(Photo of Benedict Cumberbatch by Ben Hewis and Nicole Kidman by Dan Wooller)
Those who say theatre is elitist should buy a ticket to the What’s on Stage awards. This fun, informal and hugely entertaining event proves otherwise. Fans vote for the stars and shows they’ve seen over the past year and then get to put on their glad rags and join their idols for the evening of prize giving.
It makes for, probably, one of the most enjoyable and enthusiastic awards ceremonies because it feels like a get together of friends. The performers are literally playing to their audience and the latter feel part of the business that is ‘show’.
At the Prince of Wales theatre this year Hollywood goddess Nicole Kidman brought the ‘A’ list glamour and won a best actress gong for her turn in Photograph 51. The play also won for best new play.
Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the theatrical gravitas and deservedly won the Equity award for services to theatre. Somewhat underrated in the film world, it’s worth noting that the man has been nominated for 5 Academy awards and 5 Baftas.
Gypsy, starring Imelda Staunton was a big crowd favourite judging by the awards for musicals as was Kinky Boots.
However, the undoubted champion of the night was Hamlet. The revival at the Barbican, starring Benedict Cumberbatch played to 104,000 people on stage and reached a further 400,000 via live cinema screenings.
To the dismay of many Cumberbatch wasn’t at the awards but those who worked with him on the production and won for their expertise could not think of enough superlatives to describe the man or the experience! ‘ A beautiful, wonderful, inspiring, amazing man,’ said a producer. ‘It was an honour to work with him.’
So fulsome were the tributes, winners from other shows felt the need to praise him even though they’d never met him!
The man himself won best actor and gave a speech via video which lasted almost as long as his performance as Hamlet! On and on he went as the audience laughter drowned out his soliloquy of thanks.
What’s on stage? Big fun. I recommend it highly.