Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Dicky Benfield is in his 40s and has worked in the West End, at the National, the Globe and in theatres around the country, as well as appearing on TV
Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television
Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked in regional theatres and is a writer and street performer
Jon Various suggestions crop up from time to time – that there should be a ‘best takeover’ added to the Oliviers for people coming into long-running shows, for example.
Peter I saw a post from a fight director arguing the case for an award for fight directors.
Annie We definitely need a ‘best takeover’ award. Saying that, often in the big shows it’s a case of painting by numbers, though, isn’t it? Not much room for individual creative input?
Beryl I think all awards should be sacked off. I honestly don’t get it. Who can judge art?
Annie Oh my God, valid point Beryl. Every day’s a school day.
Beryl I think it’s bullshit, sorry.
Vivian Awards should be more specialised. The Oliviers are never going to pick a small show, the Evening Standard Awards will always pick the fella off the telly and the WhatsOnStage Awards pick fringe stuff.
Beryl The audience should judge what is good. A sell-out show proves its own worth.
Jon Sometimes brilliant shows close early, though. There have been quite a few five-star shows in the last few years which, for whatever reason, haven’t brought the punters in.
Beryl Our reward/award is the appreciation shown by the audience after performances.
Peter We all know that awards are very questionable, but producers love the publicity they generate.
Annie Maybe a clapometer should be installed in every theatre to determine the winners?
Dicky It’s a question of if we need theatre awards at all. It seems most years, certainly with something like the Evening Standard Awards, that it’s the most famous person in the room that gets it so the paper can put their face all over it.
Jon There was that scandal a few years ago when Helen Mirren won best actress at the Evening Standard Awards and three of the panel resigned over the voting process.
Vivian I remember reading once about how the Oscars were set up as a way to distract actors from a huge trade union dispute.
Beryl Exactly, this is about monetisation, celebrity and all the crap about our industry.
Vivian And the hustling of producers is a murky world I’m only beginning to glimpse. It’s hard to take them seriously (until you get your award, and then they are geniuses).
Dicky Awards can be a positive thing too. A friend who was in Home I’m Darling said their ticket sales rocketed after its best comedy award at the Oliviers. It was probably enough to justify a tour, which then gives actors work.
Jon I do take the point about whether we need them at all. I wish they were seen more as a bit of fun, rather than important and definitive. The moment anyone stands there with a statuette in their hands and thinks: ‘This proves I am the best actor this year’, then we’re in trouble.
Annie I’d like to think most actors who win awards know it doesn’t mean they are the absolute, undeniable best.
Beryl But it fast-tracks them to great opportunities – suddenly doors fly open.
Beryl I don’t need an award, I need to do great and challenging work that pays properly.
Dicky I’d quite like an award.
Beryl It’s just something else to forget to dust.
Jon So, whatever our take is on the concept of awards themselves, are there any other gaps in the usual categories? Takeover is one. Any others?
Beryl Stage management, she says as she makes her: “Thank you, I love you all” speech.
Peter How do you judge good stage management from the front?
Jon It would end up going to the show with the most cues, the same way you know that some big, lavish shows are going to get their costume designer an award, while a three-hander of men in suits won’t.
Dicky Or it could be voted for by companies.
Jon Of course stage managers do have various awards of their own, but they tend to be quite low-profile events. It might send a message to incorporate them into the Oliviers or other big awards ceremonies.
Vivian Casting directors complain that they don’t have a category. But I’m pretty grumpy this morning and I don’t think they deserve one. That said, if there were an award they might try harder…
Beryl I agree on the casting director thing especially since the invention of self-tapes. That can get in the bin.
Jon I’m going to get a reputation from this column. You lot do love sticking it to CDs. I’m not sure that’s going to be good for my career…
Vivian I’ve been hearing about CDs in the US. Boy, do they work. The chancers here just do a few days of seeing the same people. In the US they want to discover new talent, they are hungry. Here they want to keep the status quo.
Jon So, no casting award?
Vivian If it makes them try harder then I’m all for them getting their paperweights.
Beryl Some are good, but there are lots of charlatans.
Jon I must have been very lucky. You hear horror stories, but the CDs I’ve had contact with have been ace.
Peter Mind you, they are part of the ‘creative team’, which doesn’t include us.
Dicky Actors could vote for best off-screen lines by a casting director. Some give you nothing to work off, others go for high drama.
Peter Best performance by a CD at an audition?
Jon So we have: best takeover, company, stage manager awards, best casting director
as a scene partner and an award for Dicky. I think we’ve cracked it.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email firstname.lastname@example.org