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Lenny Henry, Lesley Manville and Chimerica land prizes at Critics’ Circle awards

Lenny Henry, who will be hosting the Olivier Awards, in a scene from Fences. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Lenny Henry has won the best actor prize while Lesley Manville has been named best actress at this year’s Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.

Henry was recognised for the Theatre Royal Bath production of Fences that also ran at the West End’s Duchess Theatre, while Manville won for the Almeida Theatre’s Ghosts, which has now transferred to London’s Trafalgar Studios.

The ceremony, which took place today at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London, also saw Lucy Kirkwood’s play Chimerica pick up the most prizes, receiving three in total. It took the best new play award, the best director prize – presented to Lyndsey Turner – and best design, for Es Devlin’s work.

Meanwhile, actor-writers Rory Kinnear and Phoebe Waller-Bridge were jointly crowned most promising playwrights.

They won for their respective plays: The Herd – Kinnear’s debut work that ran at the Bush Theatre – and Fleabag, a one-woman show performed and written by Waller-Bridge at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and later the Soho Theatre.

Kinnear was also given the prize for best Shakespearean performance for his role as Iago in the National Theatre’s Othello.

The Scottsboro Boys, which ran at the Young Vic Theatre in London, was named best musical and the most promising newcomer was given to Kate O’Flynn for Port at the National.

Mark Shenton, chair of the awards, which are now in their 25th year, said: “The Critics’ Circle proves the value of independent awards that aren’t enslaved to celebrity and are chosen independently by critics and their free will.”

He added: “We don’t get swayed by ideas of celebrity, in particular, and – without naming specific publications – other outlets are interested in celebrity much more.”

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