Owen Roe and Janet Moran have won the best acting prizes and the best-production award has gone to Northern Ireland Opera’s Into the Woods, as The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards celebrated their 25th anniversary at TU Dublin Conservatoire, in Grangegorman, on Sunday night.
Roe was named best actor for his role in The Steward of Christendom, at the Gate Theatre. He played Thomas, a former member of the British-run police force in the early years of the new Irish State. Moran took the best-actress award for her performance in Heaven, by Fishamble: the New Play Company, one of two awards for Eugene O’Brien’s production, which was also named best new play.
Irish Times Arts and Culture Editor Hugh Linehan said: “For 25 years, these awards have been a concrete signal of The Irish Times’ commitment to the arts in general and the art of theatre in particular. They recognise the special place that live dramatic performance holds in Irish culture, the long and deep theatrical traditions that endure to this day, and the way in which new generations and new voices continue the process of reinventing and reimagining the theatre experience for new audiences in a fast-changing society.”
Rory Nolan won the award for best supporting actor for his role in An Octoroon, at the Abbey Theatre, which was also nominated for best production.
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Following the announcement in early February of the nominees for this year’s awards, the creative team behind An Octoroon, a radical reboot of the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1859 play The Octoroon, objected to the shortlist.
Their objection related to the shortlisting of two white actors for best supporting actor and best supporting actress, in a production with a cast consisting predominantly of actors of colour.
In response, the judging of plays staged in 2023 – a process that had already begun – was suspended by The Irish Times pending a review of the selection and adjudication processes for the awards. Sunday’s event was in recognition of plays staged in 2022.
Linehan said on Sunday night: “I don’t want to prejudge anything that may come up in that review, but I can tell you that The Irish Times takes the issues of diversity and representation which have been raised very seriously, and is committed to addressing them in a transparent and comprehensive fashion.
“If you believe, as we do, that theatre is a vital part of a healthy, dynamic society, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when it raises challenging questions that demand serious debate and scrutiny. I look forward to us covering all these issues in our own pages in the months ahead.”
Nolan’s An Octoroon colleague Maeve O’Mahony was nominated for best supporting actress, but she lost out to Anna Healy for her performances in Portia Coughlan, The Last Return and The Spin. The Last Return, staged by Druid, also won the best-ensemble award.
The best director award went to Judy Hegarty Lovett for her work on The Realistic Joneses.
Awards were presented by Irish Times Editor Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, Group Managing Director Deirdre Veldon and judging-panel chairman Nicholas Grene, as well as Linehan.
Speaking on behalf of the judging panel, which also included Lorelei Harris and Gerry Godley, Grene said: “What we celebrate here tonight is all that theatremakers created in 2022 to give us, and live audiences across the country: satisfaction, excitement and delight. For all of that we offer you our warmest thanks and congratulations.
“Over the year, across the island of Ireland, we watched over 140 shows. When people are told that, they often comment that we must be gluttons for punishment. Let me be clear on one thing: being an awards judge is no sort of punishment. It is an extraordinary opportunity to see the sheer wealth of creative talent in Irish theatre. We want to thank The Irish Times for having given us that opportunity and for having sustained the awards now for a quarter of a century.”
Grene continued: “We would have liked to have been able to recognise all the wonderful performances, all the great shows we had seen. But shortlists have necessarily to be short. What we had to do, and what we did, was to look at each category in turn and apply to each one the same criteria of excellence that are laid out for the awards. We want now to salute the great theatre work which we were not able to recognise in our nominations and to express our appreciation for the enormous pleasure it gave us in 2022.”
Opera was prominent across many categories, reflecting the growing status of the art form in Ireland. Awards included David Bolger’s best movement award for, in part, his choreography in Orfeo ed Euridice – his work in Go to Blazes was also acknowledged. Semele was named best opera.
Loughlin Deegan won the judges’ special award for “his multifaceted contribution to Irish theatre, most recently as founding director, since 2011, of the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art”.
A special tribute award was given to Bosco Hogan in recognition of his decades of work on the Irish stage, while No Magic Pill won the audience award. Hogan was also a member of the cast of The Last Return, which won best ensemble.
The awards for best costume, lighting and video went to Madeleine Boyd, James C McFetridge and Mags Mulvey of Lalla-Roukh, Big Man and Minimal Human Contact respectively. Conor Linehan, Carl Kennedy, Olesya Zdorovetkska and Louis Lovett won best soundscape for The Tin Soldier. Aedín Cosgrove won the award for best set for Good Sex.
The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards 2022: All the winners
- Best actor Owen Roe, for The Steward of Christendom, Gate Theatre
- Best actress Janet Moran, for Heaven, Fishamble: the New Play Company
- Supporting actor Rory Nolan, for An Octoroon, Abbey Theatre
- Supporting actress Anna Healy, for Portia Coughlan (Abbey Theatre), The Last Return (Druid), The Spin (Corcadorca Theatre Company, with the support of Backstage Theatre, Longford)
- Best director Judy Hegarty Lovett, for The Realistic Joneses, Gare St Lazare Ireland and Rubicon Theatre, Ventura, in association with Laguna Playhouse, California
- Best set Aedín Cosgrove, for Good Sex, Dead Centre
- Best costume Madeleine Boyd, for Lalla-Roukh, Wexford Festival Opera
- Best lighting James C McFetridge, for Big Man, Lyric Theatre
- Best soundscape Carl Kennedy, Conor Linehan, Olesya Zdorovetkska and Louis Lovett, for The Tin Soldier, Gate Theatre and Theatre Lovett
- Best movement David Bolger, for Orfeo ed Euridice (Blackwater Valley Festival Opera) and Go to Blazes, with the company (CoisCéim Dance Theatre)
- Best ensemble The Last Return, Druid
- Best production Into the Woods, Northern Ireland Opera
- Best new play Heaven, by Eugene O’Brien, Fishamble: the New Play Company
- Best opera Semele, Opera Collective Ireland and Kilkenny Arts Festival with Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin in partnership with Sestina
- Judges’ special award Loughlin Deegan
- Best video design Mags Mulvey, for Minimal Human Contact, Aisling Ghéar Theatre Company
- The Irish Times special tribute award Bosco Hogan
- Audience choice award No Magic Pill