Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

The 2003 Theatre in Wales awards

Rebecca Nesvet casts her eye over the winners...

The competition for the 2003 Welsh Theatre Awards was extremely close, according to awards organiser Keith Morris. Two prizes were decided by tie-breaking votes, one of which was cast five minutes before the closing of the electronic poll at the Theatre in Wales website. This vigorous competition may be due in part to the addition of an element not present last year: monetary prizes. For the first time, £150 bursaries complemented the whimsical Greek mask sculptures created by glassmaker Sian Lyle and underwritten by The New Welsh Review. The bursaries were kindly donated by the University of Wales, Aberystwyth’s Department of Theatre, Film, and Television Studies. The awards were presented by Morris and Dr. Ioan Williams at the champagne-accented ceremony held the Blue Room, the Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s theatre bar, on 23 January 2004.

Graeae Theatre Company’s production of Kaite Reilly’s Peeling won the 2003 Welsh Theatre Award for Best New Writing in English. Unfortunately, Reilly could not attend the ceremony on the evening of 23 January at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre because she was performing in a staging of The Wizard of Oz opposite fellow playwright Frank McGuinness. However, in a speech delivered by proxy, Reilly thanked the Welsh theatre community for acknowledging “disabled theatre” by voting her play into the winner’s place.

The need for Welsh theatre to move into more performance spaces and reach wider audiences was a recurring theme in this year’s acceptance speeches. The award for Best English Language Production went to Torch Theatre’s Of Mice and Men. Director Peter Doran asserted that he would readily trade the honour for the chance to present Of Mice and Men to audiences in Cardiff, Mold, and throughout Wales, rather than only in Torch’s space in Milford Haven.

A new award, suggested by Diversions Dance Company founding artistic director Roy Campbell-Moore commended the Best Dance or Performance Art piece. With nominated contenders ranging from Diversions to the zany U-Man Zoo, Earthfall received it for Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down. The National Youth Theatre of Wales picked up Best Design for Robin Husbands and company’s Frida and Diego.

The award for Best Welsh Language Production went to Amdani, produced by Sgript Cymru, directed by Elen Bowman, and based on the S4C show. Sgript Cymru came out of the evening positively weighed down with laurels. Besides this award, the Cardiff-based new writing company was also honoured with the award for Best Actress, won by Eiry Thomas (Indian Country). Sion Pritchard, playing her character’s adolescent son, won the James Westaway Award. Inaugurated this year, the Westaway Award recognises the performer who receives the most votes among emerging young actors from either gender category. It is named in memory of a young actor who died in 2002. Stephen Marzella, who starred in Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, directed by Tim Baker, was named Best Actor, and exemplified theatre’s communal spirit by thanking his fellow castmates and production team.

Tentative plans for the 2004 awards include expanding the categories to recognise the best production by a youth theatre or an educational institution.

“What’s aught but as ‘tis valued?” Shakespeare’s Troilus rhetorically asks his kingdom’s ruling council. In other words, Bookers, Turners, BAFTAs and Academy Awards mean something only because artists, audiences, and the media pay attention. This year’s Welsh Theatre awards identified some very impressive work, but it is up to all of us to make the honours ‘valued’ throughout and beyond Wales in a way that will provide long-term benefits to the winners and to our theatre community as a whole. Individuals can help by spreading the word about the awards, voting in next year’s competition, and attending next year’s awards ceremony.

author:Rebecca Nesvet

original source:
28 January 2004


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