CRITICS' AWARDS FOR THEATRE IN SCOTLAND

Press release 14 June 2015

Outlander’s O’Rourke is Best Actor as Royal Lyceum scoops six awards at the 2015 CATS

Three Royal Lyceum productions recognised in 2015 CATS awards including best Male Performance Award for Outlander star Grant O’Rourke in The Venetian Twins.

Amy Manson wins a second Best Female Performance Award

Catherine Wheels adds to tally of Best Production for Children and Young People Awards

Junction 25 recognised with special CATS Whiskers Award

Awards presented by acclaimed comedian and actor Karen Dunbar and Tron artistic director Andy Arnold.

The Royal Lyceum Theatre dominated the 2015 CATS awards, which were presented at a ceremony in Glasgow’s Tron Theatre today, Sunday 14 June 2015.

No fewer than three different Lyceum productions were recognised in the awards. The Venetian Twins and Bondagers picked up one award each while The Caucasian Chalk Circle garnered four awards. Outlander star Grant O’Rourke won his first CATS award (for the Venetian Twins), while Bondagers picked up the Best Design Award. Meanwhile, Best Female Performance (Amy Manson), Best Ensemble, Director (Mark Thomson) and the supreme award, Best Production, went to The Caucasian Chalk Circle. The awards were presented by acclaimed comedian and actor Karen Dunbar and Tron artistic director Andy Arnold.

In a remarkable season at the Lyceum, Mark Thomson’s production of Brecht’s great play stood out for its scale, ambition and unabashed theatricality.

“This has been another wonderful year for theatre in Scotland, and it speaks volumes about the quality of the work being produced at the Royal Lyceum that no fewer than three of its productions have triumphed against such strong competition,” says CATS co-convenor Mark Fisher. “Amy Manson, whose affecting portrayal of Grusha in The Caucasian Chalk Circle won her a second Best Female Performance award and Grant O’Rourke, who picks his first Best Male Performance award for his superb performance in The Venetian Twins, were both worth winners for roles in two very contrasting Royal Lyceum productions.”

“This is nevertheless a challenging time for theatre in Scotland with three of this year’s winning companies facing uncertain futures,” adds co-convenor Joyce McMillan. “As the Royal Lyceum enters is 50th anniversary year it has to cope with a major cut in funding. Slope, meanwhile, may be the last Untitled Productions show in Scotland for some time. Now we appear to have lost The Arches, a trailblazing company that is one of the most tangible legacies of Glasgow’s year as European Capital of Culture. We all sincerely wish that ways will be found to ensure the work commissioned and created by these wonderful companies continues to be part of Scotland’s rich theatrical landscape.”

Commenting on the situation at the Arches, its founder, Andy Arnold, said: “I'm extremely sad that this has happened and feel particularly for the long-serving and hard-working staff. Most of all, Glasgow has lost a unique and extraordinary arts venue – a breeding ground for so much artistic talent – and the cultural profile of this city will be damaged as a result."

Elsewhere, Catherine Wheels added to its tally of CATS, garnering its sixth Best Production for Children and Young People Award for Voice Thief, and Scotland’s two leading commissioners of new work – A Play, A Pie and A Pint and the Traverse – picked up the Best New Play Award for Martin McCormick’s Squash. The Best Music and Sound Award went to Last Dream (On Earth), a Kai Fischer production in association with National Theatre of Scotland and Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Also recognised in the 2015 Awards was Stewart Laing’s Untitled Projects. Slope, produced in partnership with KILTR, Citizens Theatre and Traverse Theatre Company, won the Best Technical Presentation Award.

Theatre by and for children and young people continues to grow in quality and quantity in Scotland. This year the critics awarded the special CATS Whiskers accolade to Junction 25 for outstanding achievement in pioneering and high-quality work by young people. Since it was set up ten years ago by Tashi Gore and Jess Thorpe, with the support of former Tramway producer Steve Slater, it has grown into one of the most critically acclaimed youth theatre companies in the UK. Vitally Junction 25's work has the young people at the heart of its creative process giving powerful insights into teenage experience, not only for other young people, but for adult audiences too.

This year two new supporters have joined the CATS. Young Scot came on board as a sponsor of the Best Production for Children and Young People Award and Guitar Guitar as sponsors of the Best Music and Sound Award, joining STV (Best Female Performance), Equity (Best Ensemble) and Robertson Taylor W&P Longreach – Theatre Insurance Brokers (Best New Play). The CATS are also supported by BBC Scotland Radio Drama, the Mackintosh Foundation and The List.

Louise Macdonald, chief executive of Young Scot said: “We know here at Young Scot that there is no shortage of creative talent in every community right across Scotland.

“We are really happy to be part of the CATS 2015 Awards which shines a spotlight on our brilliant young Scots and celebrates the amazing work they are doing to bring the arts and theatre to children and young people.

“Scotland should be proud and excited by the talent that exists here and we hope that this award might motivate other young people to get involved.”

Ends

For further information, images and interviews contact:

Lesley Booth 0779 941 4474 lesley@newcenturypr.com

Notes for Editors

* In 2015, 196 productions were eligible for the CATS including 78 new plays.

* The CATS judging panel for 2015 was made up of: Mary Brennan (The Herald), Irene Brown (edinburghguide.com), Mark Brown (The Sunday Herald and the Daily Telegraph), Neil Cooper (The Herald), Michael Cox (Across the Arts), Thom Dibdin (The Stage and AllEdinburghTheatre.com), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman), Allan Radcliffe (The Times), Amy Taylor (The Public Reviews and TVBomb), Gareth K Vile (The List) and Joy Watters (Across the Arts).

WINNERS 2015 CATS AWARDS

CATS Whiskers

For outstanding achievement in pioneering and high-quality work by young people.

Junction 25 on its tenth anniversary.

Over the last decade, Junction 25 at the Tramway has won a richly deserved reputation as one of the finest youth theatre companies currently working in Europe, creating theatre that is made to reflect the thoughts, ideas and preoccupations of the 25 young people who form the company at any one time, yet is also shaped by directors Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore into beautiful, world-class performance, often featuring superb light, sound and movement. Through shows like From Where I Am Standing, about teenagers and their parents, and I Hope My Heart Goes First, about life, love and the body, Junction 25 has won friends and audiences not only in Glasgow and across Scotland, but in London, Norway, and now Brazil, where it recently presented workshops based on its show Anoesis, about exam anxiety. Some of the young people involved in the company want to make careers in theatre, others do not; but all of them are passionately involved in creating theatre that gives audiences a chance to hear the voice of a generation – strong, passionate, funny, often unexpected, and always as inventive as it is challenging.

Best Male Performance

Grant O'Rourke (Zanetto and Tonino), The Venetian Twins, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

In playing the dual parts of Zanetto and Tonino, the siblings separated at birth in The Venetian Twins, Grant O'Rourke cut a gloriously schizophrenic figure. Flitting between the pomposity of one brother to the sheer stupidity of the other, and often with only a few seconds offstage before making the switch, O'Rourke proved himself not only ferociously versatile in making the differences between each apparent, but also a master of comic nuance.

Best Female Performance, sponsored by STV

Amy Manson (Grusha), The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

In the dark maelstrom of the Lyceum's vibrant reading of Brecht, Amy Manson's sincere, honest and heroic Grusha provided a sharp and very necessary focus for the vile behaviour around her as she attempted to retain her humanity in a world in turmoil. This understated, natural performance in the play's key role allowed the excesses of the more flamboyant roles to be given their true meaning and worth.

Best Ensemble, sponsored by Equity

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

A neon sign lit the stage with the message “Terrible is the seductive power of goodness” but it was this cast that truly shone as its 13 strong stellar line up took on the mantles of what seemed like a ‘cast of thousands’.

Best Director

Mark Thomson, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

In a remarkable season at the Lyceum, Mark Thomson’s production of Brecht’s great play stood out for its scale, ambition and unabashed theatricality. With this beautifully paced show, Thomson not only brought narrative clarity to a complex story, he seamlessly interwove large-scale ensemble playing with live music and dynamic staging.

Best Design

Jamie Vartan (designer) and Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer), Bondagers, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The design was a particularly strong suit of this generally impressive production of Sue Glover's much-loved play. From the very beginning, when the women workers emerged through the dust and the light of the falling sun, like an evocation of labour in Hell, we knew Jamie Vartan and Simon Wilkinson were giving us something special.

Best Music and Sound, sponsored by Guitar Guitar

Tyler Collins (musician), Gameli Tordzro (musician) and Matt Padden (sound design), Last Dream (On Earth), Kai Fischer in association with National Theatre of Scotland and Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This was a show that put music and sound centre stage. With the audience listening on headphones, it fused actors' voices, live music and pre-recorded sound in a wholly original way. It amounted to a gorgeous aural tapestry which, when it stopped, reminded us of the desolation of perilous journeys, whether by refugees crossing oceans or astronauts crossing space. 

Best Technical Presentation

Slope, Untitled Projects in partnership with KILTR, Citizens Theatre and Traverse Theatre Company

Simultaneously performed in theatre spaces and broadcast online, this revival of Pamela Carter's play was an extraordinary technical triumph. It created two equally brilliant, yet very distinctive and atmospheric experiences for its two audiences without one form detracting from the other. Whether one was watching in a studio theatre or online, one felt utterly absorbed by the anguished love triangle between Rimbaud, Verlaine and Verlaine's long-suffering, young wife Mathilde.

Best Production for Children and Young People, sponsored by Young Scot

The Voice Thief, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company

Ssshhh! The Voice Thief took scary to a new level for a 9+ audience with a site-specific promenade performance about a doctor who doesn’t like loud ugly voices and has ways of making them go away. Catherine Wheels pulled out every imaginable stop in terms of story-telling, visual trickery and design to take young audiences for a seriously thrilling walk on the dark side of human nature.

Best New Play, sponsored by Robertson Taylor W&P Longreach – Theatre Insurance Brokers

Martin McCormick, Squash, A Play, a Pie and a Pint in association with the Traverse Theatre Company 

Described as a "smartly written", "nerve-wracking" play that "races along with an impressive unsettling intensity", Martin McCormick's Squash was the stand-out script in a year filled with impressive new writing. A powerful statement on a society in meltdown, dysfunctional relationships and perceptions people have of "the others", this tragic-comedy amused, horrified and thrilled audiences, being described by one critic as "pretty much as perfect as it gets".

Best Production

The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle is one of the greatest plays of the 20th century, a brilliantly-told tale-within-a-tale of what happens to ordinary people when a nation tries to rise up against the abuse of power by their rulers; and in age of growing inequality and obvious injustice, Mark Thomson's Royal Lyceum production offered a brilliant and timely 21st century response to this mighty play, full of music and wit, intelligence and feeling. From Amy Manson's heart-stopping Grusha, with her exquisite little puppet-child, through Christopher Fairbank's superb performance as the drunken judge Azdak, to Claire Mackenzie's thrilling rock-inflected score unforgettably performed by Sarah Swire, this production used every resource of 21st century theatre to bring new life to this superb and ever more familiar tale of a vulnerable woman and child fleeing the horror of war, paying a high price for survival, and often finding the odds stacked against them, whichever side is winning; and yet somehow remaining undefeated, right down to the play's thrilling and unforgettable final scene.

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