We had a fantastic evening at the What’s On Stage Awards at The Prince of Wales Theatre (usually home to The Book of Mormon) – a chance to get dolled up and do a bit of ‘sleb spotting, aided by the fact that we managed to snaffle some of the last cheap(er) tickets in the stalls. Even from seats on the far side of row R, we still had a great view of the stage. We also managed to rub shoulders with the theatrati – @westendproducer complimented me on my coat #dear
Our hosts for the evening were Mel Giedroyc (from Great British Bake Off) and Steve Furst (currently starring in Made In Dagenham) and the evening skipped along as they riffed off each other between awards.
The revival of Miss Saigon swept the board with a staggering 9 awards. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will definitely make time for it this year – and based on the acceptance speeches, I can confirm that they have one of the nicest, warmest, most passionate and gracious casts/creative teams in the West End. It was a pleasure to see and hear their thanks.
I didn’t agree with all of the awards, but we must be mindful of the fact that this is a public vote, chosen by audiences of ordinary people – I haven’t seen all of the shows on the shortlist, so it’s very difficult to cast scorn on shows that you are not in a position to judge. Some of the shows and actors that I voted for were much smaller productions, probably seen by fewer people, so it is a testament to them that they appeared in the nominations alongside some of the heavyweights of the theatre industry. I would particularly like to pick out The Nether for Best New Play and Best Design, and Imelda Staunton for Best Actress In A Play in Good People. They are my winners, even if the largest share of the votes went elsewhere.
Between awards, we were treated to a wonderful showcase of highlights of shows from the past year. Beverley Knight’s jaw-dropping solo has ensured I’ll be booking to see Memphis: The Musical at the earliest opportunity. I missed In The Heights at Southwark Playhouse due to my hectic theatre schedule and I sat half in joy at a taster from this exceptional latino musical (I dance salsa and bachata whenever time allows) and half in devastation that I was now seeing exactly what I’d missed. Someone please do something to bring this show back to London. I NEED TO SEE IT. Not even want – NEED.
But perhaps the highlight of the evening was David Tennant, who had this to say as he collected his award for Best Actor in a Play in Richard II:
“British theatre has this unerring knack of reinventing and reinvigorating itself and staying the best theatre in the world year after year after year.
“We are rightly proud of all our creative arts but we have to protect them. I think it’s worth saying in an election year, if I may: any pound spent on the creative industries is not an expense, it’s an investment.
“The arts bring in so much more money to this economy than they take out. Just saying.”
It is a sentiment that many of us share. If Britain is to continue to produce world-class theatre that attracts people in droves and pulls its weight in our economy, then we must continue to fund the arts. It is one of our greatest assets and something to be nurtured and celebrated, not sneered at and derided as frivolous. Talent trickles upwards – gains in the arts are passed on to film and TV. The very media we enjoy of an evening or a lazy weekend, the entertainment, escapism, skill and imagination – all these pivot on the very existence of a thriving arts scene.
After a drink in the bar, Rebecca and I found ourselves wandering up completely the wrong staircase to get back into the auditorium, which is how we ran into David Tennant. As I think you can tell, he was a little overwhelmed to meet me, but I totally kept my cool. No, really. I definitely didn’t become a rabbit in headlines with nothing to say. Absolutely not. I definitely managed to tell him how much I was enjoying Broadchurch and his recent achievement on Just A Minute rather than just going very quiet. (I’m not convincing anyone, am I?). But he was lovely enough to let me take this to prove I’m not making it up.
A huge thank you to What’s On Stage for putting on a memorable show-stopping evening. Next stop, the Oliviers!