Nonprofits Topple Commercial Titles at London’s Evening Standard Awards

Evening Standard Audience Helen Mirren

'The Audience' and star Helen Mirren were among the few commercial winners of the London legit kudofest

London’s thriving not-for-profit houses again nudged out commercial competish to dominate the 59th Evening Standard Theater Awards at a glamorous ceremony held at the Savoy Hotel Nov. 17 and hosted by U.K. thesp Damian Lewis (“Homeland”)

In the nine competitive categories, only two winners began life in the commercial West End. Peter Morgan’s “The Audience” – a fictionalized series of private tussles between the Queen and a succession of her Prime Minsters – won Helen Mirren the Natasha Richardson award for best actress for her portrayal of the Queen (a role for which she won last year’s Olivier Award as well). The same production, at one point rumored to be eying a 2014 Gotham berth, shared design kudos with the tuner “Once” and Alan Bennett’s National Theater (NT) play “People,” all designed by six-time Tony winner Bob Crowley.

The last of these was one of three wins for the NT, the flagship U.K. theater venue which also bagged best musical performance for Rosalie Craig for her turn in the title role of the Tori Amos/Samuel Adamson tuner “The Light Princess.” It also pulled off a coup by sharing the actor trophy between Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester for their respective portrayals of Iago and the title character in Nicholas Hytner’s hit update of “Othello.” The NT previously pulled off a similar trick in 2011 when Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller shared the actor kudo for their nightly swapping of lead roles as monster and inventor in Danny Boyle’s production of “Frankenstein.”

There was a further David vs. Goliath snub for the commercial West End with Scott Rudin’s mighty “The Book of Mormon” losing the musical title to the 180-seat Menier Chocolate Factory production of Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” which transferred to the West End for a limited 12-week season followed by worldwide cinema screenings. Rudin did not emerge entirely empty-handed, though, since “Mormon” had already bagged London’s Best Night Out, an award voted on solely by the public and announced Nov. 15.

In the writing categories, Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) presented Rachel De-lahay with the promising playwright gong for her Royal Court play “Routes” about London and multiculuralism, while Lucy Kirkwood’s much-fancied time-and-continent-hopping, geo-political thriller “Chimerica” won best play. That Kirkwood was presented with her prize by U.K. deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is an indication of the ceremony’s high cultural profile.

Her win was part of a double for the 326-seat, not-for-profit Almeida Theater which also produced a much-lauded production of Ibsen’s “Ghosts” that won helmer Richard Eyre the director award, presented by Joanna Lumley.

U.S. talent was honored with Seth Numrich winning the Milton Shulman Award for promising newcomer for his perf as Chance Wayne in Marianne Elliott’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” at the Old Vic. The Old Vic‘s a.d. Kevin Spacey won the Editor’s Award for his contribution to British theater. Spacey will ankle the post in 2015 after his eleventh annual season there.

Other special awards included an emerging talent award presented by Tom Hiddleston (“Thor” and the upcoming “Coriolanus” at London’s Donmar Warehouse) to thesp/scribe Cush Jumbo for her solo show “Josephine and I” helmed by Phyllida Lloyd. U.S. auds recently saw Jumbo as Mark Antony in Lloyd’s all-female “Julius Caesar” at Gotham’s St. Ann’s Warehouse.

David Walliams won a special Comedy Award for his perf in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the only win for Michael Grandage’s five-play West End season.

A special Beyond Theater award went to the BBC Proms, the two-month-long, nightly season of SRO classical concerts at the 6,000-capacity Royal Albert Hall. Andrew Lloyd Webber won an award for services to musical theater and Kristin Scott Thomas presented Maggie Smith with her sixth Evening Standard award in recognition of her contribution to the world stage.

And the winners are:

Best Actor

Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester, “Othello,” Olivier, National Theater

Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress

Helen Mirren, “The Audience,” Gielgud Theater

Best Play

Lucy Kirkwood, “Chimerica,,” Almeida & Harold Pinter Theater

The Ned Sherrin Award for Best Musical

“Merrily We Roll Along,” Menier Chocolate Factory & Harold Pinter

Best Director

Richard Eyre,”Ghosts,” Almeida Theater

Best Design

Bob Crowley, “People,” Lyttelton, National Theater; “The Audience;” “Once,” Phoenix Theater

Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright

Rachel De-lahay, “Routes,” Royal Court

Milton Shulman Award for Most Outstanding Newcomer 

Seth Numrich, “Sweet Bird of Youth,” The Old Vic

Best Musical Performance

Rosalie Craig, “The Light Princess,” Lyttelton, National

Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry 

Cush Jumbo, “Josephine and I,” Bush Theater

Comedy Award

David Walliams, for his performance as Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Noel Coward Theater

Beyond Theater Award

BBC Proms 2013

Editor’s Award

Kevin Spacey, for his contribution to British theater

Lebedev Special Award

Andrew Lloyd Webber, for his contribution to musical theater

London Evening Standard Theater Icon Award 

Dame Maggie Smith, for her contribution to the world stage

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  1. HHGeek says:

    Please note that the venue’s name is “National Theatre”, not “National Theater”, what with it being in the UK. See also the other incorrectly spelled venue & award names. Is it really so difficult to get these things right? You manage it with “50 Shades of Grey”, after all.

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