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Manchester Theatre Awards at HOME, Review

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by David Keyworth (subscribe)
Iím a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester. My debut poetry pamphlet is available at
Best in shows
Stars of the stage and those whose talents lie behind the scenes, were celebrated at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

It was a day to celebrate for the Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Artistic Director, David Thacker, won the Special Achievement award. In addition, An Enemy of the People, adapted by Arthur Miller, which David Thacker directed, won the award for best production. The Octagon's production of Noises Off, by Michael Frayn, won the prize for ensemble performance.

Manchester Theatre Awards HOME David Thacker Justin Moorhouse
Kevin Bourke, Chair of Manchester Theatre Awards, David Thacker, Justin Moorhouse

Colin Connor won the award for Actor in a Leading Role, for A View From The Bridge, also by Arthur Miller, at the Octagon. Barbara Drennan won the award for Actress in a Leading Role, for both A View from the Bridge and The Family Way, by Bill Naughton, at the Octagon. Natasha Davidson made it a hat-trick for A View From The Bridge, by being named best actress in a supporting role. Not only that but David Birrell won the prize for Actor in a Supporting Role, for An Enemy Of The People.

The winning actors gave fulsome praise to David Thacker. Colin Connor told something of a rags to riches story, by contrasting his arrival in the region, with the way his career has progressed, under the wing of David Thacker. The actor made two visits to the podium, as he also won the award for Performance in a Fringe Production, for his role in Mr Smith, which he wrote and performed at the Kings Arms, Salford.

Manchester Theatre Awards HOME, Colin Connor
Colin Connor

Host Justin Moorhouse, a comedian, actor and radio DJ, more than satisfied the requirement of being the life and soul of the party whilst also countering any dangers of pretentiousness or too much self congratulation.

One of his best quips came at the expense of Colin Connor when he asked: "How is the drainage in the lower field?". Thus making reference to the actor's jacket and cap and the Paul Whitehouse, Fast Show character of Ted, the estate worker.

Moorhouses' observations on the confusion that the name HOME can cause in conversation, earned a good-humoured rebuke from Dave Moutrey. The Chief Executive of HOME, said he would be passing on Moorhouse's opinions to the casting director. "Like that's going to make a difference," Moorhouse shot back.

The pronunciation of some names proved a stumbling block for many of those tasked with making introductions and reading out nominations. Justin Moorhouse resorted to welcoming Walter Meierjohann, Artistic Director of theatre at HOME, on to the stage as 'Dutch Walter'. Arthur Bostrom, who presented the prize for Performance in a Studio Production, told an amusing story about language barriers when he presented awards at an event in Holland. It was an appropriate topic for an actor who, in Allo Allo, played the role of Officer Crabtree - the policeman who comically mispronounced almost everything he said.

Manchester Theatre Awards HOME, Arthur Bostrom, Carla Langley
Carla Langley, winner of Performance in a Studio Production, with Arthur Bostrom

Artist Robert Cenedella, who presented the award for design, also struggled with some names but he earned one of the biggest cheers on the afternoon by saying he had come over from America to get away from Donald Trump.

The prize giving was interspersed with performances, including an extract from the musical Avenue Q and a sketch from Big and Little Howard from CBBC. I most enjoyed Jennifer Reid's performance of Broadside Ballads, including An Owdham Chap's Visit to the' Queen and Victoria Bridge on a Saturday Night.

Giving prizes for the arts will always be questionable because there is no simple, objective measurement, as there is in a 100 metres sprint. However, awards give much needed attention and encouragement to up-and-coming artists, including the Contact Young Company, who won the Youth Panel Award at this event. If that isn't justification enough, award ceremonies are at least a great excuse for a party.

The Manchester Theatre Awards continue an initiative first created by the Manchester Evening News. They have been a fixture on the North West entertainment calendar since 1981. The winners are decided by an 11-strong panel of critics. The award ceremony has a limited number of public tickets on offer and they are worth looking out for, if you're interested in theatre of whatever genre.

Manchester Theatre Award winners:

Actor In A Leading Role
WINNER: Colin Connor in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Actress In A Leading Role
WINNER: Barbara Drennan in A View From The Bridge and The Family Way at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Actor In A Supporting Role
WINNER: David Birrell in An Enemy Of The People at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Actress In A Supporting Role
WINNER: Natasha Davidson in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Actor in a Visiting Production
WINNER: Joe Armstrong in Constellations at The Lowry

Actress in a Visiting Production
WINNER: Louise Brealey in Constellations at The Lowry

Performance in a Studio Production
WINNER: Carla Langley in Cuddles at the Royal Exchange Studio

Performance in a Fringe Production
WINNER: Colin Connor in Mr. Smith at the Kings Arms, Salford

WINNER: Noises Off at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

WINNER: An Enemy of the People, directed by David Thacker at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Visiting Production
WINNER: Constellations from the Royal Court Theatre at The Lowry

Studio Production
WINNER: Lungs at The Roundabout at The Lowry

Fringe Production
WINNER: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Kings Arms, Salford

WINNER: The Bodyguard - The Musical at the Palace Theatre

WINNER: Lest We Forget from English National Ballet at the Palace Theatre

WINNER: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Royal Northern College Of Music

WINNER: Tree Of Codes at the Opera House
Designer: Olafur Eliasson
Sound Designer Nick Sagar
Lighting Realisation Rob Halliday

New Play
WINNER: The Rolling Stone by Chris Urch at the Royal Exchange

Special Entertainment
WINNER: Bridging the Gap, The Gap Theatre Project at Halle St. Peters

Youth Panel Award
WINNER: The Shrine of Everyday Things, from Contact Young Company at Contact

Special Achievement Award
Professor David Thacker, former artistic director at Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Stage Door Award For Excellence
24:7 Theatre Festival
David Upton

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Why? Mingle with new and established stars of the theatrical world
Where: HOME Manchester
Cost: £15
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