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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland

Someone should write a play based on the meeting when the country's reviewers draw up the shortlists for the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland. Admittedly you'd want to call it 12 Monkeys rather than 12 Angry Men, but in the passions and politics, the tensions and tantrums, the gags and the gaffes, there'd be all the material you'd need for a hilarious farce if not a gripping drama. Last week's meeting in a Glasgow hotel to hammer out the 2006-07 shortlists even had the perfect nail-biting finish as the assembled critics settled on the final nominations for best production with just two minutes to spare.

Along the way, each critic in turn saw their favourites knocked back and their wildcards supported. Away from the heat of the moment, however, all agreed it was another cracking list of contenders. Those in the running for the ten awards, which will be announced on June 10 at a public ceremony at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, are up against fierce competition. It's testament to the quality of theatre produced over the last 12 months that although the National Theatre of Scotland's universally acclaimed Black Watch has a number of nominations, it by no means dominates the list. Gregory Burke's regimental drama has become regarded as a milestone in Scottish theatre, but the shortlists show it was one of many pleasures over the year.

There are four nominations in each of ten categories. Competing for best male performer are: Liam Brennan, a previous winner, for his role as a father with a job on a production line in Franz Xaver Kroetz's Tom Fool at the Citizens, Glasgow; Sandy Grierson for the title role in Fergus Lamont, the Robin Jenkins adaptation by Communicado; Stuart McQuarrie whose interior fantasises were made flesh in Anthony Neilson's Realism for the NTS and Edinburgh International Festival; and Richard Addison who played the most unlikely have-a-go-hero in Alan Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

In a formidable year for best female performances, Meg Fraser is in the running for her role as the long-suffering wife in Tom Fool (we also loved her cameo in All My Sons at the Royal Lyceum, but that's another story); Irene Macdougall is on the shortlist for a second time for the outrageous Alexandra del Lago in Dundee Rep's Sweet Bird of Youth; Gerda Stevenson is nominated for her heart-rending performance in Rapture's Frozen; and Jill Riddiford gets her second nomination for the Alan Bennett monologue Bed among the Lentils staged by the Tron and Glasgay.

Theatre for children and young people remains on a high and there are worthy potential winners in Nicola McCartney's The Lion of Kabul for Catherine Wheels and Andy Cannon's Is this a Dagger? for Wee Stories. The prolific David Greig meanwhile is behind two nominations, the exuberant party antics of Gobbo with Wils Wilson for the National Theatre of Scotland and the harrowing teen drama of Yellow Moon for TAG.

The Lion of Kabul also pops up in the best design category thanks to Karen Tennant's all-encompassing tent of a set. She's up against Naomi Wilkinson and Bruno Poet for their atmospheric work on Dundee Rep's very wet A Midsummer Night's Dream; Francis O'Connor and Chris Ellis for the prison interior of Man of La Mancha at the Royal Lyceum; and Keith McIntyre and Jeanine Davies for the cartoon landscape of The Unconquered by Stellar Quines.

We were spoilt for choice in the best director category, narrowing it down to Clare Lizzimore for Tom Fool; John Tiffany for Black Watch; Martin Duncan for Man of La Mancha and John Dove for All My Sons.

Fergus Lamont, Black Watch and Man of La Mancha crop up again in the best ensemble category. Those impressive teams will be vying with the actors of the Traverse's three-play Tilt series for the award which recognises the contribution of the entire performing company.

One of that Tilt trilogy – Distracted by newcomer Morna Pearson – has been singled out for inclusion on the best new play shortlist. It's up against Gregory Burke's Black Watch, David Greig's Yellow Moon and Torben Betts' The Unconquered.

The CATS also recognise the frequently unsung contribution of the backstage crew. In the best technical presentation category, Communicado's Fergus Lamont, the NTS's Black Watch and the Royal Lyceum's Man of La Mancha crop up again, alongside the ambitious two-company collaboration between Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre on Monkey.

For best use of music Nerea Bello and Galvarino Ceron-Carrasco brought a hot Spanish flavour to Amada at the Arches; Davey Anderson introduced high Scottish romance to Black Watch; Gordon Rigby audaciously filled Oran Mor with a whole orchestra for GBH; and Robert Pettigrew drilled a superb team of actor-musicians in Man of La Mancha.

Finally, we come to the coveted gong for best production, an award previously picked up by Grid Iron's Roam, Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful World of Dissocia and Dundee Rep's Scenes for an Execution. In the running this year are Spend a Penny, an intense series of monologues performed one-to-one in the cubicles of the Arches Theatre toilets; Tom Fool, the much admired Kroetz play about a soul-destroying economic system, at the Citizens Theatre; Black Watch, the radical portrait of the ancient regiment in Iraq, by the NTS; and Aalst, the harrowing semi-verbatim court-case reflections on a real-life child murder case, also performed by the NTS.

The Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland 2006-07, June 10, Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

For reviews see Mark Fisher's Scottish Theatre Links.