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MCR Theatre Award Nominations Revealed

Kenneth Branagh, Maxine Peake and Alex Kingston amongst this year’s frontrunners

Written by . Published on January 15th 2014.

MCR Theatre Award Nominations Revealed

NOMINATIONS for this year’s Manchester Theatre Awards are in.

"I’ve added an extra award this year, the 'Triumph Under Difficult Circumstances’ award should go to the Macbeth wardrobe department."

This year sees nearly 100 nominations in twenty categories spread around fifteen venues across Greater Manchester from the Palace to the Oldham Coliseum, the Royal Exchange to the Bolton Octagon, The Lowry to the Lass O’Gowrie.

The Manchester International Festival production of Macbeth (reviewed here) at St Peter’s Church, Ancoats, leads the charge with five nominations including a Best Actor nomination for Kenneth Branagh and Best Actress for Alex Kingston, while Kevin Shaw’s production of Kander and Ebb’s musical Chicago, awarded 5/5 by The Guardian, comes in close second with four nominations.

Kenneth BranaghKenneth Branagh

Amongst the lower budget productions Alistair McDowall’s highly regarded Brilliant Adventures at the Royal Exchange is top with four nominations including Best New Play while Away From Home at the 24:7 Theatre Festival has three nominations including Best Fringe Production.

The nominations have been pulled together by independent panel of theatre experts and the winners will be announced at a ceremony on Friday 7 March at The Royal Exchange Theatre.

City Centre Ward Councillor and regular Manchester Confidential theatre reviewer, Joan Davies, said:

"The range of nominations reflects the depth of theatrical experience in Manchester, with nominations for Bolton Octagon and Oldham Coliseum highlighting the quality of work going on outside the city centre. It's great to see Studio and Fringe theatre gaining recognition too. 

"I’d love to add an extra award this year, the 'Triumph Under Difficult Circumstances’ award should go to the Macbeth wardrobe department. Keeping those woollen kilts and white gowns clean with all that mud must have been one of the greatest challenges faced this year."

The nominations:

Best Actor

David Birrell, Sweeney Todd, Royal Exchange

Kenneth Branagh, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Nigel Cooke, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange

Paul Webster, Sugar Daddies, Oldham Coliseum

Jack Wilkinson, David Copperfield, Oldham Coliseum

Joan: "Branagh would be the popular choice but mine would be Birrell for a wronged, vengeful but still very human Sweeney Todd."

Best Actress

Marianne Benedict, Chicago, Oldham Coliseum

Cush Jumbo, A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange

Gillian Kearney, Educating Rita, Library at The Lowry

Alex Kingston, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Maxine Peake, Masque Of Anarchy, Manchester International Festival, Albert Hall

Shannon Tarbet, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange

Joan: "I'd choose Tarbet. As with the book she drew you into the child’s view, told with an adult’s hindsight."

Maxine PeakeMaxine Peake


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Ray Fearon, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Kieran Hill, The Glass Menagerie, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Robin Simpson, David Copperfield, Oldham Coliseum

Joan: "Fearon’s Macduff in Macbeth deserves a win in any company, a triumph of intelligent, emotional and physical acting. He's also 'Most Eagerly Awaited Return' from a few of my female friends."

Best Actress In A Supporting Role

Sally Bankes, That Day We Sang, Royal Exchange

Shirley Darroch, Chicago, Oldham Coliseum

Heather Phoenix, Sugar Daddies, Oldham Coliseum

Kelly Price, That Day We Sang, Royal Exchange

Joan: "Bankes shone in That Day We Sang at the Royal Exchange.  Playing two contrasting roles with remarkable warmth and micro-second comic timing."

Best Actor in a Visiting Production

Paul Michael Glaser, Fiddler On The Roof, The Lowry

Julian Glover, Maurice’s Jubilee, Opera House

Louis Maskell, West Side Story, Palace

Barrie Rutter, Rutherford and Son, The Lowry

Tim Treloar, Birdsong, Oldham Coliseum


Best Actress in a Visiting Production

Michele Dotrice, The Ladykillers, The Lowry

Katie Hall, West Side Story, Palace

Catherine Kinsella, Rutherford and Son, The Lowry

Karen Mann, Fiddler On The Roof, The Lowry

Sian Phillips, People, The Lowry

Joan: "My choice would be Hall as Maria in West Side Story. Beautiful singing and imbued Maria with essential innocence, but also the drive and independence often missing from the character."

West Side StoryWest Side Story


Best Production

Of Mice and Men, directed by David Thacker, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Macbeth, directed by Rob Ashford, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

The Accrington Pals, directed by James Dacre, Royal Exchange

The Glass Menagerie, directed by David Thacker, Octagon Theatre Bolton

The Old Woman, directed by Robert Wilson, Manchester International Festival, Palace

To Kill A Mockingbird, directed by Max Webster, Royal Exchange

Joan: "An almost impossible choice. I'd have to go for To Kill A Mockingbird as it reaffirmed the readers’ love of one of the most popular book of our time."

Best Visiting Production

Birdsong, The Original Theatre Company and Birdsong Productions Ltd, Oldham Coliseum

The Full Monty, Sheffield Theatres, The Lowry

The Ladykillers, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse / Fiery Angel, The Lowry

The Pirates Of Penzance, Scottish Opera and D'Oyly Carte, Opera House

Twelfth Night, Propeller, The Lowry

War Horse, National Theatre, The Lowry



Chicago, Oldham Coliseum

Fiddler On The Roof, The Lowry

Paradise Moscow, Royal Northern College Of Music

Singin’ In The Rain, Opera House

Sweeney Todd, Royal Exchange

Wicked, Palace

Joan: "Sweeney Todd at the Royal Exchange for me. The best production of this I have ever seen. I went three times and enjoyed each visit more."

Sweeney ToddSweeney Todd


Festival of Britten (Peter Grimes / Midsummer Night’s Dream / Death In Venice), Opera North, The Lowry

La Finta Giardiniera, Buxton Festival

L’Elisir d’Amore, Royal Northern College Of Music

La Voix Humaine, Buxton Festival

Otello, Opera North, The Lowry



Aladdin, Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Lowry

Michael Clark Triple Bill, The Lowry

Rambert, The Lowry

Richard Alston Dance Company, The Lowry

The Chelsea Hotel, The Lowry


Best Design

La Colombe/La Princesse Jaune, design Lez Brotherston; light John Bishop, Buxton Festival

Macbeth, design Christopher Oram; light Neil Austin; sound Christopher Shutt, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church

Of Mice and Men, design and light Ciaran Bagnall; sound Andy Smith, Octagon Theatre Bolton

The Accrington Pals, design Jonathan Fensom; light Charles Balfour; sound Emma Laxton, Royal Exchange

The Old Woman, designer/director Robert Wilson; sound Marco Oilvieri; light A J Weissbard, Manchester International Festival, Palace

The Machine, design Lucy Osborne; light Mark Henderson; sound Ian Dickinson/Autograph, Manchester International Festival, Upper Campfield Market

Joan: "A difficult one. It's between three: Macbeth brought the Scottish moorland to Ancoats, The Accrington Pals brought a WW1 battlefield and Lancashire cobbles while The Old Woman looked and sounded phenomenal."

The Old WomanThe Old Woman

Best Newcomer

Marcus Collins, Hairspray, The Lowry

Laura Elsworthy, The Accrington Pals, Royal Exchange

Nathan Ives-Moiba, Tull, Octagon Theatre Bolton

Freya Sutton, Hairspray, The Lowry

Nathan Wiley, The Glass Menagerie, Octagon Theatre Bolton


Best New Play

Away From Home, by Rob Ward and Martin Jameson, 24:7 Festival

Brilliant Adventures, by Alistair McDowall, Royal Exchange Studio

Cannibals, by Rory Mullarkey, Royal Exchange

Flesh, by Sarah McDonald Hughes, Royal Exchange Studio


Best Studio Production

A Wondrous Place, Royal Exchange Studio

Brilliant Adventures, Royal Exchange Studio

That Is All You Need To Know, The Lowry Studio


Best Fringe Production

Away From Home, Working Progress Theatre, 24:7 Festival

Little Shop of Horrors, Kings Arms

Mary Bell by Mary Bell, Studio Salford

The Best, Lass O’Gowrie

Word:Play, Box Of Tricks, various venues

Withnail and I, Lass O’Gowrie

Joan: "I'm surprised that New Live Theatre’s production of new play VIP at the Black Lion is not in there. A novel concept, highly entertaining and excellently realised through tight writing, spot-on casting, and superb performances."


Best Studio Performance

Joseph Arkley, Brilliant Adventures, Royal Exchange Studio

David Judge, Pages From My Songbook, Royal Exchange Studio

Robert Lonsdale, Brilliant Adventures, Royal Exchange Studio

Gerry McLaughlin, Mugabeland!, The Lowry Studio

Joan: "Arkley was highly impressive as a manipulative presence and drug dealer in Brilliant Adventures."

Best Fringe Performance

Rebecca Fenwick, Spoonface Steinberg, The Swan, Dobcross and tour

Stella Grundy, The Rise and Fall Of A Northern Star, Studio Salford

Dickie Patterson, The Best, Lass O’Gowrie

David Slack, Withnail and I, Lass O’Gowrie

Rob Ward, Away From Home, 24:7 Theatre Festival


Best Ensemble

Chicago, Oldham Coliseum

David Copperfield, Oldham Coliseum

Duck!, Z-Arts Manchester

Manchester Sound: The Massacre, Library at the Lowry

Of Mice and Men, Octagon Theatre Bolton


Best Special Entertainment

Dick Whittington, Opera House

Jack and the Beanstalk, Oldham Coliseum

Strictly Confidential, The Lowry

Sutra, The Lowry

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Charlie ButterworthJanuary 15th 2014.

I'm glad these awards are still alive and kicking given the vitality of the North West scene.

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