The annual Manchester Theatre Awards are becoming something of a royal appointment – for the second year running one of the UK’s knighted actors has won a trophy for their performance in a ‘royal’ Shakespearean production.
Sir Antony Sher is the latest recipient of one of the prized trophies, held on Froday 13th March 2015 at a red carpet awards ceremony in the city’s Royal Northern College of Music. The Best Actor in a Visiting Production award was Anthony Sher for his performance as Falstaff in the RSC’s double bill, Henry IV Parts I and II at The Lowry. Last year Sir Kenneth Branagh won the Best Actor trophy for his Macbeth, part of the Manchester International Festival.
This year that particular trophy goes to Harry McEntire for his performance in the title role of last summer’s Billy Liar at the Royal Exchange Theatre. At the age of 24 he already has a string of film, television and theatre appearances to his name.
The city’s new HOME arts centre, which does not actually open until May, managed to win three awards for productions it staged at site-specific venues across Manchester. HOME is also to be the venue for the 2015 Manchester Theatre Awards.
The awards are organised and chosen by a team of 11 leading regional theatre critics (including our very own Manchester’s Finest Theatre Editor, Michelle Eagleton) who between them view more than 200 theatre shows each year. These range from big budget visiting national productions to some of the metropolis’s vibrant studio and fringe theatre performances.
All are featured across more than 20 categories, which this time round saw the likes of Maxine Peake, Suranne Jones, Robert Lindsay, Jane Asher and Barry Humphries nominated alongside less familiar names. Among presenters of trophies were actresses Shobna Gulati, Sue Devaney and Sue Jenkins, actors Richard Fleeshman and Ian Puleston-Davies, writer Jackie Kay, and politician Graham Stringer.
Stars of two big musical shows, on their way to Manchester, both performed live on stage at the awards ceremony.
Jodie Prenger, who headlines in the title role of Calamity Jane at Manchester Palace Theatre from March 24-28, performed the show-stopping Secret Love, while Matt Rawle and Debbie Kurup, from Anything Goes (at Manchester Opera House, April 7-18) performed You’re The Top.
Manchester comedian and actor Justin Moorhouse hosted the event for the third year in a row and a former RNCM pupil, and rising star of the opera stage Lorna James, performed two well-known arias accompanied by Opera North head of music Martin Pickard.
MTA Panel chairman Kevin Bourke feels the awards are the most significant in the country and says:
“More level-headed advice insists we describe ourselves as ‘the most significant theatrical awards outside London’ but I think all of us on the Panel – I certainly know I do – really believe in our heart of hearts that we’re actually the best, and certainly the most independent, in the entire country.
“These awards are inspired by real love for what we do and, maybe, a little bit of anger at the way the arts can sometimes get slashed, undermined and attacked on a whim.
“You only have to look at the breathtaking variety of shows and staggering performances being honoured here to see that, despite it all, live theatre is alive and rudely well in and around Manchester, where we are never afraid to cherish the best of the past, to embrace what’s new, interesting and perhaps provocative, and to light the way into a challenging, but undoubtedly exciting, future.”
For more on the winners and categories see www.manchestertheatreawards.com