British Critics' Circle Theatre Award Winners Announced; Springer Named Best Musical

News   British Critics' Circle Theatre Award Winners Announced; Springer Named Best Musical
If the British Critics' Circle Theatre Awards is more informal than most ceremonies, it can be rather more tense in the most entertaining of ways.

The 2004 ceremony, held on Feb. 3 at London's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, started with a speech from the latest high-profile addition to the Circle's ranks, the Conservative Party MP and former MInister of Defense Michael Portillo (who has just been taken on as theatre critic by the New Statesman magazine). "All theatre has politics in it," Portillo enthused. However, when Evening Standard scribe Nicholas DeJongh's turn came (to present the prize for Best Designer), the fur flew. De Jongh lashed out at what he called Portillo's "misleading drivel," claiming that governments — including Portillo's — have long worked for a "repressed and suppressed theatre." De Jongh was in turn heckled, and proceedings continued smoothly — the high point was the Mail On Sunday's Georgina Brown's fairly tuneful and most enthusiastic rendering of "This is my Jerry Springer moment" (the attendant cast joined in) to award Jerry Springer: The Opera the Best Musical prize. Best Actor Michael Sheen admitted that he had been inspired to become an actor by the criticism of Kenneth Tynan, and hailed reviewing as, "a truly noble profession, as noble as what we do." On the other hand, Most Promising Playwright Lucy Prebble recalled how she tried to live by the famous quote, "Critics should mean as much to artists as ornithologists do to birds," before admitting that when her play The Sugar Syndrome got fabulous reviews she decided that the critics were "obviously geniuses." Best Play winner Michael Frayn (for Democracy) recounted how he spends opening nights trying not to catch any critic's eye for fear of appearing to either sneer or court favor. He also confided that when he told people he was writing a play about German parliamentary politics, "they usually fell asleep before I'd finished my sentence.".His next play, he joked, would be "about power struggles in Tunbridge Wells borough council," a boring enough subject, he hoped, for him to win again in 2005.

The full list of winners follows:
Best Newcomer: Lisa Dillon, for The Master Builder
Most Promising Playwright: Lucy Prebble, for The Sugar Syndrome
Best Designer: Bob Crowley, for Mourning Becomes Electra
Best Director: Howard Davies, for Mourning Becomes Electra
J.C. Trewin Award For Best Shakespearean Performance: Greg Hicks, for Coriolanus
Best Actress: Eve Best, for Mourning Becomes Electra
Best Actor: Michael Sheen, for Caligula
Best Musical: Jerry Springer: The Opera
Best Play: Michael Frayn's Democracy

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