Matilda and Michael Frayn win at South Bank Sky Arts Awards

Matilda has added to its trophy haul from last month’s Oliviers by scooping the best theatre production prize at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards.

The ceremony, held today (May 1) at the Dorchester in London, also saw Noises Off playwright Michael Frayn pick up the outstanding achievement award, in recognition of a writing career spanning more than 40 years.

West End musical Matilda, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, beat the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors and the Royal Court’s Constellations to win the theatre prize. The award was presented by Sweeney Todd stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton to Tim Minchin, the composer of Matilda, Dennis Kelly, the production’s playwright, and Matthew Warchus, who directed it.

Warchus said: “We feel very lucky but you have to remember that whenever we watch the show we see an audience explode with enthusiasm, which is like a prize or reward every time it happens. We try not to take it for granted and that’s the real privilege – to see the connection with the audience.”

Meanwhile, Tom Stoppard presented the outstanding achievement award to Frayn, who was honoured for his writing of both plays and novels. As well as Noises Off, his theatre work includes Benefactors, Copenhagen and Democracy.

Melvyn Bragg, who hosted the ceremony, said: “I don’t think anyone envied our judges for their impossible decision this year. With such a strong and vibrant array of winners, this is a wonderful opportunity to praise the incredible wealth of artistic brilliance we have in this country.”

Other winners at the event were Channel 4′s Fresh Meat and BBC series Sherlock, which won the comedy and television drama categories respectively.

Sherlock beat This is England ’88 and Top Boy, both shown on Channel 4, while Fresh Meat beat Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, broadcast on BBC2, and BBC4′s Twenty Twelve.

Beryl Vertue, Sherlock’s executive producer, said: “I am very thrilled. I think Sherlock is brilliantly written. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat are aficionados – and they write with love and care and the cast is so good.”

Meanwhile, the prize for best opera was presented to English National Opera’s The Damnation of Faust, and the dance section was won by Arthur Pita for his production of The Metamorphosis at the Linbury Studio, which beat Zoonation’s Some Like It Hip Hop and Akram Khan’s Desh.

Pita, who is choreographing the forthcoming West End production of The Bodyguard, told The Stage: “It feels amazing [to win]. You do something and you don’t expect to get these rewards, so it’s lovely to get the acknowledgement. The Metamorphosis is something that I felt like I needed to do, so for everyone to like it and for it to be received so well is fantastic.”

Opera singer Sophie Bevan was presented with The Times Breakthrough Award.

This year’s South Bank Sky Arts Awards mark the second year the ceremony has been presented by Sky Arts since ITV stopped airing it in 2010, when it was known as The South Bank Show Awards.

Sky Arts will also bring back the South Bank Show series this year, with a six-part run of programmes beginning on May 27.

James Hunt, director of Sky Arts, said: “It’s been an enormous honour to be involved in this particularly special year, as we welcome back The South Bank Show later this month, proof, if we ever needed it, that the arts are truly flourishing on television.”

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster