Theater News

Government-Funded Theaters Win Big at The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards in London

The Young Vic, The Tricycle, and The National Theatre made a strong showing at the first awards presentation of the season.

Best Actor Award winner Adrian Lester
Best Actor Award winner Adrian Lester
© Tristram Kenton

Austerity be damned. The biggest winners at The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, held last night at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre, were actually the groups that bring home the most government cheese.

The awards are presented each year by The Critics’ Circle, a professional association of British arts journalists, at a ceremony that heralds the beginning of the awards season in London. Professional drama critics independently cast their votes to determine the winners.

Southwark’s Young Vic took home three awards: Best Actress for Hattie Morahan (A Doll’s House), Best Director for Benedict Andrews (Three Sisters), and Best Designer for Miriam Buether (Wild Swans). The Young Vic received £1,750,000 ($2.8 million) from Arts Council England, the government-funded body responsible for distributing money for the arts, for the 2012-2013 Season.

Husband and wife team Adrian Lester and Lolita Chakrabarti both won awards for their play Red Velvet at the Tricycle. He won Best Actor while she won Most Promising Playwright. The Tricycle received £725,315 ($1.2 million) in Arts Council funding for 2012-2013.

The Royal National Theatre received the Award for Best New Play for Lucy Prebble’s The Effect currently at London’s Cottesloe. Meanwhile, Simon Russell Beale received the award for Best Shakespearean performance for Timon of Athens. The National Theatre continues to be one of the most subsidised [ed. subsidized] theater organizations, with £17,462,920 ($28 million) coming from Arts Council for 2012-2013.

To put this in perspective, the total amount of grants for Theater & Musical Theater from the National Endowment for the Arts (the USA’s equivalent of Arts Council) for 2013 was $4,383,000 distributed to 146 different theaters. The highest single grant in this group was $100,000.

Other winners include Denise Gough (Desire Under the Elms) for Most Promising Newcomer and Menier Chocolate Factory‘s production of Merrily We Roll Along for Best Musical.

Shakespeare’s Globe was given a special award for their ambitious Globe To Globe World Shakespeare Festival which saw all thirty-seven of the Bard’s plays performed, each in a different language.

Speaking to the BCC, Theatre Critics’ Circle chairman Mark Shenton said, “The special award for the Globe, which operates without subsidy, shows that it can be done the other way round.” Ah yes, but as the executive directors of the 146 NEA-granted American theaters might tell you, the British method is so much easier.