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Nick Payne’s Constellations wins best play at ES theatre awards

Sally Hawkins (Marianne) and Rafe Spall (Roland) in Constellations. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Nick Payne has been named the winner of the best play category for Constellations at this year’s London Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

The 29-year-old, whose winning play was originally staged at the Royal Court and has now transferred to the Duke of York’s, is the youngest ever recipient of the award.

In the best actress group, Hattie Morahan took home the gong for her performance as Nora in the Young Vic’s production of A Doll’s House after fending off competition from fellow nominees Cate Blanchett, for Gross und Klein (Big and Small), Eileen Atkins, for All That Fall, and Laurie Metcalf in Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Meanwhile the most nominated venue, the National Theatre, had three of its productions recognised, with Simon Russell Beale being named best actor for his role as Stalin in the Cottesloe theatre’s Collaborators, and the venue’s artistic director, Nicholas Hytner, picking up an award in the best director category for Timon of Athens.

Best design went to Soutra Gilmour for her work on Antigone at the National’s Olivier and Inadmissable Evidence at the Donmar Warehouse.

Hytner was also presented with the Lebedev special award for his contribution to theatre. On accepting it, he re-iterated his concerns about the reduction in funding for the arts from the government.

He said: “We are world leaders [in producing theatre]. It has to be said –  there is a spending round coming up –  and it must be said over and over that London’s cultural scene is a magnet to the rest of the world and quite apart from the economic riches it delivers it comes with riches that money can’t buy. Reputation, pride, an unrivalled source of intellectual and emotional sustenance for everyone who lives here.”

“And we are really now being told that we are going to risk all this for the sake of some brand of fiscal orthodoxy that is manifestly contradicted by the economic riches we deliver day in and day out,” he added.

He also warned the room of theatre professionals to “never forget” that between 1979 and and 1997, the UK “lost 25% of all regional theatres” and that there was a risk this could happen again.

Elsewhere at the awards, the best musical title went to Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Sweeney Todd – which later transferred to the Adelphi Theatre – and Lolita Chakrabarti was named the most promising playwright for Red Velvet, which was staged at the Tricycle Theatre.

The category for outstanding newcomer saw Matthew Tennyson honoured for his performance in Making Noise Quietly at the Donmar Warehouse.

The winners were announced at a ceremony held at London’s Savoy Hotel on November 25, which was hosted by James Corden and sponsored by fashion brand Burberry.

The judging panel this year comprised theatre critics Henry Hitchings, Georgina Brown, Susannah Clapp, Libby Purves, Charles Spencer, Matt Wolf and the London Evening Standard’s editor, Sarah Sands.

The awards winners in full are:

Best actor – Simon Russell Beale, Collaborators (National’s Cottesloe)

Natasha Richardson award for best actress – Hattie Morahan, A Doll’s House (Young Vic)

Best play – Constellations by Nick Payne (Royal Court Upstairs)

Best director – Nicholas Hytner for Timon of Athens (National’s Olivier)

Ned Sherrin award for best musical – Sweeney Todd (Chichester Festival and Adelphi)

Best design – Soutra Gilmour, Inadmissible Evidence (Donmar Warehouse) and Antigone (National’s      Olivier)

Charles Wintour award for most promising playwright – Lolita Chakrabarti, Red Velvet (Tricycle)

The Milton Shulman award for outstanding newcomer – Matthew Tennyson, Making Noise Quietly (Donmar Warehouse)

The Burberry award for emerging director – Simon Godwin

The Lebedev special award – Nicholas Hytner

The editor’s award – David Hare

The beyond theatre award – Danny Boyle and the creative team behind the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

The Moscow Art Theatre’s golden seagull award – Judi Dench

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