Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) won the best actress prize at the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards for her West End debut performance playing a criminal barrister specialising in defending rapists — who is then sexually assaulted herself.
Comer won critical and public acclaim for the solo role in Prima Facie, which is written by Suzie Miller and directed by Justin Martin. James Bierman’s Empire Street Productions will launch the courtroom drama at Broadway’s Golden Theatre from April 11, 2023.
Stephen Graham (The Irishman), like Comer a Liverpudlian, presented Comer with the Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress, named in honor of the star who died in 2009.
Comer told guests, who included Richardson’s mother Dame Vanessa Redgrave and sister Joely Richardson, that her experience in Prima Facie had been “utterly terrifying, having never trained,” added: “I didn’t know if I could execute this.”
However, she praised the production’s creative team for supporting her, “and now I want to do theater at every opportunity,” she added.
James McAvoy was named Best Actor for playing the title role in director Jamie Lloyd’s production of Cyrano de Bergerac. McAvoy was absent from the fun, intimate ceremony at West End theater land restaurant The Ivy, due to filming commitments in Rome.
James Graham (Sherwood) won Best Play for his political drama Best of Enemies, which played at the Young Vic Theatre and starred David Harewood portraying William F. Buckley and Charles Edwards as Gore Vidal. The show has now transferred to the Noel Coward Theatre, with Zachary Quinto taking over as Vidal.
Josie Rourke and Martha Plimpton were on hand to present Lynette Linton with the award for best director. Linton, also artistic chief at London’s Bush Theatre, won for her celebrated production of Pearl Cleage’s Harlem renaissance drama Blues for an Alabama Sky at the National Theatre.
Rourke noted that Linton was only the sixth female recipient of the directing prize in the 66-year history of the awards. [Full disclosure: this writer is a member of the Standard’s judging panel].
The awards have long been recognised for championing newcomers. Judges gave Isobel McArthur the emerging talent award for Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of), which put a Glaswegian comedic spin on Jane Austen’s classic tale.
The Charles Wintour award for most promising playwright went to Tyrell Williams for his powerhouse play Red Pitch about three friends who have dreams of football stardom. The play was staged at West London’s Bush Theatre by Daniel Bailey, who encouraged Williams to develop what was originally a ten-minute piece into a fully developed drama that’s now looking to transfer into the West End and to New York.
The London transfer of Daniel Fish’s exceptional adaptation of Oklahoma! won honors for Best Musical and Best Musical Performance for Patrick Vaill, who humanized Jud Fry, the so-called villain of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.
Vaill has been on a 15-year journey with Fish and the Fry character, having first worked with Fish on the production at Bard College in 2007 and on stops that have included St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, Circle in the Square Theater on Broadway, the Young Vic in London and next year’s transfer to Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End.
Tom Scott won the Best Design prize for Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club.
Special prizes were awarded, in the name of Evening Standard owner Evgeny Lebedev, to Dame Vanessa Redgrave and to Nica Burns, producer and co-owner of Nimax Theatres, which controls six West End theaters.