Sunday February 3rd saw many of those active in the Off-West End world gather at the newly-refurbished Battersea Arts Centre for the 2019 OFFIES, celebrating the creativity and spirit of London’s off-West End theatre circuit.
Among a host of winners, four categories were won by Kander and Ebb musical THE RINK which played last Summer at the Southwark Playhouse, which won Best Actress (rightly shared between the two leads, Caroline O’Connor and Gemma Sutton) also Best Choreography (Fabian Aloise) and Musical Direction (Joe Bunker), and Best Musical Production. This was a well thought-through, tight, dynamic production with the two stars rightly winning together as their performances were absolutely inextricable. I do hope that this success means that many others will have the chance to see this excellently-staged and sold-out show in another run. Southwark did feel like just the right place for this show.
Other big winners included the Bush Theatre, whose productions MISTY and LEAVE TAKING won awards, and the Artistic Director Award went to the Bush’s outgoing Madani Younis (who has just started as Creative Director at the South Bank Centre) for his 2018 season of work at the much-respected Shepherd’s Bush venue.
The much-anticipated Producer of the Year award went to Sally Wood, and with her hits last year including the Clement and La Frenais comedy CHASING BONO at the Soho Theatre and the -capital F- Fantastic Bronte sisters’ mash-up WASTED at Southwark Playhouse (multi-nominated for a stunning lead performance by Natasha J Barnes as well as Best New Musical – which it should have won in both categories!). Sally, you absolutely deserve it!
Congratulations to all the winners and nominees, which forcefully remind us that Off-West-End Theatre is in remarkably good creative health. Here’s to the year ahead!
For a full list of nominees and winners, please see here
Delighted to see that the proposed plans for the renovation and rebirth of the 14 acre Olympia exhibition complex to the West of London include two new theatres, welcome for an area somewhat under-represented in the theatre stakes. Nothing as yet about their size, scale or ambition, but let’s all welcome any new addition to London theatre scene. With the loss of Earls Court, the successful revitalisation of Olympia is so much more important, not least to remind the world that the UK is still one of the greatest hosts in the world.
UPDATE on 10 February. Arts spaces will apparently comprise a 1500-seat theatre and a 1000-seat performance hall. The whole scheme is scheduled for completion in 2023 and expected to attract 8.4 million visitors annually, useful footfall for two large performance spaces. I am sure that we all look forward to seeing the bricks and mortar reality of the Thomas Heatherwick Company scheme.
In a ceremony earlier this week at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre, The Critics Circle drama awards celebrated winners including Matthew Lopez’s epic play The Inheritance which won Best Play as well as Kyle Soller for Best Actor and Stephen Daldry for Best Director. Company was Best Musical, Best Actress was Patsy Ferran in Summer and Smoke and Sophie Okonedo won the Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance for Antony and Cleopatra. Best Newcomer was Chris Walley for The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Best Lighting was won by multi-nominated Bunny Christie. Most Promising Playwright was Natasha Gordon for her play Nine Night which is just completing a West End run after transferring from the National.
The Special Award for Services to the Theatre was awarded to Neil McPherson for his magnificent 20-year tenure as Artistic Director at the much-loved, oft-threatened but proudly “still here” Finborough Theatre in Fulham. To my mind, no other “room above a pub” can have produced as many memorable shows to such a consistently high standard as this venue (and AD ) has presented. It was great to see yet more recognition of Neil’s work which has made this intimate venue a jewel in the crown of its locality. If you haven’t been there yet, please go!
Interesting news that Sir Cameron Mackintosh has submitted plans for a two-storey penthouse and roof garden above the 1100-seat Novello Theatre, part of his Delfont Mackintosh Theatres group of eight fine and well-cared for West End theatres. It is reported that the design has a mix of work/life spaces where he can also conduct business. The upper area accommodations that already existed have been occupied by many others over the years, most notably acting as the home for the legendary Welsh composer and actor Ivor Novello from 1913 to his death in 1951. The theatre was originally built as The Waldorf (but quite soon renamed The Strand), and was renamed in 2005, its centenary year, by new owner Sir Cameron after a thorough, loving refurbishment. The Novello is currently home to the long-runner MAMMA MIA!, which looks set to run for a few more years yet. Let’s wish Sir Cameron all the best for his proposals, they will no doubt be something even Ivor would envy.