Manchester Theatre Awards

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News: Spotlight on 2011 awards

The winners of the Manchester Theatre Awards 2011 reflect the diversity of the performances that entertain audiences across the region, but this year they also cast the spotlight on the triumph of a small producing theatre that has enjoyed a run of world-class productions.

The Octagon at Bolton has won four of the 17 annual awards – Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best New Play and the highly-coveted Best Production. Their artistic director David Thacker has put his indelible stamp on a succession of productions, ranging from new plays to classics of modern theatre, and – in one of the latter – helped his wife Margot Leicester pick up the best actress award.

The production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf saw all four cast members nominated in four separate categories, while Thacker’s production of The Price was winner of Best Production.

It is all the more remarkable given the size of the venue, its resources, and the uncertainty for its future that dogged the Octagon not too many years ago. Much of its recent success must be attributed to its departing executive director John Blackmore.

At the other end of the scale, The Lowry in Salford, unsurprisingly maintained its dominance as the region’s production powerhouse with six top awards, ranging across opera, ballet, major touring productions, a star-studded world premiere and a tiny studio performance.

At the heart of a city proud of its theatre heritage, the Royal Exchange again proved it can more than hold its own with a Best Supporting Actress award in a startling new play that stemmed from the venue’s unique Bruntwood playwriting challenge, besides Best Actor and Best Newcomer awards.

The contribution that he has made to this outstanding venue is recognised in a special award to artistic director Braham Murray.

Another world premiere won Manchester Opera House two awards and the creativity of adapting the Dickens’ classic Hard Times to its performance inside a disused cotton mill won Manchester Library Theatre the design award.

See full list of winners on our MTA News page.

David Upton
14 March 2012