Bravo! The winners of the 23rd Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards

Macnas, whose parades are a core part of their work, receive this year’s special tribute award. Photograph: Brian Arthur

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

Macnas

Macnas Parade
Macnas Parade

Audience choice vote

Bread Not Profits
By Gúna Nua

Best production

The Examination
By Feidlim Cannon and Gary Keegan, Brokentalkers and University College Dublin school of history

The Examination
The Examination

Best opera production

Abomination: A DUP Opera
By Conor Mitchell, Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts

Abomination: A DUP Opera
Abomination: A DUP Opera

Best director

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

Jim Culleton
Jim Culleton

Best actor

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

Brian Doherty
Brian Doherty

Best actress

Aoibhéann McCann
In the role of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, a Lyric Theatre production

Aoibhéann McCann
Aoibhéann McCann

Best supporting actor

Ian-Lloyd Anderson
In the role of Donal in The Beacon by Nancy Harris, a Druid and Gate Theatre coproduction

Ian-Lloyd Anderson
Ian-Lloyd Anderson

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

Liz Fitzgibbon
Liz Fitzgibbon

Best new play

Lisa Tierney-Keogh
For This Beautiful Village, the Abbey Theatre

Lisa Tierney-Keogh. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times
Lisa Tierney-Keogh. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Best ensemble

The Travels of Jonathan Swift
Adapted from the writings of Jonathan Swift by Conall Morrison, Blue Raincoat Theatre Company

The Travels of Jonathan Swift
The Travels of Jonathan Swift

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

Sarah Bacon wins set best set design for her work on Drama at Inish and others
Sarah Bacon wins set best set design for her work on Drama at Inish and others

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

Paul Keogan wins best lighting design for his work on Big Chapel X and others
Paul Keogan wins best lighting design for his work on Big Chapel X and others

Best costume design

Enda Kenny
For A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, a Lyric Theatre production

Enda Kenny wins best costume design for A Streetcar Named Desire
Enda Kenny wins best costume design for A Streetcar Named Desire

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

Philip Connaughton wins best movement direction for Much Ado About Nothing
Philip Connaughton wins best movement direction for Much Ado About Nothing

Best soundscape

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

Denis Clohessy wins best soundscape for the Alternative
Denis Clohessy wins best soundscape for the Alternative and others

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

Dublin Fringe Festival wins the Judges’ Special Prize
Dublin Fringe Festival wins the Judges’ Special Prize