winners will be chosen from the following short lists, which are dominated this year by the Donmar Warehouse, who earned six official nominations, the most of any single theatre company. They lead both the Best Actor and Best Actress categories, earning two nominations apiece in each, with Kenneth Branagh and Chiwetel Ejiofor, seen in the title roles of Ivanov and Othello, respectively, joined by David Calder from the Shakespeare's Globe production of King Lear in contention for Best Actor; and Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton, who co-starred in the Donmar's The Chalk Garden, joined by Lesley Sharp, who played the title role in the National's production of Harper Regan, in contention for Best Actress.
Also nominated for the Donmar are its artistic director Michael Grandage for Best Director (alongside the RSC's Michael Boyd, for his productions of The History Cycle, and John Tiffany for his National Theatre of Scotland production of Black Watch) and Felicity Jones (nominated for Outstanding Newcomer for The Chalk Garden, alongside Lex Shrapnel for the RSC's Henry IV Part I and Ella Smith for Fat Pig).
The Royal Court, home of new writing, earned three nominations, with Christopher Shinn's Now or Later nominated for Best Play (alongside Gregory Burke's Black Watch, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, and Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters, co-produced by the National and Newcastle's Live Theatre), while Bola Agbaje's Gone Too Far and Anupama Chandrasekhar's Free Otugoing are nominated for Most Promising Playwright, alongside Tarell Alvin McCraney for In the Red and Brown Water, seen at the Young Vic.
The awards are nominated and voted for by a panel of critics that comprises the Standard's Nicholas de Jongh, Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph, Benedict Nightingale of The Times, Susannah Clapp of The Observer and Georgina Brown of the Mail on Sunday.
The nominations follow: BEST PLAY
Black Watch - by Gregory Burke (National Theatre of Scotland at Barbican)
Now Or Later - by Christopher Shinn (Royal Court)
The Pitmen Painters - by Lee Hall (Live Theatre and National Theatre co-production)
Kenneth Branagh - Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham's)
David Calder - King Lear (Shakespeare's Globe)
Chiwetel Ejiofor - Othello (Donmar Warehouse)
Lesley Sharp - Harper Regan (National's Cottesloe)
Margaret Tyzack - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)
Penelope Wilton - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)
THE NED SHERRIN AWARD FOR BEST MUSICAL
La Cage Aux Folles - Menier Chocolate Factory and Playhouse
Marguerite - Theatre Royal Haymarket
Street Scene - The Opera Group, Young Vic and Watford Palace Theatre co-production
THE SYDNEY EDWARDS AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR
Michael Boyd - The History Cycle (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Roundhouse)
Michael Grandage - Othello/The Chalk Garden/Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham's and Donmar Warehouse)
John Tiffany - Black Watch (National Theatre of Scotland at Barbican)
Miriam Buether - In The Red And Brown Water (Young Vic)
Rob Howell - The Norman Conquests (Old Vic)
Neil Murray - Brief Encounter (Kneehigh at Cinema Haymarket Theatre)
THE MILTON SHULMAN AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING NEWCOMER
Felicity Jones - The Chalk Garden (Donmar Warehouse)
Lex Shrapnel - Henry IV Part I (Royal Shakespeare Company at The Roundhouse)
Ella Smith - Fat Pig (Trafalgar Studios and Comedy Theatre)
THE CHARLES WINTOUR AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT
Bola Agbaje - Gone Too Far (Royal Court)
Anupama Chandrasekhar - Free Outgoing (Royal Court)
Tarell Alvin McCraney - In The Red And Brown Water/The Brothers Size (Young Vic)