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By Michael Roddy
LONDON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - It was a great day for the Irish at the UK Theatre Awards on Sunday as a new production of Brian Friel’s “Translations” and Belfast-born “Game of Thrones” British-Irish actor Patrick O‘Kane took two of the top awards.
The awards recognise the achievements of regional theatre, while the annual Olivier Awards focus on the London stage.
O‘Kane won the gong for best performance in a play for his portrayal of Jimmy in a production by Ireland’s Abbey Theatre of Belfast-born playwright Owen McCafferty’s “Quietly”.
The production, which has toured Britain, is about two men who meet up in a pub decades later to deal with a bombing of that same pub during Northern Ireland’s sectarian “troubles”.
Friel’s 1980 play, often deemed his finest work and which deals among other things with the importance of place names and the ambiguities of translation, won the award for best touring production in a staging directed by James Grieve for English Touring Theatre and co-produced with Sheffield Theatres and Rose Theatre Kingston.
Grieve said of the play that “working with writing of that quality makes your job a joy”. He added that the award to productions of works by Friel and McCafferty underscored that “Irish playwrights throughout history have been extraordinary”.
The award for best new play went to “An August Bank Holiday Lark” by Deborah McAndrew in a Northern Broadsides production, the award for best supporting performance went to Jenna Augen for “Bad Jews” produced by Theatre Royal Bath, the best musical was “Brass” directed by Sara Kestelman in a National Youth Music Theatre production at City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds, and the gong for best performance in a musical went to Jamie Parker in “Guys and Dolls” at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
The award for best director was shared by Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke for “1984”, a Headlong, Nottingham Playhouse and Almeida Theatre production, while the best design award went to Jon Bausor for “Mametz” in a National Theatre Wales production.
The award for best show for children and young people went to “Dragon”, a National Theatre of Scotland production in cooperation with Vox Motus and the Tianjin People’s Art Theatre in China.
Co-director Jamie Harrison said that working with the Chinese had brought out a different way of looking at dragons than the usual Western dragon-slayer trope.
In the almost entirely wordless play, a young boy learns about the world in part from dragons and the portrayal of the mythical beasts “shows more depth”, Harrison said.
Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre, said in a statement: “The geographical diversity of this year’s winners reflects the considerable breadth of talent on offer across the whole of the UK.”
The Clothworkers’ Company, established by royal charter in 1528, is endowing a 150,000-pound ($241,400) grant for each of the next five years, with the first award going to Theatre Royal Plymouth to bring productions to London.
The Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts was given posthumously to the English stage and screen actor Sir Donald Sinden, who died last month. Paul Kerryson, director of the Leicester Threatre Trust and Leicester’s Curve theatre won The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre.
The theatregoers’ award for “most welcoming theatre” went to Wales Millenium Centre. (Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Andrew Roche)