2019 Winners

Best Female Performance

Sponsored by STV

Lucianne McEvoy (Ruth Davenport), Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company

Lucianne McEvoy’s character thinks she’s written a career-making play. Turns out that neither the director nor the star have understood it all. In a bravura performance she goes from smiley and accommodating to, frankly, terrifying, as the suppressed rage of dealing with idiot men making assumptions based on their own prejudices comes spilling out.

Best Male Performance

John Michie (Fireman), The Mack, A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Òran Mór, presented in association with the Traverse Theatre

John Michie played the role of the traumatised fire commander with a heart-wrenching dignity and subtlety. His performance conveyed with reverberative power the emotional reckoning of  a stoical, west of Scotland man who, following the first fire at the Glasgow School of Art, is finally brought down by a career’s worth of trauma.

Best Ensemble

Sponsored by Equity

Lost At Sea, Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts and Morna Young

Morna Young’s Lost at Sea is a requiem to the fishermen of the North-East who perished in the waves. Almost operatic in construction, the voices of the ensemble, individually and a chorus, create an unforgettable portrait of the hardships and heartbreak faced by the fishing community.

Best Director

Sponsored by the Scottish Drama Training Network

Ian Brown, Lost at Sea, Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts and Morna Young

In his welcome return to Scotland, the former artistic director of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre brought out the musicality, communality and sense of the mythic in Morna Young’s play about Moray-coast fishermen and their families. Spare and precise, Brown’s staging moved like the ebb and flow of the North Sea itself.

Best Design

Shona Reppe (design concept), Ailsa Paterson (design realiser), Selene Cochrane (costume designer and maker) and Chris Edser (animator), Baba Yaga, Imaginate and Windmill Theatre Company

Baba Yaga was a riot of brilliant and transgressive design. All realised by Ailsa Paterson, it saw Shona Reppe, the genius of flamboyant but miniaturist theatre scapes, scaling up her work to create a set that soared by magic lift up to the top floor where Chris Edser’s animations created the near-psychedelic background for the witch Baba Yaga’s lair. While Selene Cochrane’s costumes used everyday objects for bright and clever effect, to indicate quite clearly that she wasn’t a witch after all.

Best Music and Sound

Claire McKenzie (music and lyrics), Scott Gilmour (music and lyrics) and Richard Thomas (additional songs),My Left Right Foot – The Musical, Birds of Paradise and National Theatre of Scotland

In a co-production between Birds of Paradise and the National Theatre of Scotland, the world of amateur theatre and the issues of equality in the arts are taken to task in this biting, riotous musical satire about a group of local players who decide to bring My Left Foot to the stage in order to fulfil an equalities agenda – except they don’t cast the only person in the company with cerebral palsy in the lead. Like an 18-certificate Glee, the songs are sweary and irreverent, but ultimately life-affirming on their own terms.

Best Technical Presentation

Sponsored by BECTU

The End of Eddy, Untitled Projects and the Unicorn Theatre

This moving production didn’t merely rely on its technical execution but revelled in it. From its inventive use of screens to its embrace of social media, The End of Eddy was a technical marvel.

Best Production for Children and Young People

Sponsored by Young Scot

Stick by Me, Andy Manley and Ian Cameron, produced by Red Bridge Arts

Imaginary friends can come in all shapes and sizes – for Andy Manley’s isolated loner, the chum he finds is an ice lolly stick. The whimsical make-believe in Stick by Me is aimed at 3–6 year olds but this wonderfully wise and big-hearted show reminds us all how much we need other people.

Best New Play 

David Ireland, Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company

David Ireland’s play is a fearless and potty-mouthed study of a world where cultural identity has been reduced to a shouting match between genders, religions and races. Far from being wilfully controversialist, however, Ireland’s satire is a turbo-charged and pitch perfect satire of life in a liberal bubble, in which saying the unsayable becomes an increasingly dangerous weapon.

Best Production

Ulster American, Traverse Theatre Company

We live in an age of old and unprintable hatreds that suddenly spring back to life; and if there is a playwright born for that moment, it’s David Ireland, with his brave and breathtaking gift for creating characters who brilliantly and hilariously expose the forbidden prejudices that often lurk beneath the liberal platitudes of 21st century life. In Ulster American – which exploded onto the Traverse stage last August with the force of bad-tempered hurricane – the heroine, Ruth, is one of those characters; a Brexit-voting, Ulster Protestant playwright who won’t tolerate either the closet sexism of her English director and the big male Hollywood star he wants to cast in her play, or their complete misunderstanding of her political and cultural identity. Among these three characters, Ireland whips up a tragi-comic storm of razor-sharp, taboo-busting dialogue that spirals shockingly towards violence; and Gareth Nicholls’s superb, fast-moving Traverse production combined with three terrific performances from Lucianne McEvoy, Robert Jack and Darrell D’Silva to create one of the huge smash hits of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and a show that has since gone on to win international acclaim.

The CATS judging panel for 2019 was made up of: Mary Brennan (The Herald), Mark Brown (The Herald on Sunday, Sunday National and the Daily Telegraph), Anna Burnside (Daily Record), Paul F Cockburn (BroadwayBaby), Neil Cooper (The Herald), Michael Cox (Across the Arts), Thom Dibdin (The Stage and AllEdinburghTheatre.com), Mark Fisher (The Guardian), Joyce McMillan (The Scotsman), David Pollock (The Independent), Allan Radcliffe (The Times), Amy Taylor (The Skinny) and Joy Watters (Across the Arts).