There should have been applause. There should have been cheers. There should have been hugs and kisses and jokes and a few convivial jars after. Instead, the coming together of the country’s theatre people for the 23rd Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards, which was due to take place tomorrow night at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, won’t happen for reasons we all know.
So, for the first time (and, we fervently hope, the last), the award-winners are being announced here in the newspaper and online instead. I hope it doesn't take away too much from the well-deserved recognition of creative excellence in a range of different fields which these awards represent. Enormous thanks are due to our indefatigable judges, Rowena Neville, Anthony Roche and Jessica Traynor, for the immense effort they put in between January and December of 2019, getting to every professional production it was possible for them to see and giving due consideration to all before coming to these decisions. Thanks also to Gerard McNaughton and his colleagues in TileStyle for the invaluable support they've given to the awards over the past few years.
This unprecedented moment forces us to think anew about things we may have taken for granted: the magic and intimacy of a live performance in a darkened auditorium; the charge of electricity between performers and their audiences; the excitement when a new piece of work or a re-envisioned classic unfolds before our eyes
In their range and diversity, these awards reflect the remarkable span of work that was produced by Irish theatre and opera companies, often in very difficult financial circumstances, in 2019. As the judges noted when the list of nominees was published in January, alongside the quality of the work, there were questions of sustainability, of regional spread and of how to encourage a new generation of skilled theatre-makers. No matter what happens, those questions will remain, along with the ongoing process of addressing gender inequality and power imbalances.
The main purpose of the awards, though, is to celebrate Irish theatre and the people who make it such a vital part of our society. This unprecedented moment in our history forces us to think in new ways about things we may have taken for granted: the magic and intimacy of a live performance in a darkened auditorium; the charge of electricity between performers and their audiences; the excitement when a new piece of work or a re-envisioned classic unfolds before our eyes.
We were also looking forward in this year of Galway 2020 to welcoming President Michael D Higgins and celebrating the achievement of Macnas. Our hope remains that we may be able to do so still, and to gather with all these well-deserved winners at an event later in the year. Until then, warmest congratulations to them all.
A MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT MICHAEL D HIGGINS I would like to send my best wishes to the recipients of this year's Irish Times Irish Theatre awards. To be chosen for this prestigious award is a great accolade, recognising the significant contribution you have made to the world of Irish theatre. As actors, directors, designers, technicians and innovators you have all used your creative vision to push boundaries and to create artistic work of extraordinary merit.
I congratulate you on being chosen for these awards, which speak so highly of the admiration and esteem in which you are held in the world of theatre. I also wish you every success as you continue to make your unique impact on the cultural dimension of Irish society. – Michael D Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland
A MESSAGE FROM THE JUDGES Our year as #ITITA judges was shaped by journeys, travelling the country to see 189 eligible productions. 2019 was a triumph of the collaborative process, a reminder of how vital theatre is as a means of connection, expression and sharing. How strange and sad that has had to stop dead for the moment, and we are isolated at home, the theatres dark. Our hearts are broken for the plays that closed, that paused in rehearsal, or those that didn't even get to that point.
That collective creative endeavour can't stop, though. Keep writing, keep talking, keep collaborating, find a way. Getting to see some projects online is a welcome innovation to see us through, but your craft is practised on the stage. So let's make it our collective task when we emerge to find ways to create that comfort and safety for the audience to journey back into the theatres to share the magic and intimacy of the live experience again. Hopefully very soon. – Rowena Neville, Anthony Roche & Jessica Traynor
A MESSAGE FROM THE SPONSORS These awards celebrate the fantastic achievements of the shortlisted nominees and winners and highlight the exceptional talent and continued innovation provided by our world-class theatre sector. TileStyle congratulates the nominees and everyone who contributed to another exciting year of Irish theatre and acknowledges the unprecedented challenges that lie ahead for the industry. – Gerard McNaughton, creative director, TileStyle
THE 23rd IRISH TIMES IRISH THEATRE AWARDS WINNERS
Special tribute award
Audience choice vote
Bread Not Profits By Gúna Nua
The Examination By Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, Brokentalkers and University College Dublin school of history
Best opera production
Abomination: A DUP Opera By Conor Mitchell, Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts
Jim Culleton For The Alternative by Michael Patrick and Oisín Kearney, Fishamble: The New Play Company in association with Draíocht, the Everyman Theatre, Lime Tree Theatre/Belltable, Lyric Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and Town Hall Theatre
Brian Doherty In the role of Agamemnon in Hecuba by Marina Carr, Rough Magic in association with Dublin Theatre Festival and in the role of Dog in The Red Iron by Jim Nolan, Red Kettle Theatre Company
Aoibhéann McCann In the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, a Lyric Theatre production
Best supporting actor
Ian-Lloyd Anderson In the role of Donal in The Beacon by Nancy Harris, a Druid and Gate Theatre coproduction
Best supporting actress
Liz Fitzgibbon In the roles of Josie, Marie and others in Dublin Will Show You How by Tracy Martin, the Abbey Theatre in a coproduction with the Complex
Best new play
Lisa Tierney-Keogh For This Beautiful Village, the Abbey Theatre
The Travels of Jonathan Swift Adapted from the writings of Jonathan Swift by Conall Morrison, Blue Raincoat Theatre Company
Best set design
Sarah Bacon For Citysong by Dylan Coburn Gray, an Abbey Theatre and Soho Theatre coproduction and Beginning by David Eldridge, the Gate Theatre and Drama at Inish by Lennox Robinson, an Abbey Theatre production
Best lighting design
Paul Keogan For The Big Chapel X , based on The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy. Adapted by John Morton, Medb Lambert and Donal Gallagher, Asylum Productions and Kilkenny Arts Festival with the support of the Abbey Theatre and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, the Gate Theatre and Blood in the Dirt by Rory Gleeson, Landmark Productions and Keynote Productions
Best costume design
Enda Kenny For A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, a Lyric Theatre production
Best movement direction
Philip Connaughton For Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, adapted by Nathan O'Donnell and Ronan Phelan, Rough Magic and Kilkenny Arts Festival
Denis Clohessy For The Alternative by Michael Patrick and Oisin Kearney, Fishamble: the New Play Company in association with Draoícht, the Everyman Theatre, Lime Tree Theatre/Belltable, Lyric Theatre, Pavilion Theatre and Town Hall Theatre and The Examination by Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, Brokentalkers and University College Dublin school of history and In Our Veins by Lee Coffey, Bitter Like a Lemon and the Abbey Theatre in association with Dublin Port Company
Judges’ special award
Dublin Fringe Festival For facilitating the development of a new generation of theatre artists, giving them the opportunity to test their creativity, break boundaries and experiment, with the guidance of excellent producers, artists and theatre makers