Young Vic leads critics kudos

Lester, Russell Beale among U.K. stage winners

LONDON — The Young Vic, the Off West End legit venue, emerged as the big winner at the U.K.’s 24th annual Critics’ Circle Awards, which marked a complete shut-out for commercial West End theater.

The maverick London producing house won three of the eight contested awards. Australian director Benedict Andrew nabbed director for his iconoclastic version of Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and Miriam Buether took the designer kudo for her work on an adaptation of the Chinese historical epic “Wild Swans” (a co-production with the American Repertory Theater.)

Rounding out the Young Vic hat-trick, Hattie Morahan snagged the actress laurel for her performance as Nora in a new version of “A Doll’s House.” Morahan has already won the same prize at the Evening Standard Theater awards. The production, a critical and B.O. smash, returns to the Young Vic for a three-week run that starts April 2.

The Tricycle Theater, another Off West End house, was joint runner-up with two awards, both for “Red Velvet,” Indhu Rubasingham’s debut production as artistic director. Lolita Chakrabarti won the promising playwright title for this bio-drama about forgotten nineteenth century African-American actor Ira Aldridge, while Adrian Lester, Chakrabarti’s husband, won the actor trophy for his performance as Aldridge.

Play award went to “The Effect” (Headlong and National Theater), a four-hander about love, depression and guilt by Lucy Prebble (“Enron”). “The Effect” is playing in rep at the National until Feb. 23 but is believed to be eyeing a West End berth for later in the year.

The National’s second award was the John and Wendy Trewin Award for Shakespearean performance, which went to Simon Russell Beale for his turn in the title role of the National’s “Timon of Athens.” The award was Russell Beale’s fourth Critics Circle win.

Sondheim’s 1981 tuner “Merrily We Roll Along” won the Peter Hepple Award for top musical in its Menier Chocolate Factory revival. Helmed by Maria Friedman, the production has already extended its run to March 9, and negotiations are underway for a possible West End transfer. Meanwhile, actress Denise Gough won the award for promising newcomer for her performance in O’Neill’s “Desire Under the Elms.”

In a rare one-off, a special award was given to Shakespeare’s Globe for its six-week “Globe to Globe” season, which hosted productions of all 37 Shakespeare plays staged by companies from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, each in their native language, from Arabic to Japanese, Lithuanian and British Sign Language.

The awards were held at a lunchtime ceremony at the Prince of Wales Theater.

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