Caomhan reacts to the Irish Times Theatre Awards

November 5, 2013


Denzel’s ma had a saying. ‘Man gives the award, God gives the reward’. So the lord our saviour will have to work over time to avenge the slights served in the nominations for the Irish Times Theatre Awards. If ever there was a list that exposed how subjective these things can be its the anointed cream of this years crop. Judges Sinéad Mac Aodha, John Fairleigh and Damian Downes picked from over 160 shows and while most bases were covered there was also much there to make eyebrows arch and eyeballs bulge.

Most people are talking about the exclusion of Gary Hynes from the Best Director category, whose production DruidMurphy garnered the most nominations overall, seven in total, six of which were in the acting categories.I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the room to hear the reasons as to why the woman who staged one of the theatrical events of the decade- that captured the rot that’s spread through this countries lineage since the famine up to the present day, should be left of the short list.

It may have been so that they could spread the love around, to give Annabelle Comyn or Louise Lowe whose shows The House and The Boys Of Foley Street were inexplicably left out of Best Production in favour of Alice in Funderland, a shot at some glory. But surely we should reward the best person in every category so that to win one would be to mean you were the best of the best. Not one part of an equation. Shouldn’t it feel like a heartfelt handshake not a compensatory pat on the back? I didn’t catch Pinter x4, not enough people did during both its runs. But FARM is my favourite of the short listed shows I saw. It combined music, song, dance and talk but most importantly contained substance. It was an original work but also a finished one.

Returning to DruidMurphy I was shocked to see Aaron Monaghan overlooked for Best Actor for his turn in A Whistle in the Dark in favour of his Conversations on A Homecoming co-star Garrett Lombard. Though both men gave sterling performances, Monaghan’s was filled with a righteous rage that was so perceptively released you couldn’t escape the bigger picture contained within Tom Murphy’s 1961 text. Seething with disgust and despair it made a play that was over fifty years old seem frighteningly relevant. Marty Rea was utterly beguiling (in every sense of that word) opposite him and must be the favourite now to take home his second Best Actor Award in three years. Though I wouldn’t begrudge Declan Conlon, from that other Murphy production The House, his reward either. Like everyone else in this category, he was terrific.

Will Monagahn then get compensation in the shape of Best Supporting Actor where he is nominated along his Whistle costar, Gavin Drea, (excellent on his debut)? Lorcan Cranitch, who gave the actual best supporting performance last year in Pygmalion and wasn’t even nominated, doesn’t suffer that fate again. He’s up for The Talk of the Town, though he was much better in both The House and The Dead.

But no Niall Buggy? No Rory Nolan? Instead we get the ignoble return of the Gate, with a solitary and undeserved nod to Owen Roe, who totally missed the subtlety of Shelley Levine’s desperation in Doug Hughes’ pageant like production of Glengarry Glen Ross.

It was a tough year for women again. When trying to imagine what the judges were going to pick I struggled to fill either category. The exclusion of Sarah Greene for Alice in Funderland is a surprise, as is Judith Roddy’s wonderful Nora in A Doll House, where, removed from the Laura Ashley furnishings that usually accompany mountings of texts from this period, the characters message and feeling became deeply relevant again. I’d have moved Cathy Belton and Eileen Walsh to the supporting category for their performances in The House and Conversations on a Homecoming and both could have given Eleanor Methven, who must surely now be the winner, a run for her money.

Catherine Walker’s imitation of Maeve Brennan was just that, lacking soul, leaving Catriona Ennis’ turn in The Boys of Foley Street. It was one of the most disturbing and genuinely sad experiences I have ever gone through. Her and all the players in this production possessed a raw honesty that didn’t just bring a character to life, but brought the observer to life as well. It was like coming up for air being immersed in their world and, as the representative of that process, I hope she wins.

Best New Play? It’s going to go to Quitely. But I was incredibly disappointed to see that both Monster/Clock and Death of a Tradesman were passed over in favor of Morna Regan’sThe House Keeper. Both the former productions found new and imaginative ways to explore the financial crisis, that whooshed us up in their maelstrom of emotions. That were lively, thoughtful and innovative. The House Keeper was none of these things, on page or on stage and its inclusion over shows like THEATREclub’s The Family or Stefanie Preissner’s Solpadine is My Boyfriend shows a lack of imagination on the judge’s parts. They called on the incumbents to push for a new category to praise emerging work, but for my two cents, the work I’ve mentioned above was a dam sight more effective than original shows presented by many of their ‘established’ peers over the past few years.

Perhaps including some younger judges would be a more effective solution.

Best Production
Should Win: DruidMurphy
Will Win: DruidMurphy

Best Director
Should Win: Louise Lowe
Will Win: Annabelle Comyn

Best Actor
Should Win: Marty Rea
Will Win: Marty Rea

Best Actress
Should Win: Caitriona Ennis
Will Win: Catherine Walker or Caitriona Ennis

Best Supporting Actor
Should Win: Aaron Monaghan
Will Win: Aaron Monaghan

Best Supporting Actress
Should Win: Eleanor Methven
Will Win: Eleanor Methven

Best New Play
Should Win: The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle
Will Win: Quitely

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