Ejiofor, Tyzack, Wilton, Grandage and More Win Evening Standard Theatre Awards

By Mark Shenton
November 24, 2008

The Donmar Warehouse, which had received the most nominations of any single theatre company, led the field at this year's Evening Standard Theatre Awards, winning awards for four of its six nominees.

At the awards, presented in a ceremony at the Royal Opera House Nov. 24, the Donmar's artistic director, Michael Grandage, won the Sydney Edwards Award for Best Director (an accolade he has now won for the third time) for his productions of Othello and The Chalk Garden (both seen at the Donmar's studio home theatre in Covent Garden) and Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham's). Top acting honors in both the Best Actor and Best Actress categories also went to Donmar nominees, with Chiwetel Ejiofor named Best Actor for his performance in the title role of Othello, and Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton jointly named Best Actress for their performances in The Chalk Garden.

The Pitmen Painters took the award for Best Play; for playwright Lee Hall, it follows on the heels of the triumphant Broadway opening of Billy Elliot, which he also scripted (both onstage and in its prior film incarnation). The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical went to a production of Kurt Weill's Street Scene, co-produced by the Young Vic, Opera Group and Watford Palace Theatre, that ran at the Young Vic for just five performances.

The Young Vic also saw American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney take the Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright for The Brothers Size and In the Red and Brown Water that both received their British premieres there; the playwright is also about to be represented in London by the Royal Court premiere of his play Wig Out!

The Milton Shulman Award for Outstanding Newcomer went to Ella Smith for her performance in Neil LaBute's Fat Pig at the Trafalgar Studios and subsequently the Comedy; and Neil Murray took the award for Best Design for his work on Brief Encounter (in Kneehigh's production at the Cinema Haymarket).

There were two additional awards. Kevin Spacey took a special award for bringing new life to the Old Vic, accepting his award by video from a film set, where he commented he was working "to pay for my theatre habit." Veronica Wadley, the Evening Standard's editor who chaired the judging panel, made a special editor's award to the Royal Shakespeare Company for its epic cycle of history plays, seen at the Roundhouse. The award was presented by David Tennant, currently playing the title role of Hamlet for the company, who said, "I'm here because Michael Boyd has done such amazing things with the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's a company I feel very strongly about and I have great links to so I am delighted to be able to present this."

The full list of nominees and winners, marked in bold, are shown here:
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)

BEST ACTOR
Kenneth Branagh - Ivanov (Donmar West End at Wyndham's)
David Calder - King Lear (Shakespeare's Globe)
*Chiwetel Ejiofor - Othello (Donmar Warehouse)

BEST ACTRESS (tie)
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)

BEST DESIGN
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)