The Royal Court Theater was the big winner at Monday’s 55th Evening Standard Awards, converting 11 nominations into wins in four of the nine categories, including top play honors for Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem.”
In a year notable for the strength of new writing, the decision on the award that went to “Jerusalem” was revealed to Daily Variety as the toughest of all the award deliberations by the six judges. The same production also netted the only unanimous decision, the lead actor award for Mark Rylance.
The Royal Court also co-produced and presented “Enron,” which won for Rupert Goold’s direction, and staged most promising playwright winner Alia Bano’s “Shades.” The latter faced stiff competition, not least from another Court nominee, Alexi Kaye Campbell, whose Olivier-winning “The Pride” opens Off Broadway in February.
Rachel Weisz won lead actress for her Blanche DuBois in Rob Ashford’s Donmar revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Weisz, absent due to filming commitments, delivered her thanks on video following a speech by Vanessa Redgrave in commemoration of her daughter Nastasha Richardson. The award this year was renamed for the late actress.
The ceremony, which took place over lunch at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, managed a few surprises. The sole tuner award went not to hot favorite “Spring Awakening” but to Timothy Sheader’s revival of “Hello, Dolly!” at the Open Air Theater in Regent’s Park, the venue’s first Evening Standard nod.
Accepting his award for most promising newcomer, 51-year-old Lenny Henry joked, “I must be the oldest ever newcomer.”
A hugely popular television comedian, Henry went legit in the lead role of “Othello.” His only previous legit acting experience was as the black king in his school nativity play.
The production of “Othello,” by touring company Northern Broadsides and subsequently produced at Trafalgar Studios by Sonia Friedman, was typical of an awards ceremony that shut out productions originating in the commercial West End.
Even Mamoru Iriguchi’s design win was for “Mincemeat,” a piece of site-specific theater by Cardboard Citizens, the theater company for homeless people.
The ceremony climaxed with the Evgeny Lebedev Special Award to Ian McKellen for his lifelong contribution to British theater. Presenting the award, Old Vic a.d. Kevin Spacey praised 70-year-old McKellen for his embodiment of tradition and his ability “to teach a younger generation what it is like to be a grand master of his craft.”
Receiving the award, McKellen voiced his support for ongoing wage negotiations seeking higher pay for actors and chorus members in regional theater. He also announced his return to the role of Estragon in Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” at the Theater Royal Haymarket in January. McKellen will this time be joined by Roger Rees, replacing Patrick Stewart, who played the role in the initial SRO run of Sean Mathias’ production. Exact dates have not yet been confirmed.
Evgeny Lebedev, the new owner of the London Evening Standard, also took the occasion to present both McKellen and Spacey with rarely bestowed medals from the Moscow Arts Theater.
And the winners are:
“Jerusalem” by Jez Butterworth (Royal Court)
Mark Rylance, “Jerusalem”
Rachel Weisz, “A Streetcar Named Desire” (Donmar Warehouse)
Rupert Goold, “Enron” (Headlong/Royal Court/Chichester Festival Theater)
“Hello, Dolly!” (Open Air Theater, Regent’s Park)
Mamoru Iriguchi, “Mincemeat” (Cardboard Citizens/Cordy House, Shoreditch)
Most Promising Playwright
Alia Bano for “Shades” (Royal Court)
Lenny Henry, “Othello” (Trafalgar Studios)
Evgeny Lebedev Special Award