Dublin's Royal Hospital Kilmainham opened its doors to the Irish theatre community last night, who gathered at the 17th annual Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards to celebrate the best of professional theatre-making across 13 categories at a gala reception attended by over 400 people.
Introduced by host Aonghus Óg McAnally as "the best actor of his generation", Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, widely known for his role of Nidge in RTÉ 's series Love/Hate , took the prize for Best Actor for his performance in Mark O'Rowe's revival of Howie the Rookie produced by Landmark Productions. The award will have company on Vaughan-Lawlor's mantelpiece; he previously won Best Actor in 2008.
“You test your abilities to be as good as you can on stage or screen and if that’s recognised by award bodies, it’s the icing on the cake,” said Vaughan-Lawlor.
Accepting his award, he said: “I share this award with Mark; I’m the Howie to his Rookie.”
Best Supporting Actor went to Hugh O'Conor as Fool in King Lear , directed by Selina Cartmell for the Abbey Theatre. O'Conor was last night attending both the theatre awards and the premiere of John Butler's The Stag at The Savoy. "You've made this a very exciting evening for me," said O'Conor.
It was an excellent year for the Gate Theatre, with 11 nominations; six of which for its production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire . The production won in three categories. Lia Williams won Best Actress for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois; Ethan McSweeny took home Best Director and Catherine Walker was named Best Supporting Actress. Walker also won Best Actress last year.
A Streetcar Named Desire may have swept the boards, but Best Production went to new work Lippy , by Bush Moukarzel and Mark O'Halloran, directed by Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel for Dead Centre, which sold out as one of the highlights of last year's Dublin Fringe Festival.
Opera was once again well represented, winning Best Costumes for Antony McDonald's The Importance of being Earnest , composed by Gerald Barry and staged as a Wide Open Opera and Northern Ireland opera co-production.
Best Opera went to Cristina , Regina di Svenzia by Jacopo Foroni and directed by Stephen Medcalf for Wexford Festival Opera.
Andrew Clancy, designer of the award statuette, was handed his own creation when he won Best Set for Beckett's Embers , directed by Gavin Quinn for Pan Pan Theatre.
Best Lighting and Best Sound went to one-person shows, both richly designed with light and sound while minimal on set.
Sinéad McKenna received Best Lighting for Howie the Rookie and Best Sound went to Alma Kelliher for Riverrun , directed by Olwen Fouéré and Kellie Hughes for The Emergency Room, The Galway Arts Festival and Druid Lane Theatre, Galway.
Best New Play went to The Games People Play written by Gavin Kostick and directed by Bryan Burroughs for Rise Productions. Kostick is also the literary manager for Fishamble, the new play company.
“Apart from with my family. I’m happiest working with theatre people,” said Kostick.
The Judges' Special Award celebrated the work of Anu Productions in commemorating the Dublin Lockout with Thirteen ; for using the city of Dublin as their set, and their reconfiguration of the audience as citizens.
The Special Tribute Award went to the actress Olwen Fouéré, introduced by one of Ireland’s leading playwrights, Marina Carr.
Fouéré said: "Some people think art should reflect society, I don't think that. I think art should cause disturbance. Artists need to be leaders. Instead of being part of the system, we need to rock it".
THEATRE AWARDS: AND THE WINNERS IS . . .
Judges' Special Award: Anu Productions: To mark their work commemorating the Dublin Lockout, using the city of Dublin as their set, and their reconfiguration of the audience as citizens.
Best Actor: Tom Vaughan-Lawlor in Howie the Rookie, written by Mark O'Rowe, directed by Mark O'Rowe for Landmark Productions.
Best Actress: Lia Williams as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams, directed by Ethan McSweeny for the Gate Theatre.
Best Supporting Actor: Hugh O’Conor as Fool in King Lear, written by William Shakespeare, directed by Selina Cartmell for the Abbey Theatre.
Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Walker as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams, directed by Ethan McSweeny for the Gate Theatre.
Best Director: Ethan McSweeny for A Streetcar Named Desire, written by Tennessee Williams, produced by the Gate Theatre.
Best Set: Andrew Clancy for Embers, written by Samuel Beckett, directed by Gavin Quinn for Pan Pan Theatre.
Best Costumes: Antony McDonald for The Importance of Being Earnest, composed by Gerald Barry and directed by Antony McDonald for Wide Open Opera and Northern Ireland Opera.
Best Lighting: Sinéad McKenna for Howie the Rookie, written and directed by Mark O’Rowe, for Landmark Productions.
Best Sound: Alma Kelliher for Riverrun, directed by Olwen Fouéré and Kellie Hughes for The Emergency Room, The Galway Arts Festivaly.
Best Production: Lippy, by Bush Moukarzel and Mark O’Halloran, directed by Ben Kidd and Bush Moukarzel for Dead Centre.
Best New Play: The Games People Play written by Gavin Kostick for Rise Productions and Dublin Fringe Festival.
Best Opera Production: Cristina, Regina di Svenzia composed by Jacopo Foroni and directed by Stephen Medcalf for Wexford Festival Opera.
Special Tribute Award: Olwen Fouéré.