Last Friday saw the climax of the Manchester theatre season with the prestigious Manchester Theatre Awards, a glamorous annual event that celebrates the best productions, performances and venues in the North West. All of the awards are decided on by a dedicated panel of reviewers, and this year, I was part of a specially selected panel of young reviewers dedicated to giving the inaugural Youth Theatre Award. Which meant I got a VIP ticket to the event. Result!
I turned up at the Royal Northern College of Music at half 12, feeling somewhat daunted at being in the same room as so many leading lights from the theatrical world. What if Maxine Peake was there? What if I ended up in a corner on my own? What if I dropped a canape down myself? (She wasn’t, I didn’t and I couldn’t even get near the canapes in the crush of people. I did manage to reach the chocolate fountain though.) Luckily it was easy to find my fellow panellists, and soon we were walking the red carpet, sipping on champagne and spotting famous faces from amongst the crowd. At 1pm, we were ushered into the main auditorium for the awards ceremony itself.
At this point I should mention that I’d been asked – the day before – to present the Youth Theatre Award on behalf of the panel, so I was absolutely terrified. Get up on stage and speak in front of loads of people who do it for a living? Great. Luckily I didn’t have long to wait for my big moment, and headed down the steps (without tripping), onto the stage (under cover of jazzy intro music) and to the microphone. Having not been given a written list of nominees beforehand, I’d been prepared and carried my programme onto the stage with me as a prompt – so when someone appeared to give me both award and envelope, I couldn’t help saying that I didn’t really need it because I knew who the winner was already. To add to the confusion, no-one came to collect the award and I ended up not just having to carry it offstage with me, but posing with it for the photographers in the absence of the winners. Awkward. (I should add that the award was won by the fantastically funny and colourful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Lowry Young Actor’s Company, which I reviewed in June.)
Once that was out of the way though, I could enjoy the rest of the ceremony. I was particularly pleased to see Gillian Bevan win Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her comic spin on Polonius in Hamlet, and that Jersey Boys was recognised as Best Musical (having seen it four times, I can fully support the decision!). The host, Justin Moorhouse, had everyone in stitches throughout the night and there were some nice musical performances to break up all the speeches.
You can see the full list of winners – including a gallery of the winners (oh, and me…) – here.