And this year's nominees are . . .

Sat, Jan 14, 2012, 00:00

We announce the shortlists for the Irish TimesTheatre Awards, selecting the best productions, writing, acting, directing and design in 2011

The three judges saw 150 shows up and down the island, then had to narrow them down to a shortlist. Here they talk about what they saw in 2011, what impressed them – and what didn’t grab them so much

A good year?

Jack GilliganIt was a good year in that there was a huge amount of activity again. It goes to show in the times we’re going through how resilient the theatre sector is and how creative, and that people can still manage to stage shows, so many of them in the year. Not all of it was great. Maybe that’s something that needs to be looked at. I would be a great advocate of mentoring: it’s needed more and more. We saw some fantastic shows, and at the top level there was very keen competition and strong contenders for the awards, but maybe there’s a fairly large body of mediocrity.

Seona Mac RéamoinnPeople still have a compelling need to tell stories through some form of theatre, and despite all the refinement of technology, and the many ways people have of communicating, we haven’t seen any dilution of theatre. What we’ve seen is more an expansion of the concept to include other media and other art forms, to make it as vibrant and immediate as possible. But also this year theatre tackled all sorts of subjects. There’s been some criticism that there’s too much introspection, that it’s all about us, and there’s an element of that still, but there was also a bravery in tackling certain difficult social subjects. To me that’s where I saw great hope and a sense of continuing vitality.

Christine MonkI found site-specific work so terribly exciting. You were given a ticket and a location and you did not know what you were going to get. I helped a girl escape from a Magdalen laundry; I sat in an empty housing estate; I watched a girl being raped in a Belfast warehouse; I sat in a rocking chair and listened to Beckett; I had Kenneth Branagh point a gun in my face. It’s very different from sitting in your red velvet chair far removed from the stage. Site-specific, though, has to be in that place for a reason, and the narrative has to drive you through that place. One of the things we talked about was, if it worked as a site-specific piece, did it have a life outside of that place as a piece of theatre? Take Trade: it worked in the B&B where it was staged, but would it work if you took it out of there and put it somewhere else? And we all agreed it would.

SMacR Laundryhad a way of addressing certain kinds of experiences that maybe could be imagined in other cultures and settings. But I also saw “traditional” plays that were extremely powerful, that were given an extra spark because of the emphasis of the production. You can still have writing that makes people uncomfortable in a traditional setting. I found it so uncomfortable to watch parts of The Cruciblebecause it was in Belfast and the way the production must have evoked all kinds of parallels and memories. And it didn’t need to take place in a warehouse.

JGA lot of one-person shows just didn’t work. When we saw the ones that did, it redeemed the whole genre.

The North

SMacRThe reopening of the Lyric is one of the most important things in theatre this year. I had so many surprising experiences in the North – the quality and freshness.

CMI’m fascinated how it barely breaks through into the theatre consciousness in the south at all. We all went to Kenneth Branagh in The Painkiller,a terrific farce, great fun, but I don’t think I spoke to one person in the theatre world here who went to see it. It doesn’t break through the foyer conversations of what’s going on and what people are going to see.

SMacRI wish there were more things that transferred to the rest of the island rather than going to London first. I think if people just saw a couple of productions in the south they’ve be more inclined. There’s already a huge sharing of actors, directors and designers.

Strong and weak categories

SMacRIt was the year of the lead actors – and of set design. Honestly, there was almost blood on the floor among us, because it was a really fantastic year for design.

CMIt wasn’t necessarily good for writing. There was some interesting new writing, but we didn’t necessarily have 20 on our shortlists.

SMacRIt was also a good year for directors. In some areas there was enormous excellence.

CMI wouldn’t say it was a weakness, but you’re only looking at maybe five opera productions and you’re picking four. There are various reasons for it, but that’s a shame.

One wish for the next year

CMI’d like to see the young and up-and-coming who are making exciting, fresh work getting the support and mentorship to build on the promise they’ve showed. I saw so much promise this year: they mightn’t be there yet, but it’s all right for a career to take a while to roll along.

JGI’d also like to see something more formal established. Mentoring is going on here and there, but I don’t think it’s available to young companies and people doing interesting work. So if something were to come to the stage, or to a site-specific venue, it would then be audience-friendly – or friendlier, at least.

SMacRI’d also like to see plays or pieces of theatre not being put on before they are ready. There was a slight tendency to overexpose things that could have done with a bit more work. The potential was there, but they weren’t quite good enough. But I’d also like people to continue to take risks. The two go together.

Best production

The CrucibleWritten by Arthur Miller, directed by Conall Morrison for the Lyric Theatre

LaundryWritten and directed by Louise Lowe for Anu Productions

MistermanWritten and directed by Enda Walsh, produced by Landmark Productions and Galway Arts Festival

All That FallWritten by Samuel Beckett, directed by Gavin Quinn for Pan Pan Theatre

Best actor

Patrick O’KaneAs John Proctor in The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, directed by Conall Morrison for the Lyric Theatre

Paul ReidAs Farrell Blinks in Man of Valour,written by Michael West, directed by Annie Ryan and produced by Corn Exchange Theatre Company

Cillian MurphyAs Thomas Magill in Misterman, written and directed by Enda Walsh, produced by Landmark Productions and Galway Arts Festival

Philip JudgeAs Older Man in Trade, written by Mark O’Halloran, directed by Tom Creed for Thisispopbaby

Best actress

Amy ConroyAs Gina Devine in Eternal Rising of The Sun,written by Amy Conroy and directed by Veronica Coburn for the Irish Theatre Institute

Charlie MurphyAs Eliza in Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Annabelle Comyn for the Abbey Theatre

Marie MullenAs Woman in Testament, written by Colm Tóibín, directed by Garry Hynes for Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival and Landmark Productions

Aisling O’SullivanAs Maggie Polpin in Big Maggie,written by John B Keane, directed by Garry Hynes for Druid Theatre Company

Best supporting actor

Rory NolanAs Commissioner in The Government Inspector, written by Roddy Doyle, directed by Jimmy Fay for the Abbey Theatre

Frankie McCaffertyAs Ivan in The Seafarer,written by Conor McPherson, directed by Andrew Flynn for Nomad Theatre Network and Decadent Theatre Company

John OlohanAs Byrne in Big Maggie, written by John B Keane, directed by Garry Hynes for Druid Theatre Company

Bob KellyAs Martin O Bonnassa/Osborne O’Loonassa/Gentleman/Others in The Poor Mouth, written by Flann O’Brien, adapted by Jocelyn Clarke, directed by Niall Henry for Blue Raincoat Theatre Company

Best supporting actress

Aoife DuffinAs Abigail Williams in The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, directed by Conall Morrison for the Lyric Theatre

Dearbhla Molloy and Ingrid CraigieAs Eileen and Kate in The Cripple of Inishmaan, written by Martin McDonagh and directed by Garry Hynes for Druid Theatre Company

Karen ArdiffAs Aase/Green-Clad in Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Arthur Riordan, directed by Lynne Parker for Rough Magic Theatre Company

Caitriona Ní MhurchúAs Masha in 16 Possible Glimpses, written by Marina Carr, directed by Wayne Jordan for the Abbey Theatre

Best opera production

MariaWritten by Roman Statkowski, directed by Michael Gieleta for Wexford Festival Opera

ToscaWritten by Puccini, directed by Oliver Mears for NI Opera

The Magic FluteWritten by Mozart, directed by Annilese Miskimmon for Opera Theatre Company

La Cour de CelimeneWritten by Ambroise Thomas, directed by Stephen Barlow for Wexford Festival Opera

Best new play

No RomanceWritten by Nancy Harris, directed by Wayne Jordan for the Abbey Theatre

SilentWritten by Pat Kinevane, directed by Jim Culleton for Fishamble.

Fight NightWritten by Gavin Kostick, directed by Bryan Burroughs for Rise Productions in association with Bewley’s Cafe Theatre

TradeWritten by Mark O’Halloran, directed by Tom Creed for Thisispopbaby

Best director

Conall MorrisonFor The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, produced by the Lyric Theatre

Louise LoweFor Laundry, written by Louise Lowe, produced by Anu Productions

Niall HenryFor The Poor Mouth, written by Flann O’Brien, adapted by Jocelyn Clarke and produced by Blue Raincoat Theatre Company

Gavin QuinnFor All That Fall, written by Samuel Beckett, produced by Pan Pan Theatre

Best designer: lighting

Ciaran BagnallFor Guidelines for a Long and Happy Life, written by Paul Kennedy, directed by Michael Duke, produced by Tinderbox Theatre Company

Aedin CosgroveFor All That Fall, written by Samuel Beckett and directed by Gavin Quinn for Pan Pan Theatre, and for Man of Valour, written by Michael West and directed by Annie Ryan and produced by Corn Exchange Theatre Company

Adam SilvermanFor Misterman, written and directed by Enda Walsh, produced by Landmark Productions and Galway Arts Festival

Best designer: set

Paul O’MahonyFor Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Annabelle Comyn for the Abbey Theatre

Sabine DargentFor The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, directed by Conall Morrison for the Lyric Theatre

Jamie VartanFor Misterman, written and directed by Enda Walsh, produced by Landmark and Galway Arts Festival

Best designer: sound

Mel MercierFor Sétanta, written and directed by Paul Mercier for Fíbín agus Amharclann na Mainistreach

Carl Kennedy and TarabFor Peer Gynt,written by Henrik Ibsen, in a new version by Arthur Riordan, directed by Lynne Parker for Rough Magic Theatre

Jimmy EadieFor All That Fall,written by Samuel Beckett, directed by Gavin Quinn for Pan Pan Theatre

Best designer: costume

Joan O’CleryFor Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen, in a new version by Arthur Riordan, directed by Lynne Parker for Rough Magic Theatre

Peter O’BrienFor Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw, directed by Annabelle Comyn for the Abbey Theatre

Gaby RooneyFor The Lulu House, written and directed by Selina Cartmell for Siren Productions

Judges’ special award

Fabulous Beast Dance TheatreFor Rian, an innovative theatrical presentation of Irish music and dance performance created by Michael Keegan-Dolan and Liam Ó Maonlaí as part of the 2011 Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival

Val SherlockFor consistent excellence in hair and make-up for Irish theatre

Lyric TheatreFor bringing new energy to theatre in Northern Ireland by realising a landmark new theatre and revitalising a long tradition of excellence in performance.

Landmark ProductionsFor sustained excellence in programming and for developing imaginative partnerships to bring  quality theatre to the Irish and international stage