Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland: shortlists announced
The nominations for this year's Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland applaud site-specific work – and prove that companies don't need a permanent building to create great productions
The shortlists are out for the Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland (or CATS), the annual chance for my colleagues and I to give an extended round of applause to the best shows of the year – and take a snapshot of the theatre landscape. In recent years, the awards have tended to be dominated by a single big show: Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful World of Dissocia in 2005, Gregory Burke's Black Watch in 2007, Dominic Hill's Peer Gynt in 2008. But what's invigorating about this year's list is that the nominations are widely spread.
David Leddy's Sub Rosa, Jemima Levick's Beauty and the Beast and the David Greig/Gordon McIntyre collaboration Midsummer all have four nominations. Vanishing Point's Interiors and James Brining's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have three. These shows will prove tough competition for each other at the awards ceremony on 14 June.
But beyond the headlines – 11 nominations for the Traverse, eight for Dundee Rep, seven for the Tron – it is good to see such a wide range of companies picking up the plaudits. They range from Matthew Zajac getting a best male performance nod for his one-man play The Tailor of Inverness, produced by Dogstar Theatre from Inverness, to Gerda Stevenson being listed in the best female performance category for The Lasses, O by the small Borders company Rowan Tree.
Although some of the big theatres figure strongly, the non-building-based companies are thriving. It doesn't necessarily mean the touring scene is healthy in Scotland; not all of these companies tour extensively and Leddy's Sub Rosa, for example, was designed for one specific site (under the stage of the Citizens' theatre). Indeed, since the demise of 7:84, Wildcat and a number of other companies with an active touring agenda, rural theatre provision has grown patchy, a problem addressed by a new producing company, Open Book, which has started taking shows from Glasgow's lunchtime series A Play, a Pie and a Pint (another nominee) on the road.
In this respect, there are parallels with the situation in England. However, companies such as Dogstar and Rowan Tree, as well as other nominees TAG, Visible Fictions and Vox Motus have done much to prove that great theatre need not be exclusive to great buildings. It is further justification for the without-walls model of the National Theatre of Scotland – which itself has five nominations – a company founded on the principle that a national theatre exists in the sum total of the nation's theatres, wherever they may be.
© Mark Fisher, 2009