Tony Awards 2019: Northern Irish drama The Ferryman wins best play

The production, penned by James Bond co-writer Jez Butterworth, tells the tale of a former IRA man in Co Armagh during The Troubles

Writer Jez Butterworth on stage at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, on Sunday, after he won best play for The Ferryman. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Writer Jez Butterworth on stage at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, on Sunday, after he won best play for The Ferryman. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

 

Northern Irish drama The Ferryman picked up the prestigious accolade for best play at the Tony Awards, while its director Sam Mendes was also honoured.

The production, penned by James Bond co-writer Jez Butterworth, tells the tale of a former IRA man in rural Co Armagh during The Troubles.

It was transferred to Broadway with much of the same cast after a sold-out year in the West End.

The drama, which also earned three Olivier awards, beat four other nominees – including fellow British playwright James Graham’s Ink – to scoop the best play honour.

In his acceptance speech on stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York, Butterworth dedicated the award to all the families who had lost loved ones in the Troubles.

Earlier in the night, Mendes was named winner in the best direction of a play category to scoop his first directing Tony Award.

Writer Jez Butterworth and the cast and crew of The Ferryman accept the award for best play at the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York on Sunday. Photograph: Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Writer Jez Butterworth and the cast and crew of The Ferryman accept the award for best play at the 2019 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall, New York, on Sunday. Photograph: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Despite not attending the ceremony, a message from the director was posted on The Ferryman’s Twitter page, which read: “I have lost count of the times on this job that I’ve counted my lucky stars. And now, again, I’m left to reflect on what a privilege – what an absolute privilege it is – to be able to tell stories for a living.”

The production also picked up the awards for best scenic design and best costume design.

Ahead of the ceremony, Butterworth told the Press Association he was feeling “extremely honoured and grateful” that the play had been nominated in nine categories.

He said: “Plays are hard, and plays this big with this many people are harder still, but when those people are as talented, inspiring and just plain ready as the Ferrymen and Ferrywomen and Ferrychildren and Ferrybabies have been, it somehow seems effortless.

“When [theatre producer] Sonia [Friedman] and I did Jerusalem on Broadway the other end of this decade, I told myself on the plane home that I’d never experience anything like that again. I’m wrong a lot.”

Laura Donnelly – whose family story inspired the play – was beaten by Elaine May in the best actress in a leading role category, while Paddy Considine and Fionnula Flanagan also missed out on gongs.

Other winners included English actor Bertie Carvel, who picked up best featured actor in a play for his portrayal of Rupert Murdoch in Ink, and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, who scooped the lead actor in a play award.

Hadestown, a new musical about a young couple’s dark trek to the underworld, topped the awards, winning eight honours, including best musical. Based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, Anais Mitchell’s musical also won Tonys for best director, score, supporting actor Andre De Shields, orchestration, and sound, scenic and lighting design. Director Rachel Chavkin noted she was the only woman currently directing a Broadway musical and called for the theatre world to step up. “It is a failure of imagination,” she told the audience.

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston won his second Tony as the unhinged television anchor man in Network, a stage adaptation of the 1976 movie. Cranston dedicated his award to “real journalists”. In a veiled reference to repeated attacks on the press by US President Donald Trump, Cranston said the media “is not the enemy of the people. Demagoguery is the enemy of the people.”

Elaine May (87) earned her first Tony, winning best actress in a play for her moving performance as a mentally declining woman in The Waverly Gallery. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Elaine May (87) earned her first Tony, winning best actress in a play. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Elaine May (87), earned her first Tony, winning best actress in a play for her moving performance as a mentally declining woman in The Waverly Gallery. May, a director, writer and actress is also known for her comic partnership dating to the 1950s with late film director Mike Nichols.

The best actor in a musical Tony went to Santino Fontana for Tootsie, the hit show based on the 1982 movie, while Stephanie J. Block took home the lead actress award playing music legend Cher in The Cher Show. Block thanked “the goddess Cher, and her legacy.”

The Boys in the Band, a comic drama about a group of gay men at a birthday party first produced in the late 1960s, won best play revival.

Ali Stroker became the first actor performing in a wheelchair to win a Tony. She won best supporting musical actress for her role in Oklahoma! Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Ali Stroker became the first actor performing in a wheelchair to win a Tony. Photograph: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The supporting musical actress Tony went to Ali Stroker for Oklahoma!, which won best revival of a musical. Stroker, as the “girl who can’t say no” Ado Annie, became the first actor performing in a wheelchair to win a Tony. Supporting actress in a play went to Celia Keenan-Bolger (41), as the child Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, while English actor Bertie Carvel won his first

Tony as media mogul Rupert Murdoch making his foray into newspaper publishing in “Ink.

Veteran stage actress Rosemary Harris and playwright Terrence McNally were presented with special Tony awards for lifetime achievement in theatre. British comedian James Corden hosted the 2019 awards, kicking the night off with a nine-minute musical tribute to Broadway. – PA, Reuters, New York Times

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