And The Winners Are
Hosted by actors Ruth McGill and Peter Daly, the 20th annual Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards in the National Concert Hall, Dublin, on Sunday, March 5, 2017 was a stellar affair. With awards presented to winners in 15 categories by the Arts Editor of The Irish Times, Laurence Mackin, it was an awards ceremony with a wide-ranging sweep, one that reflected the broad spectrum of productions in Irish theatre during 2016. Throughout, the case for the inclusion of dance as a specific category was given a significant push. Indeed, ‘don’t stop the dance’ seemed to be the message, with two dance based productions, Swan Lake/Loch na hEala and These Rooms, picking up major awards on the night.
Judges Ella Daly, Dr Nicholas Greene and Anna Walsh viewed over 150 productions around the country during 2016 from which the winners were eventually decided. And those winners are:
Swan Lake/Loch na hEala a Michael Keegan-Dolan, Sadler’s Wells Theatre London, Colours International Dance Festival, Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Dublin Theatre Festival, and Theatre de la Ville, Luxembourg co-production.
Garry Hynes for the Druid productions of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.
Best New Play
Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland, produced by the Abbey Theatre and Royal Court Theatre.
Stephen Rea for his role as Eric in the Abbey Theatre and Royal Court Theatre co-production of Cyprus Avenue by David Ireland.
Barbara Brennan for her role as Ellen in the Abbey Theatre production of Town is Dead by Phillip McMahon, music by Raymond Scannell.
Best Supporting Actor
Rory Nolan for his role as Pozzo in the Druid production of Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.
Best Supporting Actress
Ali White for her roles in Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of Northern Star by Stewart Parker.
Best Set Design
Jamie Vartan for the Blue Raincoat Theatre Company production of Shackleton, the Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival production of Arlington [a love story] by Enda Walsh, and the Wide Open Opera production of The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini.
Best Lighting Design
Zia Bergin-Holly for the Pan Pan production of The Importance of Nothing, after Oscar Wilde, adapted by the ensemble.
Best Sound Design
Ben Delaney, Raymond Scannell for the Abbey Theatre production of Town Is Dead by Phillip McMahon, with musical director Cathal Synnott
Best Costume Design
Hyemi Shin for the Michael Keegan-Dolan, Sadler’s Wells Theatre London, Colours International Dance Festival, Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Dublin Theatre Festival, and Theatre de la Ville, Luxembourg co-production of Swan Lake/Loch na hEala.
The Barber of Seville Wide Open Opera’s production of Gioacchino Rossini’s work.
Judges’ Special Award
ANU Productions for sustained imaginative engagement with the commemoration of 1916 throughout the year.
Audience Choice Award
These Rooms by ANU Productions and CoisCéim Dance Theatre.
Congratulation to all the winners, who join a prestigious roll call of some of the greats of Irish theatre throughout the decades.
With judging for the 2017 Awards having already begun, arts broadcaster Catriona Crowe, RTE journalist Paula Shields, and Ella Daly of Dublin Youth Theatre will certainly have their judging skills severely tested in the coming year. With dance achieving so much this year, and with its exclusion as a category becoming something of a contentious issue in certain quarters, one wonders if it will indeed feature in the 21st Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards Ceremony in 2018. Granted, there are issues to be resolved: finding qualified judges, the need to attend so many additional productions, the recognition of choreographers, companies and/or individual dancers, the interdisciplinary nature of many of the works. But perhaps, like opera, its inclusion doesn’t have to be over complicated.
As the Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards for 2016 have made clear: dance makes a significant contribution to what constitutes the best of what we have to offer. Here’s hoping we see it being deservedly recognised on its own terms in the not too distant. There are issues, yes. But as the saying goes: where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.